The following was written by Q reader Anthony Darden in response to a recent Q Voices opinion by columnist Vince Shifflett about queer self-segregation by race. It is only the first. More responses from LGBTQ people of color are forthcoming on our site and in print.
Mr. Darden requested that we not use his photo with this letter as is Q standard practice on Voices columns: “I prefer not to include a photo; it might be more effective to have the response judged on the content.”
I was initially drawn to the Q Voices piece “Are We Segregating Ourselves?” because of a recent conversation shared with a few friends around the idea of being of "one human race." One friend expressed his concern around the pervasive need to separate based on how one identifies, and similar to the author Vince Shifflett, shares the idea of everyone belonging to the "human race" regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender, religious belief or politics.
In the case of the Q article, the columnist chose to frame his idea of "one human race" around the idea of individual responsibility.
“What can we as individuals do about racism and segregation?" he writes, and then proceeds to suggest the problem being in part due to "black" identified institutions, groups and events. More personally, he cites his dating black men as part of the issue
"... they sure don't mind sleeping with me but refuse to socialize with me in public."
Frankly the racial implications of the piece, albeit a supposed thought piece surrounding racism and segregation, is concerning to say the least.
While the concept of being "one human race" is admirable, it is an oversimplification of the complexities of the human race, particular when considering the centuries of a well-established foundation of separation from which much of current modern day actions, thoughts and behaviors are by-products, including segregation.
It should be noted that historically, segregation (particularly in the U.S.), was a forced means of separation to enact power of one group over another. Think apartheid. Black Americans where forced by law to segregate and even with subsequent desegregation policy, it was often in their best interest to self-segregate as a means of survival.
Many marginalized groups today find it necessary to self-identify, and in some way "segregate" as a mean of self-preservation. The ideal "one human race" should not be limited to the notion of melding of two races and should more adequately seek to establish a humanity that looks beyond limited perspectives fueled by opposing binaries.
The onus to dismantle segregation is not the sole responsibility of the marginalized group or more specifically black gay men as implied by your author.
"We say we want to end racism and segregation, but are we actually part of the problem?" Shifflett writes.
The author in fact answers his own question within the details of his piece, in which "we," becomes more precisely "they," are the problem.
Espousing a perspective that places judgement and fault on a specific group for "segregating ourselves," expressed from the gaze of a white gay male, (arguably a privileged position), without implicating or challenging himself (individual responsibility) in "our" segregation, is beyond problematic and honestly offensive.
Certainly a more inclusive world is ideal, however the sentiment of the article does not move us any closer to the possibility.
From Q's editor and publisher:
Q’s position is that the column referenced should not have been published. We, and I personally, are sorry for the insult to queer people of color, we reject the notion of “reverse racism,” and we respect the need for spaces specifically for queer people of color to come together, to commune away from the systems and gazes of privilege that segregated them in the first place.
The article has been removed from our website. Writer Vince Shifflett has been informed why, but the buck stops with me, and I take responsibility for perpetuating its existence through our channels.
It was a hard-won lesson for me years ago when I realized that I needed to stop talking and start listening on race. That's what I hope we have done more than not in our publications, and that's what I hope to publish again on this topic from the people who deserve the only say that matters.
In addition to the reader response above, we have solicited more columns and letters to discuss the systemic reasons disenfranchised folks need and create their own spaces, and why the "can't we all just get along" mentality is privilege in action. This first response is published to set the groundwork, and I welcome any additional responses or suggestions. Send them to [email protected].
Everyone at Q is sick over the incident, knows what happened, and is discussing ways it should have gone and will go down in the future. We are also taking steps to fail-safe the process.
For his part, Vince Shifflett tells me that he has also received individual responses about the column, and that he sees the problems with his arguments in the article. "I’m disappointed in myself and can guarantee that kinda thing won’t happen again.... my whole intention was to send a message of inclusivity and love. I failed at that miserably this time. My apologies to you and the African American community."
People are understandably upset outside and inside our company for the trust we've violated. Again to everyone we’ve offended by pubishing this piece, I’m sorry.
Editor & Co-Publisher
Project Q Atlanta and Q Magazine
Note: This post was edited from its original form. Vince Shifflett's comments were added at his request.