On Monday, June 1, the night before the election in Baltimore City, most people were making calls and counting votes. I was working to protect my city from outsiders who wanted to see our city burn like so many others. Many of them were young white individuals looking to start a revolution in a black town that would then get labeled thugs and terrorists.
We saw it in 2015, and many of us were committed to never seeing the horrors of those nine days. We spoke with youth, and we gave them a platform to join in unity with my friends Stokely Cannady, Aaron Maybin (former NFL first round pick), and Catalina Byrd. She was running for mayor of Baltimore as a Republican. We stood on the front lines as black leaders of varying backgrounds to protect our youth from the violence that once hurt so many in 2015 and communities that still have not recovered. Yet we had people calling for more hate, more anger, and more aggressive actions. We, the leaders of our city of Baltimore, find it difficult to be worried about our sexual orientation or our gender identity as black people in a moment that our youth are at risk.
As we began to wrap up the program, a group of younger college people came up to us and began to yell about how could we not give space to LGBTQ people at this protest, as I tried to interject I kept getting cut off. Each time these young college students kept telling me what I had to do. The shocking part is all I wanted to say to them is that we did have LGBTQ people speak and that I can introduce them to all of them. Sadly that was not the intention of this group. This group, like so many others, only want to see themselves or hear themselves because, well, because they are angry with society.
Nearly everything in my life has been about service to others since I got off cocaine some 10 years ago, and I enjoy fighting for causes, but I am tired of struggling to go and fight. We are the LGBTQ community playing the oppression Olympics against one another because we instinctively feel safe in spaces to think about only us.
We must recognize the trauma that we may cause transgender men and women who are often not heard or who are beaten within an inch of their lives, black men who are arrested, shot, or murdered, trans black men and women who are killed, and yet when we talk about who has it worse when it comes to our narratives. So what does some of our black trauma look like? Most times, it is the person you do not want to have sex with; it is the person you walk past, not even asking how they are doing. It is walking into JR.’s and feeling like white people look at you like you are a freak. It is getting DMs on Facebook from white men who want you to breed them, and older women ask to see that BBC and every time we have to smile.
It is time for the white LGBTQ community to stop the never-ending assault on others because we stood with them when they yelled for marriage. White brothers, sisters, and siblings, we do not ask your permission to grow. We are demanding that you learn that you cannot ignore our narratives anymore. No longer will you take our ideas and throw us pennies and say, “We have to worry about the image.” We are your partners in these movements and when you whitewash our identities as you did in the film “Stonewall,” you ignore the history and trauma of six generations of black people, the slaughter of Native American tribes and the marginalization of pain when you stole the lands of people who are brown.
We could not vote for these laws you made, we could not speak for the injustices you created, and we were not allowed education to come up. Just because you have one black friend who is sexually attracted to white men does not mean that you have blanket immunity from the issues your ancestors created.
When we speak about systemic racism in this nation, it is not an attack on an individual; it is an attack on your ancestors who created laws that did not value black and brown bodies as humans to start. A negotiation reached, so slavery was not written into law, but somehow we needed the 13th amendment to be a whole person? We had no voice and no choice in the formation of this nation’s laws. They only built this nation on the backs of free labor and oppression.
What can you do to help rectify these actions of your family’s past? End qualified immunity for police, and start the practice of allowing community policing. Start by funding black organizations with ethical practices and stop giving money to your groups that do not include black senior leadership. Find people who have nothing and help them come up with you. Reach back and grow communities and spread the wealth, and you will see less crime. Because last I checked, rich people only take from one another’s bank account, they tend not to take someone’s TV so that they can feed a child.
We must create a better world after COVID-19 — this is that chance the God or Gods you follow have given us to hit the reset button, and it comes when they have forced you to bear witness to the horrors that black and brown people have been telling you for years that happen.
Akil Patterson is a community activist and former candidate for Baltimore City Council.