Friday, February 8, 2013

Silence equals consent.

Just recently, the Portland Eagle booked a drag show by the name of Shirley Q Liquor. The performer is white, performs in drag as a woman, and wears black-face. Feel free to pause and go look on YouTube. The act is blatantly racist.

Eagle's are known in various local communities as leather bars, and exist in a meta-state where things that happen there reflect on the leather community as a whole. Despite this bars infrequent leather nights, its still to the outside viewer seen as representative. Therefore, the leather community was supporting racism.

After a plethora of mis-steps and community pressure, the bar cancelled the act. Great. 

I'm a white male that despite my sexuality passes as straight. I grew up in a different country, in a poor/lower class neighbourhood where races and cultures blended together. I'm privileged. So when this situation came up, despite not knowing the depth of the insult, I at least knew that the act was racist and didn't need to be supported by me.

I struggled with what to say. I worried that if I spoke up at all, that I would cause more harm. I'm learning what language to use and what not to use as I go and could unintentionally hurt someone's feelings. Its a risk and a conversation I'm willing to have. I'm willing to learn and make mistakes, otherwise how will I learn. Silence equals consent.

At the core of this for me is the lack of respect. Racism is disrespectful at least, and hate at most. Its fear given a voice and sometimes a purpose. If we don't speak out or act against it in some way, it will happen again. Silence equals consent.

Making fun of any group is not respectful. I still struggle with why it seems OK for a member of the group to make fun of the group, but for someone outside the group to do it is an -ism of some kind. Why is it ok at all? Just because someone is one of us doesn't give them a pass.

While I cannot speak for the bar, or for the leather community as a whole, despite what you may imply otherwise, I can only speak for myself. As a leatherman I do not support racism. Or any -ism for that matter. Its just not respectful.

Don't let the fear of getting it wrong prevent you from speaking up. Like the movie says, say something. Say Anything. Just don't be quiet. Otherwise how will we know you don't like it either. Silence equals consent.

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