On Being Radical Black, Queer & The Fire ThisTime


As the war against us persists, as American justice serves its’ function by eluding us and justifying dead black bodies, we must consistently hold accountable the current movement for recognizing, affirming and fighting for all black lives. While we have rioted, published, and debated with passion about Freddie Gray, Mya Hall’s murder by the state and the criminalization of Michael Johnson’s HIV have received comparatively little attention. Queer, transgender, and HIV positive black lives may matter in theory but that has yet to be demonstrated in any organized action of this movement.

We’re always on the front lines of the rally of the day, but the rally is never for one of us. This relative silence around stories and lives deemed less respectable serves only as vindication of this system’s mistreatment of the most marginalized. When leaders or organizations claim to champion the value of black lives, the expectation must be that they’re adamant about the value of all black lives and that the narrative they perpetuate transcends the cisgender, heterosexual, Christian black experience. After all, the institution of American policing is murderously anti-black without any of those bounds.

Queering the Current Black Narrative

Inclusion is so much more than standing together. It’s actually standing for each other. It is equal outrage for the black transgender sex worker victimized by state violence in its’ many forms. It’s speaking our names loudly and publicly because our black lives matter just as much. It’s no longer enough for black LGBTQ people to be present or even leading the march toward justice while our stories remain untold.

#TheFireThisTime is a budding social media campaign rooted in the exclusion of black queer / trans* struggle and death from the conversation about black lives lived at the barrels of the state’s guns. While it’s a means of commanding the attention of the current movement, it’s also producing seeds from which a separate radical and anti-respectability black movement may grow. Moreover, it’s facilitating dialogue around the question of why our blackness is treated as inferior even to your own and demanding reciprocity for the work that black queer and trans* activists have done semi-visibly on the front lines of every equality movement this nation has known.

Stonewall to Baltimore

There’s far more discussion about police reform than the possibility of a post-police society.  We know for sure that policing in this country has always been about defending the state against the people (especially against people of color). As the ineffective chants of no justice, no peace, no racist police have inevitably faded though, the current movement still doesn’t really embrace the radical minds capable of thinking beyond the police problem and taking us there. The truth is, many of us are as anti-police as the police are anti-black and anti-LGBTQ.

Publications like Rolling Stone have attempted to stimulate critical thinking on the subject, with 6 ideas for a cop-free world and pointing out how the police in America are becoming illegitimate. Radical left perspectives such as abolishing the police and prison-industrial complex altogether, however, are drowned out by the Obama-era solidarity demonstrations and hashtags we’ve become so comfortable with.

When our movement is based on accepting the reality that justice and peace will not be found without completely dismantling institutions founded on racial bias, when the worth of all black lives is actualized and our collective narrative includes the full diversity of blackness, we’ll have our best shot at actually rising. Baltimore is Ferguson, is Selma, and is Stonewall. Black queer and transgender lives, at our most radical, have been integral to each uprising. This time, our stories will be told.

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