ANTIRACIST DISCOURSE OUTED
Part III focuses specifically on the question of race and sexual orientation—that is, the extent to which antiracist discourse excludes or nominally includes the experiences of Black lesbians and gays. Dwight McBride argues that certain antiracist proponents essential – ize Blackness in order to legitimize and authenticate their (straight male) voice as representative of "the race." He argues that this essen – tialization and the politics of Black racial authenticity result in the exclusion of "other" Black voices—in particular, Black lesbian and gay voices, because such voices do not comport with hetero-centered notions of what it means to be Black. McBride urges Black antiracist proponents to undertake a more inclusive definition of the "Black community" that will allow Black gays and lesbians to speak for their race as representational (and not aberrational) subjects.
Charles Nero locates his critique of antiracist heterosexism in the context of a discussion about the Black church. Nero argues that, while it is certainly true that the Black church historically has performed and continues to perform a liberatory role in the Black community, it is also true that the Black church, as a social, political, and cultural institution, has replicated certain structures of subordination—more specifically, sexism and homophobia. Nero identifies several practices Black churches have employed to exclude, punish, and "fix" homosexuals. He argues that these oppressive tactics reflect a lack of compassion and the Black community’s failure to come to terms with the reality and humanity of Black gay and lesbian life.
My essay exposes antiracist heterosexism through a discussion of Black civil rights interventions into the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" controversy. I argue that this intervention—which opposed the analogizing of gay rights to Black rights—rendered the experiences of Black gays and lesbians invisible.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson and Marlon Riggs relate the problem of Black heterosexism to the construction of Black manhood. Hutchinson argues that part of what contributes to Black male homophobia is the notion that Black gay male identity subverts and/or is antithetical to Black manhood. Hutchinson urges Black men to reexamine their definitions of manhood and to recognize that Black manhood does not require homophobia.
Marlon Riggs further develops Hutchinson’s thesis that Black male homophobia is attributable, at least in part, to the heterosexual contruction of Black manhood. According to Riggs, what accounts for the mistreatment of Black gay men in antiracist discourse is the need to construct an intra-Black community "Other"—that is, a group that operates as the "baseline of transgression beyond which a Black man is no longer a man." Riggs argues that, by constructing the "Negro Faggot" (an effeminate and emasculated black man), straight Black men, no matter how racially, economically, or politically disempow – ered, can take comfort in the fact that they are not, finally, a "Snap Queen." Riggs suggests that there is a relationship between antiracist "Negro faggotry" (the degrading and homophobic portrayals of Black gay men by black people) and the white community’s negative and racist construction of Black people. According to Riggs, there is "an unmistakable line of descent from Sambo to the SNAP! Queen and. . . from the Brute Negro to the AIDS-infected Black Homo-Con – Rapist." Riggs argues that, by and large, the Black community treats the "Negro Faggot" and the "Black Sambo" as separate and distinct racial iconography when it should recognize these portrayals as analogous forms of subordination.
The next two authors—Huey P. Newton and Ron Simmons—employ the writings of two prominent antiracist proponents to illustrate just how vitriolic Black heterosexism can be. Newton focuses on El – dridge Cleaver’s discussion of James Baldwin’s homosexuality in Soul on Ice, and Simmons excerpts passages from some of Amiri Baraka’s essays and poetry to expose the hypocrisy and contradictions of antiracist heterosexism. The passages to which Newton and Simmons refer concretely illustrate the argument Marlon Riggs advances: that assertions of antigay sentiment in the Black community function as the quintessential way for many Black men to demonstrate, preserve, and legitimize their manhood. Black manhood, as it is sometimes heterosexually constituted in Black politics and culture, promotes and legitimizes homophobia.
Harlon Dalton situates his critique of antiracist heterosexism in the context of a discussion about AIDS. According to Dalton, the Black community’s homophobia is one of several reasons the community has failed to "own" the AIDS epidemic. He notes that straight Black authors tend to ignore the subject of homophobia altogether, and gay Black writers prefer to attack racism within the white gay community rather than the homophobia in the Black community. Openly gay men and lesbians are, to many in the Black community, symbols of the strong female and weak male that arose from slavery and Jim Crow. According to Dalton, this view of gay men and lesbians, as well as the commonly held belief that AIDS is a gay disease, is one of the reasons that the AIDS epidemic has been held at arm’s length by the Black community.
The last two essays in this part explore what it might mean, as an experiential matter, to have multiple identities—as Black and gay, for example—and how antiracism might be informed by identity multiplicity. According to B. E. Myers, the problem with identity is that we presume to have one. He argues that, while identity categories help to elucidate who we are, they can also function as conceptual cages. Myers reasons that we are, in the end, more than our identity labels allow us to be. Myers thus searches identity politics for an effective way to describe the tensions between our multiple identities—identi – ties that are contingent upon each other and always changing. He examines how the problem of identity manifests itself in culture by focusing on the photographic works of Lyle Ashton Harris.
Jerome Culp also grapples with identity multiplicity. He raises the question of whether and how antiracism can combat race, gender, sexuality, and sexual orientation in one political vision. His essay takes the reader through a daydream in which all of these aspects of identity are obscured and a group of raceless, sexless individuals discuss possible solutions to oppression based on each of these identities.