I am so excited about this new workshop I’ve designed to highlight new narratives and redefine “diversity”! I’ll be presenting it at the Join the Impact conference this weekend, so if you’re in Boston, register to attend and check out my session!

Thoughts That Came to Me As I Designed This Workshop:

As a bicultural Nigerian, I identify very strongly with the African immigrant experience and obsess about not doing enough for my parents at home.

On American soil, I wear my afrofeminist label proudly, and fight with words alongside other feminists to raise women’s voices on the web (and the page, very soon).

As a queer community organizer, I advocate for the increased visibility of people of color within the LGBT movement (so that it doesn’t get reduced to the current conversation about “black community and black churches”).

To say that I wear “many hats” is an understatement. But in my fight for “diversity”, I’ve often found myself pigeon-holed into choosing one fight — the “people of color” fight — over others (sexism, immigration etc), and losing critical ground on those other fronts as a result.

I am often asked (however inadvertently) by white organizers to compartmentalize my anger, and then intellectualize it (read: “present at conference”, since diversity has become synonymous with choosing one or two issues to orate about). So, when I was casually invited to present on the “(Lack of) Inclusion of People of Color in the LGBT Movement”, I found myself thinking of the many swords I carry, and wishing that I could hold them all in front of me with  both arms, heavy and close to my heart, so that people could see how wearisome fighting for and against  the intersecting communities I belong to can be. It’s not so easy; I often imagine myself crouched defensively in the center of a circle lined by all the isms, privileges, and human rights violations I face — homophobia, racism, americanism, sexism, feminism, transphobia;  blunt and shining swords lay scattered in the dusty ground around me from switching blades and direction too quickly in concurrent battles for social justice, and sometimes, for survival.

But in my ideal world, I would fight for one kind of justice — and for many — with the same sword. I am tired of having to choose which parts of my identity to include or exclude from my rants. So, in response to the invitation, I decided to design a session that explored this new idea: What is Diversity? And how can we redefine it in the context of a younger, multinational, pro-feminist, and trans-positive movement?

Currently, the “LGBT movement” sounds like the white gay man marriage fight (supported by a smart troop of butch white women). The Q is left out. The I is left out, and inquiring about other letters begets played out, trivializing “alphabet” jokes instead of a sincere commitment to make sure everyone get the invitation next time.

“People of color” narratives often focus on the African-American experience and ignore the complexities of the immigrant subset (Latin@s, Africans, Asians etc ) – and let’s not even talk about non-immigrant Native Americans). As a person of color myself I’m often called upon to present comprehensive solutions to this problem (or “facilitate dialogue” about “people of color issues”), as if all people of color were berated equal; I’m Nigerian/African, and quite honestly, I can’t always relate to the black people in this country.

Feminist perspectives often carelessly leave out women of color, though they’re often able (and encouraged) to intellectualize this popular snafu and re-present well-articulated, buzz-word-filled theses about “gender” and “sexuality” to eager auditoriums across the country. Have you attended a Women’s Studies seminar, panel, or conference session lately? I have — and it’s very scary to hear decisions being made, leaders being influenced, and demonstrations being organized in the absence of (all but 2 or 3) women of color.

Radical lesbian feminists (yeah, they deserve a separate title) tend to be a little bit more diversity-conscious and inclusive of women of color (who also claim that title) but side-stepping the ageism that exists within their version of the movement is no easy feat. I was just at Stonewall Communities “Sex and Gender in the City” inter-generational conference, and I remember feeling like I’d been tricked into attending a roast for young people. Every other joke demeaned, devalued, and discredited the work of millennial social activists because apparently we haven’t been beaten or bled enough — and all we do is invent new labels or throw parties. If I’m not yet qualified to speak to (not for) the various experience(s) of queers in my generation then who the hell is?

And don’t get me started with the sexism that is rampant among gay men. Across every social justice issue I care about, there are people who advocate for the inclusion of people of color, but I’m never as chronically overwhelmed by sexism and male privilege as I am within my fight for diversity within the queer community. In my hetero/femme days, white gay men thought I was “fabulous”, bought me martinis, and invited me to their condos for dinner. That changed the instant I went futch. Now, unless I’m introduced by someone from the inner circle, I remain completely invisible.

Meanwhile, the alternative is mother-managing egotistical turf wars between POC-run organizations over whose “good” is “best” “for the community” so that we can at least pretend to these white people that we all play nice (or know each other) and “collaborate”, while behind-the-scenes (and sometimes in public), we’re fighting each other with armor, creating a meaningless number of snazzy acronym-ed programs, reinventing the wheel because we won’t work together, and squabbling for the same seats at the conference table.

And to top it all off, everyone mentioned in the last five paragraphs is failing miserably at even noticing that trans and intersex people — arguably the most ignored/marginalized of us all — are being completely left out of the picture! Aaaaagh!

[... a zen moment of silence.]

The session I’ve designed for the conference is an attempt to bring different voices together, and will explore what it means to define diversity by the narrow lines of “inclusion” or “exclusion”.

As part of a fishbowl conversation, local organizers and allies to communities of color will share their perspectives on the LGBT movement, the role of diversity (or lack of it) and the perceived effects of augmenting / silencing different voices. The fishbowl will be followed by a brief Q&A and open brainstorm around how we can move forward from the popular, yet very narrow discussions of inclusion/exclusion that exist within the LGBT movement.

