I have not like Wanda Sykes since the day she joked that she and her White wife adopted White babies, because she was worried about her wife doing their hair. It seems that Ms. Sykes took it one step further, when she recently appeared on The Piers Morgan Show, and announced that it is harder to be gay, than it is to be Black.
“I’m not talking about the history of black people, of African Americans. I’m talking about at this point right now… I don’t know of organizations and groups like Focus on the Family and such anti-gay organizations who are putting up so much money – millions and millions of dollars – into stopping me from, you know, being black or telling me I can’t exercise my blackness,” she said.
Like myself, Wanda has three sites of oppression. At various times each one has proven to be extremely challenging, and yet they all intersect. I could completely have understood, if she talked about the difficulties she faces as a Black lesbian, and how these identities intersect, but outright claiming that homophobia is worse than racism is disgusting. It is my belief that Wanda’s real problem is internalized racism.
What Wanda fails to take into account is that she has massive class privilege. The way that Blackness effects her is going to be different than it impacts a middle class person, and it is certainly going to be different than the way that it impacts a person living in the inner city. For her to universally declare that Gay people have it worse than Black people, is to erase the experiences of an entire community.
Racism has changed over the years. It is deemed gauche to publicly celebrate your Whiteness with white sheets and burning crosses today, but that does not mean that racism is any less damaging than it was years ago. Racism most often these days is expressed covertly rather than overtly furthermore, it is absolutely institutionalized. It manifests in things like the over representation of Blacks in prisons and the military. When Blacks are pulled over for having the nerve to drive while Black, or are not called for interviews because they have recognizable Black names, or people cross the street to avoid them, these are all racist acts and I can guarantee that they happen everyday. I think what pisses me off the most, is that Wanda Sykes put me, a fellow Black woman, into the position of pointing out that racism is just as virulent as it ever was.
If you are gay and Black, disabled and Black, female and Black, old and Black, Young and Black, poor and Black, the one thing that makes the ism worse is BLACKNESS. Of course, no one is stopping her from being Black, but she certainly is a great tool for White supremacy now isn’t she? Her comments force us to focus on each other rather than heterosexism and racism – two isms which are in and of themselves oppressive. I further believe that her commentary helps to support the racist elements within the LGBT community – Gay is the New Black anyone? No one wins by setting up oppressions to compete against each other. What Sykes said was a disservice to all Black people and the GLBT community.