{July 4, 2016}   Black Lives Matter and Pride Toronto

**if you are going to read through this piece, please do so in its entirety, as it represents a thought process, which, by definition, is imperfect**


Oooh the conflicting thoughts and feelings I have had on this issue over the last 24 hours. Yesterday, Black Lives Matter peacefully disrupted Toronto’s Pride Parade, recognizing and celebrating the struggle of the LGBTQ+ community. After a time, Pride agreed to several reasonable concessions to BLM, and events went on as planned.


One concession I heard of, however, that caused not a little bit of controversy, was that banning police representation in future Pride Parades. Now – as an ally of both groups (I am and always have been a bleeding heart supporter of oppressed and marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ+ community and people of colour generally, and working with an LGBTQ+ Affirming church congregation and raising two young boys of colour has only strengthened my awareness and resolve on these topics), I wanted to share my first reaction, my “on the other hand” reaction, and where I’ve come to today – not because I have some magical insight here (in fact, as you’ll see, with all humility, quite the opposite), but perhaps to do what I can to spread some empathy for both sides of the issue. Please note I will be treading carefully here, as I recognize the need to mitigate the objectivity that might come from being “outside” the communities involved, with the (MUCH BIGGER) reality that by no means can I or should I speak for groups which don’t include me.


So with that in mind, I want to confess that yes – my first reaction was that privileged response of “can’t we all just get along?” This came from a bunch of places for me, starting with a gut reaction that conflict in two marginalized communities is bad for both, and that the oppressed fighting amongst themselves is only a win for the privileged. I also feel that if we want to encourage an attitudinal and behavioural shift in a problematic community – in this case, the police with their issues of misogyny, homophobia, racism and all – towards be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem, we need to encourage and celebrate their “doing the right thing” by participating in events like this one, etc.


But then my inner activist who has learned so much over the last few years from interactions with other activists kicked in. And the bottom line is that it is not up to me to tell BLM how they should feel about what, what events are worthy or unworthy of disruption, and what they should or should not advocate for. I can have my thoughts, but in that sense, it isn’t my fight, and it is up to that community to choose the hills on which they want to die. To suggest otherwise is strictly speaking from a position of privilege that presumes I know best which types of marginalization/participation should be prioritized and how they should be dealt with etc. And I have no desire to tell any oppressed group who to be mad at or how to direct that rage. And if police presence at Pride reduces the comfort level of POC in the LGBTW+ community and discourages their participation – well, that’s a problem, to say the least! Their voices and concerns should be heard in order to create a better event.


And, by the way, that also goes the other way around; for those Pride participants who disagree with this move, and who believe outreach to groups like the police, and wider inclusion in that sense is important, well … who am I to disagree with that either? And as both sides, both including people who I love and respect, have been sharing their thoughts very eloquently and thoroughly on Social Media over the last day or so, my longing to participate – to express my agreement or disagreement with various points – has been strong. Before I realized … as an ally … perhaps this is the time to be quiet, to open my ears, not my mouth, and to use my eyes to read instead of my keyboard to type. And while obviously I’ve taken to my blog now, it is mainly, 24 hours later, to say just that – that my silence on this topic, which normally I would be all over, is more meant to be a silent respect to those working through these issues, than aloofness towards them. It’s a recognition that, in my case, my voice is not the one that matters.


Don’t get me wrong – it does, in that allies should always listen, engage, and speak out when the need calls for it, amplifying the voices involved in the causes they believe in. But here’s the truth – I am a white, cis-heterosexual woman. Who am I to tell the Black community, or the LGBTQ+ community, how to handle their business?  And no mistake – they DID handle their business, in a way of which everyone involved can be proud.


Here’s the reality – a peaceful, if firm, conversation broke out, between two communities (or perhaps more accurately, overlapping, interlocking communities with lots of people who are active in both). Disagreements might have been had, voices might have been raised, but at the end of the day, terms of engagement going forward were agreed upon, and a healthy, important political debate was had in the context of an inherently political event. Communities with needs and expectations sorted them out, and a successful Pride day was ultimately enjoyed, with the promise of improvements going forward to make all participants more comfortable (because honestly, if you read the rest of the concessions won by BLM, I don’t see how any of the others are even controversial, and the one in question is completely understandable, if worthy of respectful intracommunity and inter community debate). This is a good thing, a democratic thing in the simplest terms – rabble rousers and marchers, meeting respectfully in the streets, chanting, talking, hashing out differences, and ultimately coming together.


And as for that concession about police involvement? I look forward to the day where bridges of trust can be built from the law enforcement community (which also includes people of colour and LGBTQ+ members) to the communities with whom faith has been broken – but I think that repair job is squarely on the shoulders of law enforcement, while it is on us to be respectful of the ongoing trauma of the Black community in this regard. And one thing I do think we can all agree on, is hoping that – in the spirit of Pride – hoping that the conversation started this year can be just a beginning, an ongoing dialogue leading to ever more healing, reconciliation, and inclusion in the years ahead.

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