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11 August 2011, 4:00 pm 5 Comments

Politics: Everyone’s a Critic

Submission by Brandon Thomas, new contributor.

In the past few months, Cornel West and Tavis Smiley have teamed up together to create something called the Poverty Tour. This tour’s effort is to highlight the plight of poor people in America.

Throughout this tour there has been steady criticism, from West and Smiley, of President Barack Obama and the lack of attention he has placed on poor and working class families.

Most recently on their tour, West and Smiley took to the streets of Washington, D.C., and spent the night with the local homeless and unemployed people.

This effort drew some shocking criticism and problematic questions from people that, one could assume, are supporters of their past efforts and train of thought. The main question that many people asked: Why criticize the president? Criticizing him only gives more ammunition for the right-wing to attack him (as if they need help from progressives).

This got me thinking about the queer liberation movement. Certain people in the LGBT community have made it clear that deviation from the gay norm or criticizing certain ideals that are held shouldn’t be done in the light of day, or anytime for that matter. We should criticize when problematic issues arise.

Take Dan Savage, sure he has done some amazing work for LGBT people. From creating the “It Gets Better” campaign to instructing everyone to Google “Santorum” in an effort to fight the homophobic remarks Rick Santorum has spewed in the past.

However, Savage isn’t above criticism. In the past, he has insinuated that Black people were the reason for the passage of Proposition 8 (implicitly stating that homophobia in Black and Brown communities is somehow greater than in white communities, despite data that suggests otherwise). Savage also has perpetuated transphobic sentiments towards Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna and has in the past been unapologetic by spewing negative ableist comments.

We should criticize Savage when he marginalizes a group of people, despite his noble efforts for the queer community. Even though Savage is a part of a community that is oppressed, he also in certain contexts is highly privileged (unchecked privilege can be very problematic). Savage fits the very definition of kyriarchy. That is to say, a person who is oppressed in one context might be privileged in another.

Some would suggest that we shouldn’t criticize Savage or other people “on our side” for fear it makes the queer community look like it’s not united.

Just like how West and Smiley criticizes the president’s actions or lack thereof, we must also do the same to Savage. We must criticize, not demonize.

Along with criticizing our leaders when appropriate, we must also look at ourselves as a community.

A while ago, I debated with a friend about of racism, lookism, ableism, privilege, biphobia and transphobia, issues that plague the queer community. My friend told me we can’t talk about these issues because straight people will look at us and think “they can’t even be equal within their own community, why should we give them rights?” Or something to that effect.

We should debate these issues, because it makes us stronger as a community.

Without debating, analyzing, and criticizing we may allow the continued perpetuation of social injustices within our community or even accept what the hegemonic society has told us is “normal.”

In the end, criticism must come out of love and respect, because if this isn’t the case we will cease to be a movement.

Maybe some of our leaders in the queer community should take note of the Poverty Tour and highlight the plight of queer individuals in America: “The Queer Liberation Tour,” anyone?

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  • John said:

    Actually, there is someone walking across the country doing just that. His name is Alan Bounville and you can find out more about his walking tour across the country by going to: http://www.intothelightwalk.com/

  • mim said:

    And for one thing, demanding that a movement has to be a certain way to gain respect is nothign but a power tool. Even if we were to stop criticizing, they’ll soon come down on us for not being the equal angels that we demand mainstream to be. When you bend to the power that be, you’ll simply never bend far enough.

  • Janee' said:

    Hey I really dig this article but didn’t quite understand where your point was headed for the Dan Savage is privileged section. Could you further explain?

  • James said:

    Renee at Womanist Musings keeps close tabs on Savage’s repeated missteps:


  • The New Gay » Uncategorized: Don’t Let Santorum Fool You said:

    [...] Submission by Brandon Thomas [...]