Black lives matter. Black LGBTQ lives matter. And we will never have a just world for LGBTQ families until we have racial justice.
Black and Latino same-sex couples are roughly twice as likely as White same-sex couples to be raising a biological, step, or adopted child, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute. And 50 percent of children under 18 living with same-sex couples are non-White compared to 41 percent of children living with different-sex couples. (Statistics were not available for other LGBTQ identities) Even if the numbers were far less, of course, these families would still deserve equality and justice—but the numbers underscore just how many LGBTQ families are impacted by ongoing racism in our country.
Racism is a formidable enemy, though, sometimes overt but often subtle. I can only speak to it from my perspective as a White person with a White child, but here are some of the things I am trying to do—and resolve to do better—to help dismantle it. I offer them as suggestions for others engaging in this work as well.
Educate myself. My day job is with a nonprofit program focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion, which requires a fair bit of reading on the subject, but I’ve found there’s always more to learn about racism’s history, impact, and the perspectives of those impacted. I continue to read, consume podcasts and videos, and listen to colleagues and friends of color when they choose to share their thoughts.
There are a lot of good resource lists on racism going around right now, but I want to caution us White folks not to get caught up in feeling that we need to get through every article, book, movie, and podcast on a multi-page list before taking action. Educating ourselves on racism is an ongoing process. We shouldn’t feel we need to “finish” (no one ever can) before getting out into the real world and trying to make a difference. We should also not see resource lists as ends in themselves or view our progress through them as a sign of how “woke” we are. Read and listen humbly. Know there is always more.
I’m not going to offer my own list here, as there are many others already, but if you need a place to begin, I suggest the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s new Talking About Race portal.
Self-reflect and self-improve. I try not to act in racist ways, but as a White person, I know there are times when I am, albeit unintentionally. And simply by my privilege as a White person in our society, I am tainted by the systemic racism woven into its fabric, benefiting me in ways I may not even realize. This is not a reason to punish myself; instead, I need to ask what I can do to be more thoughtful about my words and actions, to use my privilege to be a better ally and accomplice, and to work towards a more just world.
Teach my son. One of the most important anti-racist actions parents can take, I believe, is to show our children how to be anti-racist as well. My spouse and I have tried to teach our son not only that people of all skin tones are to be valued and respected, but that his peers of color may have very different experiences in the world because of systemic racism. We want him to be thoughtfully color aware, not color blind. We’ve tried to expose him at every age to books, shows, and movies that not only include characters of color, but that are told from their perspectives.
Hand in hand with finding “diverse” media, however, we parents should talk with our children in age-appropriate ways when we find biases and lack of representation in any children’s media. Why don’t we see people of color here? How is this character a stereotype? And why might there sometimes be representation in one way but biases in another?
My suggested place for parents to begin is EmbraceRace, which offers not only resources but also a community of support for parents, teachers, and others of all racial identities. Additionally, award-winning author and Black queer mom Jacqueline Woodson has offered a list of recommended books on racism and race for children of all ages at the Oprah Magazine website. These are just starting points.
Take action in the world. First, we should each speak out any time we see racism, from overt slurs, to subtle microaggressions, to lack of representation in workplaces, schools, and other venues. That necessary work can be supplemented by attending rallies and vigils, signing petitions, contacting our elected officials, and donating money and time to civil rights organizations and others that work with marginalized communities, as we are able.
Yes, we may not always do or say the right thing; we may feel awkward; we may stumble. We should not let these fears keep us from doing anything, however. We need to come into the work knowing it is a process and being willing to listen, apologize, learn, and keep trying.
Pride was born from protest and resistance, led by people of color like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major, and Stormé DeLarverie. Many of our LGBTQ families would not exist today if it wasn’t for the smoldering revolution that they sparked into open flame. May we honor their legacy as we work for inclusion, equality, and justice.
(Originally published with slight variation as my Mombian newspaper column.)