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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

An appeal for Carleton to come together in honor of LGBT people of color

<ning to her home in Newark, New Jersey from a night out in Greenwich Village, New York, fifteen year-old African-American lesbian Sakia Gunn and her friends were harassed by two men, and when they rejected the men’s advances, declaring themselves to be lesbians, the men attacked. Gunn resisted, leading one of the men to fatally stab her in the chest. Despite Gunn’s death being a clear example of a “hate crime” contextualized by multiple matrices of domination, her case received limited media attention. This neglect on the part of mass media as well as mainstream LGBT media contrasts with the resounding outcry that followed the murders of Matthew Shepard, a white gay man from Laramie, Wyoming, and Brandon Teena, a white transgender man from Lincoln, Nebraska.

Disparities in the attention given to violence against white LGBT individuals and LGBT individuals of color reflects the ongoing inability of organizations and movements of advocacy and activism to recognize the intersections and overlaps of oppression. Expressions of multiple identities have challenged any maintenance of a segmented and exclusive politics, emanating in the forms of prose and poetry, theory and activism, theater and electoral office. Groups of LGBT people of color are coming together to fight political, social, and economic forces of marginalization as in the case of the Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment (FIERCE!) in Greenwich Village. Yet our failure as communities in struggle against overlapping oppressions to come together, engage in dialogue, and pursue agendas of solidarity allows the status quo to be covertly and overtly strengthened. While macro-level political moves like the militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border certainly contribute to such division and hierarchy, everyday relations in our neighborhoods, streets, homes, and above all, public spaces, support the exclusion of LGBT people of color from movements for social justice, efforts of collective love, and attempts to empower embodied selves.

Violence against LGBT people of color is a particularly disturbing and politically powerful manifestation of the forces that I have described. Many of these cases have occurred in urban spaces in which young LGBT people of color strive to create spaces of collective affirmation only to be rebuffed, driven out, and even killed. Yet the broader issues that have produced this phenomenon of violence can be observed in a variety of locations, including Carleton College. Any regular visitor to the Basement of Scoville can testify to the separation of our communal and organizational spaces, which are so crucial for LGBT students of color. Oftentimes at Carleton, given the pressure of white straight dominance and majority, we do not speak about our concerns so as to foster solidarity between groups even following the voices of LGBT students of color. Now is the time to share a space and a time to learn about these issues and to honor the tragedy and hope of LGBT people of color in the face of violence and marginalization.

So this is what can happen. This Thursday, April 24th, we will gather as a community to stand in remembrance and in anger. We will read the stories of Sakia Gunn, of Lawrence King, of Sanesha Stewart, of Gwen Arujo and of others in order to know what we were not told and to honor those whose stories remain silenced. There will be space for performances and reflection.

This is not a discussion where Carleton kids get to intellectualize and talk about talking about talking about bad things that happen far away. This is not about identity politics or the guilt of privilege. This is about violence that happens in silence and the possibility for something louder. This is an opportunity to emotionally engage with a reality. We will end with a vigil in remembrance with the hope that this community is stronger than hate and that every story is worth the telling. The Cave. 8pm. Thursday April 24th.

Email nguyene if you’re interested in reading or performing.

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