In Toronto, Canada this week we had an interesting kerfuffle. Two social/political action groups found themselves in a very public lovers’ spat.
The LGBTQ community had invited the Black Lives Matter group to lead the Toronto Pride parade. It was intended as a gesture to recognize black LGBTQ people and their disproportionate experience of discrimination both within and outside of the Pride community. At the event, however, the Black Lives Matter folks held up the parade until the Pride event organizers agreed to sign an agreement to meet ten demands. These included a request to have floats including armed police excluded on the grounds that they create a threatening environment. Thirty minutes later the parade continued. The fallout from this, though, is ongoing.
Some of the debate is about the annoyance at having the parade delayed, some is about the individual demands and their implications, and some is about the public’s perceptions of the two groups.
Since the event, both sides have started editing the story. Pride organizers insist that they are not bound by the agreement that was made under duress. They also insist that the issues must be discussed within the LGBTQ community. Black Lives Matter, for their part, now declare that their demonstration successfully drew attention to their cause and that they have historically been discriminated against by Pride event organizers.
It’s an interesting juxtaposition of two causes that are at different social and political places. Pride has, over several decades, evolved to become widely appreciated; cities in North America generally, to varying degrees, support their participation and acceptance in the community. The movement started out, though, in much the same social environment that Black Lives Matter is in right now. They were often misrepresented and misunderstood, and much anger was directed towards them for their effrontery at trying to change the status quo.
Now there is a large turnout at Pride parades where there is fun, laughter, music and gentle jeering at the sexual mores of the past. To have reached this level of public acceptance has not been easy, and the effort continues on behalf of those who are shunned by family, friends, and coworkers. Yes, it’s a party, but it also a reminder of their struggles.
Black Lives Matter is a relatively new coalition, although the reasons for it go back to historic injustices. The group has been formed now in response to a series of well-publicized examples of the deaths of black people at the hands of police who are often white. They are justifiably enraged.
It may be difficult for LGBTQ people to realize that somehow, surprisingly, they have become a part of the establishment. Now it is their turn to become the mentors to the up-and-coming groups of others who have been badly treated by the mainstream. Fortunately, in Toronto at least, the Pride event leadership seem to be willing to take on that role. Immediately after the parade they began talking about engaging the Black Lives Matter group in discussions with the Pride community.
Individual members may take a little longer to realize that they have to be the grown-ups now, but that’s what maturing is like. We all want to be child-like for ever, but when we realize how much we have grown, then we acknowledge that we are in a position to help others. After all, we didn’t get where we are on our own.