Call and response

Yesterday a reader emailed a response to language used in this blog and called out for an apology. While I am always excited to hear feedback of any kind, and I welcome challenges to the opinions voiced here I must respectfully decline.

The offending line the reader refers to is: “Portland’s queer community isn’t all about skinny white boys on Stark Street.” He goes on to say: “Substitute ‘black’ for ‘white’ and see if this passes your smell test. To the degree that you can be racially disrespectful, in this case, of whites [and in an off-handed way, of blacks too], you have found a way.”

Firstly, while I realize that he did not specifically use the term racist I just want to clarify that, while one can have prejudices against any individual, one cannot be racist toward Caucasians. Racism relies upon oppression, and whites, as a social category, are not oppressed. However, as far as “racially disrespectful” this is a much more subtle criticism and, though I need more time to think it over, might be willing to concede that this is a possibility. Finding a distinct example, however, is difficult. The reader admits so himself by saying “…to the degree that you can be racially disrespectful…” I don’t believe my words qualify because the switcheroo argument just doesn’t work for me.

What I think is important here is that you cannot apply the same rules to the words “black” and “white,” nor can you interchange them and have the meaning of the sentence in which they live stay the same. There is a difference, a distinct one. No, I wouldn’t say: “Portland’s queer community isn’t all about skinny black boys on Stark Street,” and I didn’t. Not least of all because it doesn’t make sense. The ruling group in the gay community is white and male and GWMs have plenty of space in the gay culture of American cities, in Portland, and in the historically gay area of Portland known as Stark Street.

Slender, Caucasian males are not an oppressed group in this country. Are gay people of any kind oppressed? Yes. But many GWMs, despite their own oppression, are in a place where it becomes easy to oppress or ignore others members of the queer population who may not possess the great privilege that they do…even in this great liberal town. Who hasn’t seen women turned away from or treated poorly at Silverado’s for example? White males, in general, are trained to take up space in their world and Stark Street is no different. My aim was in stressing that other queer people are entitled to space in this city’s gay culture and we are claiming it. Was it colloquial? Yes. Offensive? I don’t think so.

As for the latter part of the sentence, that it is off-handedly offensive to blacks as well, I am completely mystified and am open to hearing the reasoning behind this. Even the idea that there are only 2 dichotomous races in the queer community seems a much more offensive implication to me.

So, despite my disagreement, I am quite pleased to hear what you have to say. Besides, what’s a blog without a little controversy?

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