The more things change: An analysis.

The more things change was written on June 2, 2020; at the beginning of LGBT Pride celebrations around the world, and two weeks into the #BlackLivesMatter protests after the death of George Floyd in the United States.

Floyd died of a typical case of excessive force by the police against African Americans in the United States, sparking outrage and social movements via protesting, social media awareness, boycotts and a global conversation on racism against people of colour.

LGBT Pride is celebrated annually in the month of June. This is a tradition to commemorate the Stonewall riots from 1969 well into the 70s. The stonewall riots was a series of violent protests and action against the police who were harassing LGBT persons in New York, it began the modern LGBT+ Human Rights movement.

The more things change is a comparison of the two struggles, their similarities, and the same goal for human equality, civil rights, and against oppression. It ends with a daunting realisation.

Pride-Black lives matter

They hunt us down, like dogs;
with dogs.
See the teeth marks, a modern-day reminder of the scars of their father’s whips.
For many it’s no reminder, but the actual scar of our father’s belts.  

This alludes to the ‘hunting’ of runaway slaves, and innocent men running away from persecution for crimes they were wrongly charged for. Similarly, LGBT persons flee persecution in some places, and are ‘hunted down’ to face their ‘crimes’. It also references the use of police dogs, and police officers who behave like dogs to attack protestors involved in the civil and LGBT rights movements.

The scars of the teeth marks left from dogs who maul black protestors are a modern-day reminder of the scars and bruises of the whipping bore by slaves to suppress their freedoms and rights; but for LGBT persons it is more than reminder but an actual bruise from being whipped in states such as Iran where homosexuality is criminalised. It also reflects on the beating of LGBT persons by their families, especially from male relatives as a way of ‘correcting’ or ‘beating out’ their sexuality or gender non-conformity.

We march slowly, placards held like hope, signs of our prayers,
But they look pass these to see our faces – strained and anxious – different. Too different.
We march slowly, eyes affixed to the northern star, hearts cradled with thoughts,
But they look pass these to see our inhumanity, our abomination, our unnaturalness. Too different.

We – the oppressed, that is the LGBT and black communities and our allies engage in peaceful protests. Placards, like hope are held high and strongly to our hearts; the words we print on our signs are our prayers and what we wish for but they – the counter-protestors, the police, the ones who oppress us and defend the unequal and unjust systems do not see the humanity in our plea.
They ignore how hurt, scared and innocent we are to see how ferocious and beastly we appear in our numbers, to them we are just too different to be equal.

We still walk slowly with our heads high and eyes peering ahead in the distance – just as the run-away slaves in the Southern States of the United States of America followed the northern star to their freedom, so does the modern movement look ahead, walking towards their freedom, dreams and hopes as our hearts are consumed by thoughts of the struggle to get there, but again they look pass this to see the labels they created for us because we are just too different in their eyes. Queers (abominations, satanic, promiscuous, diseased) and niggers (thieves, rapists, subservient, lazy, drug dealers and uneducated) are not deserving to be equal to them.

Who do we turn to for guidance?
Religion has often been the source of our oppression.
Who protects us?
The state has always sponsored the hate against us.
Who do we turn to for comfort?
Our own community has been made to fear itself.  

This stanza questions and answers who people of African-descent and sexual and gender minorities turn to.

Christianity has been used to support the economic and social structures that encouraged slavery and classist systems through the European colonial and neo-colonial orders, a cornerstone of systematic oppression today.
The Abrahamic religions in particular are the basis of discrimination against homosexuals due to the story of God destroying the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, because their inhabitants practiced homosexuality.

The state often defends its existing systematic oppression and social inequalities through policies and laws, such as the Jim Crow laws in the United States before the passing of the Civil Rights Act. Many countries still have laws that criminalise homosexuality and same-sex intimacy, and many more countries do not recognise transgender persons.

