Opinion piece by Vince Mallia
For obvious reasons, I have always supported the stance behind the Stonewall riots. I am a gay person, so I know first-hand that gay rights are human rights. Despite this, I have never felt so close to and appreciative of Ms Marsha P. Johnson, the black transgender woman fighting the battle of oppressive 20th society and its antiquated beliefs from preceding years.
I have always tried to stand up for what I believed in, no matter how much trouble that got me in. Theoretically, I do get why people can be racists and the reason for why some want to feel power. Superiority is something that boots one’s ego, so it is easy to bully someone to feel good. I question the morality behind it.
I was scrolling through Facebook and came across this video of an American policeman bending his knee on an unarmed black man’s neck. He was screaming “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” He was slowly losing his life, his body motionless due to lack of oxygen. What made me feel sick is the pleasure the policeman felt when “trying” to arrest George Floyd. The cop’s facial expressions were astounding; they screamed white supremacy, white privilege, and hatred. This angers me so much, hence my openness about it.
Although I have always been against racism and discrimination, I never supported the Black Lives Matter movement before because like many, I felt that all lives matter. And indeed, they do, but it is about time we talk about and focus on black lives because yes, white populations are privileged. I validate the difficulties you face; I face them too, but apart from that, black people deal with other difficulties that white people do not have to deal with, and only because of their dark skin.
Why should a black person be afraid to wear a hoodie? Why should a black person be afraid of walking next to a white woman after 6pm? Why should black people have to avoid certain places they know they will enjoy because of the reaction they know they will face by white people? As gay and trans people, we used to have similar restrictions to avoid prison.
Does this resonate with any of the experiences faced by gay people pre-Stonewall? Gay men and women, and transgender people, were not allowed to be who they are in the previous century. We (I use “we” very loosely as I was only born in 1995) stayed silent for centuries in hopes that things would get better. We spoke to whoever was in charge, including politicians and powerful people, and made our voices heard with practical laws that reflected today’s laws. We did not report rape, we did not report hate crime, and we certainly did not go outside holding our partner’s hands. Why? Because we knew we would end up dead, and the police might very well have been on it or frame us as the attackers.
We had not other option, after all those years of suffering and trying in a civilised way, but to go out in the streets and protest for the rights we deserve. The police were all against us, in the sense that today’s police profile black men for rape and murder. They raided our gay clubs in New York City for a purpose, they beat us up; they wanted us out! Again, does this resonate with George Floyd, Lassana Cisse and more? You cannot be pro-gay and anti-black.
Upon watching that video clip, I could not help myself but validate the riots started by black people. Why? Because gay people did just the same over 50 years ago in Manhattan when they took to the streets and instead of giving up their dignity, they fought for it, even if it meant going head to head with the whole police department.
Of course, heterosexual lives mattered but during the times where gay and trans people were being murdered for simply being who they want to be, we needed to talk about gay and trans lives. Of course, white people matter because we are humans, we have a lot of good to offer, but black people just want to be who they are but are being punished for it.
That is why Black Lives Matter, not because one race is superior to the other. That is what white privilege is.