Over the last week I’ve seen several articles regarding a change to the rainbow flag, the instantly recognizable symbol of unity for the LGBT+ community. The change, while seemingly minor, has started a heated debate within the community, of which I found myself getting involved in. The change is a simple addition of brown and black stripes to the top of the traditional rainbow flag, which is meant to represent people of color within the LGBT+ community. Upon first reading about the change, I found myself completely against the idea, and I argued that way. I even had a few arguments that I felt were quite logical, which I’ll go over now:
- The rainbow flag is meant as a symbol for sexuality / gender identity minorities. It’s not about race. Bigotry against both racial minorities and those of sexuality and gender identity is extremely prevalent in our society, but nevertheless they are still separate issues. Combining the two will inevitably cause one issue to be overshadowed by the other, and due to the fact that a majority of those within the LGBT+ community are white, I can’t help but fear that it will be the racial minorities that are overshadowed and left out, with blatant racism being ignored.
- We shouldn’t allow bigoted people to force LGBT+ people of color out of the community. The rainbow flag is meant to be a sign of pride and equality for all LGBT+ people and creating a new symbol gives those that are hateful a big win. It says “fine, take the rainbow flag, we’ll go make our own.”
- Racism isn’t exclusive to the LGBT+ community, so only focusing on the racism within its boundaries is far too limited. We should be attacking the plague of racism in all of our communities, and working to drive it out to change our society so that racism isn’t acceptable any longer.
As I said, to me, these arguments seemed completely logical… They still seem completely logical, but they just aren’t strong enough arguments to deny that something needs to be done. If making even a small change makes people of color and other minorities feel more included, then why not make the change? What’s the harm? The argument, my own argument, that began to make me rethink my stance was number 3. Racism isn’t exclusive to the LGBT+ community. It’s a problem that plagues the entire country, if not the world, as Donald Trump’s rise to power has shown us. It definitely needs to be fought on a much larger scale, but that is an even better reason to start “small”, right here inside our own community. Mahatma Ghandi said “be the change you want to see in the world” and starting small, changing the way our community presents itself to those in the outside world, in order to make it a better place for everyone, is the best way to start. If we can’t end racism within our own community how in the world can we expect to end racism in our states, our country, or the world?
Within the LGBT+ community almost all of us have fought our own personal battles; many have been driven to suicide or murdered by bigots, and LGBT+ people of color have had it harder than anyone else. Not only have they had to deal with hatred against them because of their sexuality or gender identity, they’ve also had to deal with hatred against them because of their skin color on top of that. Even within our community, a community that is supposed to be “all inclusive”, they’ve been ridiculed and driven out. But in spite of that, they have so often been the leaders in the LGBT+ movement. From Bayard Rustin, fighting for Civil Rights and LGBT+ rights right alongside Martin Luther King Jr., to Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, heroes of the Stonewall Riots, LGBT+ people of color have been leading the fight for equality for all of us for as long as there has been a movement. Those within our community have proven again and again that we are strong and resilient, that we’ll keep on fighting until we are no longer physically able to do so, and our LGBT+ brothers and sisters of color have been some of the strongest among us, right on the front lines.
In a world that continues to see those representing hatred and bigotry growing bolder on a daily basis, our community should stand up and say we won’t allow it to divide us. We have to say loudly and clearly that we won’t allow the Donald Trumps of the world to infect our community with their poison and that we are better than that. We have to “be the change we want to see in the world”, and if that change starts with something as simple as changing the rainbow flag to make LGBT+ people of color feel more included, then those that truly want to end racism once and for all should embrace that change gladly. Yes I was against the idea initially, but after doing some soul-searching and giving it some serious thought I’ve realized that it’s the least… the very least… that we can do.
James Garcia – 6/16/2017