Rainbow Gay Pride Flag, Miami Beach, Florida, USA
Photo Credit: Alexander Demyanenko
Even the worst corporations and institutions want to label themselves as LGBT allies these days. Why? Corporate America thinks it’s good for PR and the bottom line. But this weekend those companies were told loud and clear: you have no place in our community.
At the Capital Pride parade in Washington DC over the weekend, radical queer people from No Justice No Pride repeatedly interrupted the corporate sponsored march on several occasions to protest the participation of police contingents and certain anti-LGBT corporations in the parade.
The No Justice No Pride protesters drew attention to the insidious ways police departments get moral cover for the violence they wage against queer people of color by participating in pride parades. They were also angered that Wells Fargo was a sponsor of Capital Pride, which financially backs the Dakota access pipelines and which has paid $175m in government fines for discriminating against African Americans and Hispanic consumers. At one point, No Justice No Pride held up a banner which read ‘War profiteers have no place in our community’ to block a Lockheed Martin contingent.
Corporations like Wells Fargo, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman (another Capitol Pride sponsor) like to brand themselves as LGBT “allies”. But as I’ve written for many years, you do not get to be in the business of taking away the homes of black and brown LGBT Americans and get to say you are our ally. Nor do you get to lob Tomahawk cruise missiles on black and brown LGBT people in other countries and say you are our friend.
The first Gay Liberation Front march in 1970 had no police support or corporate sponsors, of course. It was rooted in the Stonewall riots of the year before, which was a rebellion against police violence. The creeping presence of police and corporations today is worthy of indignant protest.
Corporations and politicians want to co-opt queerness. They do this to to serve the all-consuming, unchangeable, hegemonic American violence; this is called “pinkwashing.” As queer Americans, our role in the society is not to give in to pinkwashing and to reject how it harms queer and straight people.
I have been disappointed, but not at all surprised, to see white gay men cluelessly complain without irony about Capital Pride protests – as if the very reason for pride wasn’t fighting loudly against the oppressive status quo.
As being “gay” (not queer) is increasingly accepted in some parts of society, it is not our role as queer people to avoid conflict about racial, military, and economic violence. We need to confront violence, especially when it come up within our own communities.
For example, it was great when the LGBT contingent of the Israel parade a week ago was confronted by a sit in from the queer contingent of Jewish Voices for Peace, who held up signs saying “No pride in apartheid” and “Queer Jews for a free Palestine.”
But America is addicted violence. It does not like to interrogate the links between police violence at home and foreign militarism abroad. This was sadly illustrated this weekend when the navy commissioned a new war ship as the USS Gabby Giffords – to honor a woman who’d been shot in the head in a mass shooting alongside six people who lost their lives.
This ship which will float around the world, threatening and enacting violence on others. In this sick country, that is considered appropriate. Similarly, gay icon Harvey Milk, also killed in a shooting spree, was “honored” by having a warship named after him.
As queer people, we have a duty to imagine and demand a new world which is not dictated by oppressive violence – such as Black Lives Matter protesters did when they withdrew from San Francisco Pride last year due to heightened police presence,
“The triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism are forms of violence that exist in a vicious cycle,” Martin Luther King preached one year to the day before he was shot to death. “They are interrelated, all-inclusive, and stand as barriers to our living in the beloved community. When we work to remedy one evil, we affect all evils.“
Here’s to the queer No Justice No Pride demonstrators and Black Lives Matter founders who understand this, and who continue to resist on-going violence and oppression.