The oppressed communities cannot even turn on itself for comfort since they are made to fear itself. Black communities are painted as drug-filled slums, ghettos of crime and poverty. The LGBT community is painted as unnatural, sexually deviant and scornful. People in their own communities reject or disassociate themselves because of the negative stereotypes that exist. This also fuels a struggle to find unity and empowerment within the black and LGBT communities.

Odd isn’t it? That the more things change, the more they remain the same.

We were raped.
We are raped.
We were beaten.
We are beaten.
We were shot.
We are shot.

Upon contemplation we can question how it seems that the movements have been largely successful, but yet it seems that the violence has shifted from one form to the other.

In the time of slavery, black men were sodomised to emasculate them; black women were raped because they were seen as weak or property to use. Today, black women are still gang raped and men are assaulted and made to hush up. LGBT persons are raped by family members and strangers to “correct” their sexuality and gender non-conformity; LGBT persons are also forced into sex work and assaulted for the perception that they are weaker and perverted.

Black people were beaten and abused by their owners and then beaten by the police during the civil rights movement. Black people are still beaten to give false confessions to crimes, and are beaten when they protest. LGBT persons are still beaten by their communities, classmates, families, and strangers to change their behaviour, or as an expression of hate towards their kind.

Black people are shot dead when they protest. LGBT persons are still shot and killed for their existence.

In some places we are still hung by the neck.
The last tears in our bloodshot eyes,
The gurgled words communicate sorrow and hatred. Never of disbelief.

For we never disbelieve.
This is what we were taught to fear. This is the fate we were warned about.

Black people were lynched and there is a real feeling that this is still a possibility in some communities in the United States. LGBT persons are still hung in some countries in the Middle-East as a punishment for their crime of homosexuality, and in Africa as vigilante justice.

The bloodshot eyes are double-caused for both black and LGBT communities. Bloodshot due to the stressful years of oppression and rejection, crying from the pain of their lives; and finally, death.

Their gurgled words of sorrowful existence, and the hate for what mankind has subjected them too. A dishonourable, painful death. For nothing. But even with all these emotions and feelings, disbelief is never felt.

Black children are warned to stay out of trouble, to avoid the peering eyes of their oppressors and to avoid crowds or they will be damned to the same fate. LGBT children are warned to suppress or change their behaviour, and do not engage in ‘certain’ expressions and feelings, or they too will be damned. Both groups were warned that their natural lives can end in violent deaths.

Death, just for being who they naturally are.

We were denied jobs.
We are denied jobs.
We were denied housing.
We are denied housing.
We were denied services.
We are denied services.

Not very odd is it, that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Upon further contemplation we can now see that it is not very strange to see that the more things change, the more they remain the same. The more we progress as a society, the less changes we have as oppression comes in new forms, but the impact of slavery still reeks on society.

Still alluding to the struggles of the two groups, Black and LGBT persons are still denied jobs; both groups are still denied housing, LGBT persons in particular are kicked out of their homes when their families find out about their sexuality and gender identity; both groups are still denied social and other services.

There is no tomorrow, just today.
We hope for a tomorrow, by living for today.
We hope to live tomorrow, by challenging today.
We die today, for there to be a tomorrow.

Unlike death from persecution for unjust crimes, this stanza explains that any member of both communities should expect death – for no reason at all other than being themselves – and because we will die either way, might as well die for something meaningful.

In ways, a person can feel that their life is hopeless, so they should just live one day at a time; but collectively the communities must find hope for tomorrow: whether it be a less oppressive society, economic comfort, education for their children, and general betterment, but to attain this hope we would have to challenge present day inequalities and injustices. This means that we risk death every day, just so our children, and other members of the community can live the life we hoped for.

#BlackLivesMatter #QueerLivesMatter #CivilRights #LGBTRights

Together we rise

Image retrieved from here.

Banner image retrieved from here.

Featured image by Josh Hild from Pexels

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Jairo Rodrigues is an award-winning human rights and social development programme coordinator. He specialises in social change projects and advocacy methodologies on gender relations, sexual and reproductive health and rights, comprehensive sexuality education, LGBT, and youth development.

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