Diversity is a dynamic collection of perspectives; it is an ideology, a concept, not a quantifiable attribute… or at least it shouldn’t be. To apply diversity (vs. coasting along using it as a buzzword), we MUST recognize that truly including people — as whole beings — implies that we don’t just acknowledge, but address ALL parts of their unique identities, and empower them to fight for all movements to which they belong, because in doing so, we empower the only movement that matters: the human one.

I hope to see you at the session.

———————
Session 4 (3:30PM – 4:45PM)
(LACK OF) TRUE DIVERSITY IN THE LGBT MOVEMENT: NEW NARRATIVES, NEW VOICES

A Fishbowl Discussion and Workshop Featuring the Big Fish below:

SPECTRA 
is a Nigerian immigrant afrofeminist queer woman of color, media activist and social commentator at Spectra Speaks, a self-proclaimed “iQWOC”, and the founder of Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+ Boston)

ANA CHAVEZ is native to Miami by way of Providence, an Ecuadorian queer woman of color and youth arts educator, and the founder and recipient of the RISD Diversity Awards

CARNELL FREEMAN is a local Bostonian, a gay black professional in finance and HR recruiting, an experienced Connecter and the founder of Men of Color Creating Change (MOCCC)

YARIMEE GUTIERREZ
is a fierce queer femme Puertominican nacionalista, a poet by the name of Idalia, who has a 9-5 fighting for cultural competency around latin@ issues in the corporatized health industry

BONAE L’AMOUR (AKA BAO) is an Asian American queer-identified transguy from New Orleans, a photographer with a consistent blog, and the founder of MAGLOA – a safe haven for academically gifted public school students in Boston

ROBBIE SAMUELS a white, queer, feminist, trans man with extensive community organizing, event logistics and fundraising experience, and the founder of Socializing for Justice, a cross-issue progressive community, network and movement in Boston

Organized by: Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+ Boston) – http://qwocboston.org

11 Responses to New Narratives, New Voices: Why I Hate the Word Diversity

  1. New Post: New Narratives, New Voices: Why I Hate the Word Diversity http://www.spectraspeaks.com/2010/03/new

  2. New Post: New Narratives, New Voices: Why I Hate the Word Diversity http://www.spectraspeaks.com/2010/03/new… #sojust #lgbt #boston

  3. SoJust says:

    RT @spectraspeaks: New Post: New Narratives, New Voices: Why I Hate the Word Diversity http://www.spectraspeaks.com/2010/03/new… #sojust #lgbt #boston

  4. YCarrillo says:

    girl! You don't even know how many things from this I wanted to quote! Well written

  5. YCarrillo4 says:

    @spectraspeaks I got you girl! Btw, that post was the bees knees!

  6. Cassandra says:

    This is so wonderfully thought out and written… You have done and are doing so much difficult, necessary work!

  7. laurie says:

    i hear ya…individuation…tempered w/zen…compassion…life is not to be compartmentalized…full empty circle…

  8. twsblog says:

    Great piece… agree with above comment that there's so much good in this post, but my favorite line is: "But in my ideal world, I would fight for one kind of justice — and for many — with the same sword." Look forward to following your efforts and meeting at one of the Boston Social Change events down the road.

  9. Zara Chiron says:

    "Younger, Multinational, Pro-feminist, and Trans-positive movement." Absolutely BRILLIANT! As a an ally to the queer community, and just as an person living in this world where individuality is neglected where it matters and commonality is discouraged where it counts I truly feel that we need more people like you. To be a TRUE leader one needs to adopt a Rawlsian "Veil of Ignorance" where she/he makes decisions based on not knowing who she/he might be in a society in terms of class, race, gender, sexuality, health, income etc. so that every one is taken into account. And even without that supposed veil you exemplify inclusiveness simply because you are not irresponsibly ignorant but compassionately conscious! Love you!

  10. Stacy says:

    I am a well-meaning white person who likes the idea of "diversity" (which means to me that I want to include everybody – well, maybe not mean people – and that I think life is more interesting when there is interaction among lots of different kinds of people) and my head is spinning. Just tell me what to do to make it better and I'll do it. I think I get never to use the word diversity again.

  11. Constance says:

    You hate the term “diversity”; I hate the term “people of color”. I’ve discussed this (carefully) with many circles, and we typically agree that the term is racist and exclusive. Effectively, it’s a PC way of saying “anybody who isn’t white”, and we know that the “white” label has changed over the years.

    Most notably for the US, the Irish weren’t considered “white” until the 1960s (I can feel the passing reader rolling their eyes, having known this already). I read an international article some time ago in which a group of Italians were outraged for the “white” paintbrush, because how dare anyone lump them together with [insert nationality]? I think it had something to do with the census.

    A Ugandan friend also voiced a similar, more conversational sentiment when I met her in college. Her home isn’t the same as neighboring Kenya or South Sudan (and there are MANY differences within the country), so she muses at our simple way of labeling “people of color” and other.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree

Plugin from the creators ofBrindes Personalizados :: More at PlulzWordpress Plugins