Jul 10, 2014

Dear Straight Black Women: Stop Stealing Black Gay Culture

You are not a gay person, and you do not get to claim either homosexuality or our vocabulary. There is a clear line between appreciation and appropriation.

How silly would it be if I did a word for word, LGBTQ friendly version of Sierra Mannie's Time opinion piece "Dear White Gays: Stop Stealing Black Female Culture."? I came across this piece this morning while looking through my Facebook feed. Mannie, a student at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), expressed her opinion on cultural appropriation with regard to the relationship between white gay males and black females. 

Mannie's article aligns with something that we, at Edugaytion, have been discussing for a while now. In our regular podcast plenary sessions, the subject will often come up,

"When are we going to talk about how straight black women are stealing from black gay culture and making it their own?" 

Whether you're looking at Nene Leakes calling a gay man a "queen" and thinking it's fine, or Nicki Minaj parading up and down the streets exclaiming "Yas!", cultural appropriation of gay lingo and mannerisms by black women is present. As alluded by Mannie, thanks to shows like RuPaul's Drag Race, white gays are already taking their pick at which parts of the LGBTQ of Color smorgasbord they'd like to consume. Thanks to shows like Real Housewives of Atlanta, Love and Hip Hop, and a variety of other shows with black gay accessory characters, straight black women are following this social model and doing the very thing to black gays that Mannie so eloquently writes about in her piece. 

Let's talk about the oppression - Mannie writes:

"But here’s the shade — the non-black people who get to enjoy all of the fun things about blackness will never have to experience the ugliness of the black experience ... Though I suppose there’s some thrill in this “rolling with the homies” philosophy some adopt..."

"But here's the shade"... I am very glad that Sierra Mannie, champion for the homosexual cause, an out and proud lesbian who hails from the state of Mississippi, the place where the first "Turn the Gay Away" bill passed, is speaking for her people and was picked up by TIME. Mind you, I'm only assuming she's a lesbian. Is she straight? If so.... Well, then she's definitely an ally, and that's GREAT!  

Now, I want you to think about the last time you (black person reading this) were with your white friends and they got so up-in-arms over the "African-American" cause. So much so that they started using your slang and your mannerisms to make a connection with you. Did that make you feel a certain kind of way? My point, I suppose, is neither here nor there, as we have no confirmation as to whether Mannie is a lesbian or not. 

It is of little consequence if she isn't, however, because we know plenty of black women who identify as heterosexual and use language that originated in gay culture. Using words and phrases like "shade" and "spilling tea" fall precisely in line with what Mannie preaches against. As white gays are "rolling with the homies" when they "steal" from black women, so too are black women stealing from their black gay male counterparts. Black women didn't come up with "Yas", "Hunty", "Werk", and "Chop!", and if those words are making their way to white gay males, it's not via the black female vessel. 

While Mannie types about racial oppression, plenty of black gay males are constantly oppressed by the church of which these very women are members and make up the majority! On Saturday evening you'll find any random Nene proclaiming "Yaaaaas!", "Weeerk!", "Go in hunty!", etc. On Sunday morning you'll see her sitting on the first pew cosigning everything that Eddie Long has to say. Finally, on Monday, you'll overhear her say "You know, what you do is your business, I am not one to judge. God has the final say so." (Sidenote: If I hear "Yaaasss!" in church....) 

In closing, I just want to say, this is NOT an attack on Mannie or black women. That's not what Edugaytion is about. However, I'd like to keep us all honest here. If we are going to acknowledge the truth, then we need to acknowledge the whole truth and nothing but the truth. 

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