Over the last couple of months, I’ve resisted articulating what I’ve been feeling for fear of not being able to contain the rage in my head and the sorrow in my heart. At this moment, I will attempt to put my feelings into words.
As I sit and reflect on the movements I’ve been a part of for the better part of a decade, I’m saddened by things I’ve noticed. I’ve noticed allies — individuals who I thought understood the unique intersections of race, class, and gender — become performative in their reactions, speaking about rebellion and resistance while quietly working to seize power over the very folks with whom they claim allyship.
I’ve watched as corporations showcase Black Lives Matter insignias against a backdrop of their logos while still refusing to hire Black and Brown folks into leadership roles.
I’ve watched as narratives that should be crafted by the individuals and communities most impacted by discrimination be designed and developed by privileged individuals who claim to want to “get it right” when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion policy and practice.
However, these performative allies only ever offer a token Black celebrity face or a token member of a vulnerable community in order to give their co-opted work credibility.
I’m left wondering: when will these well-meaning allies explore their privilege and take a step back, allowing for authentic, substantive change? While I’ve never been a fan of “cancel-culture,” I wonder: Is this direction in which vulnerable communities, and those invested in their liberation, have to go to move allies who co-opt and dominate leadership space out of the way?
Don’t get me wrong, every movement needs its allies, but let’s be clear: Allies, your role is to provide a platform for the voices of the unheard. We don’t need you in the front or shouting orders from the back. We need you to move!
Move and let Black folks genuinely lead.
We know how to develop policies that will change how policing is done in our communities.
We know how to organize our people and get relevant information to them.
We know how to start and fund our businesses.
Your assistance is needed in getting our work noticed, not co-opting it as your own. Share the wealth, resources, and stage spaces that you have occupied for far too long.
Again, while I am not a fan of “cancel-culture,” I’m not above it, and I am truly getting to a point where it seems necessary.
To my family in the Black Lives Matter movement, I say to you that your time of not addressing the homophobia and transphobia that runs rampant within toxic workspaces is up. Your silence will not keep your fragile masculinity safe. When will you realize that if one of us remains unsafe or unheard, we all will?
Until ALL Black Lives Matter is articulated through this mainstream platform, then none will matter.
You must work with your Black LGB leaders and the Transgender community toward inclusion and equity. We are in this movement toward Black liberation together, whether you want to acknowledge that fact or not. In these divisive times, the persistent exclusion of some voices while amplifying others will produce rotten fruit in the work of liberation.
We must move as one to address systemic racism that is amplified in the lives of our Black Trans brothers and sisters. Lastly, to my cisgender Black brothers, STOP KILLING TRANS WOMEN. They have shown up for you since the beginning, it’s time to protect all women, including you Trans sisters.
Sean Coleman is the founder and executive director of Destination Tomorrow, the Bronx LGBTQ Center.