Why Don’t People Speak Out Against Loss Of Young Queer Black Women’s Lives? By Cheryl Roberts

15 Jun

South Africa has had enough of hate crimes against gay, queer, trans humans. We know the devastation of human life, particularly against young black people, because of these horrendous hate attacks. We condemn hate attacks around the world! We must also condemn people’s homophobia and their silence when hate attacks occur.

It’s no surprise that humans respond emotionally to brutal and horrendous attacks on other people; attacks such as hate, rape, sexual assault. We must speak out, shout, scream, criticise and condemn hate, assault and rape of humans. But why are we selective in our condemnation? Why are we moved to quickly offer condolences and commiserations and support when some attacks and assaults occur, yet remain quiet or disinterested when many other people, in our very own living spaces and communities, are attacked because of hate?

The devastating attack on the Orlando gay club impacted on everyone who has a heart, and all who are against sexual discrimination. South Africans also gave support and emotional messages, most of this being done on social media. The message was relayed; South Africans are human and respect and acknowledge life and sexual diversity.

Vigils and silent protests are scheduled for Cape Town. Definitely nothing wrong with that. Surprisingly, one of those holding such a vigil in rememberance of and support of victims of the Orlando gay bar, is a religious institution. But this very same church is against same gender marriages. How do you give respect to the lives killed in a gay bar attack yet you defeat sexual diversity and discriminate against human love?

Sexual discrimination hurts. It claims people’s lives, particularly those of young black, gender non-conforming women. In South Africa, especially Cape Town, many, many attacks have occurred on the bodies of gender non-conforming young black women. Most of these young black women have been sportswomen, playing football where the sports field became their personal space to be protected and be safe. But their young lives have ended too early, claimed by those humans who feel they own sexual choices in society and who think hey have a right to stipulate how a woman’s body should look and be shaped and owned.

Today, as we remember and commemorate the lives of young black oppressed South Africans, who protested apartheid education in 1976, we know that 40 years later, young gender non-conforming black women, although living their life and lifestyle on their terms and desires, still live in fear of being attacked because of their sexuality.

When young black gay women are attacked, when their lives are taken out of society by despicable acts of violent behaviour and by hate, why is the mourning and rememberance of these young lives only undertaken by those close to them, their families and friends and some pockets of society like LGBT and queer organisations?

These are sensitive and challenging questions. We can’t be silent about selective rememberance, support and respect for young black women’s lives. Why do we rightfully and honestly remember and acknowledge young people’s lives of the 1976 student uprising and say ‘Never Again’, yet we allow young black women’s lives and bodies to be attacked?

So Cape Town is holding vigils and rememberance moments for #OrlandoGayBarShootingVictims? That’s all good and respectful; surely nothing wrong with that. But there’s something very questionable about your choice of when and for whom to hold vigils and to show support. Why are people not seen at the vigils, memorial services and funerals of black queer women?  Why don’t you hold vigils and give and show your support? When a young black gay woman is sexually assaulted, attacked and abused, people’s support is nominal. They don’t come out to give and show respect and mourn the loss of young life. Its because, as Michael Jackson sings ‘they don’t care about us’. There is much division and very little support for working class resistance and struggles. Young black working class women, who are gender-non-conforming and not heterosexual, must struggle for survival in communities intent on hating their gender non-conforming bodies.

To those who show solidarity against hate attacks in other countries instead of doing this also in your own city, is it not because it’s just a black, working class woman that has lost her life and that her young life doesn’t count as an important life?

And black women, where are you in this struggle? Why do you not support the struggles to overcome, those faced by young black, working class women? Why are you selective in your protest and support? Why do you give support to organisations and structures that maintain white privilege whilst looking away from struggles of young black women? Young, black, working class women are on their own. To be young, black queer, working class in democratic South Africa, is to live in a state of persistent fear, never knowing when you become another victim of hate. That’s why conscious black women must defend and protect the lives of young black, working class women because we can’t rely on privileged, middle class people of all colours and those without social justice consciousness, to do that.

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