We can’t say we don’t know about the racism brewing in queer and trans institutions like Equitas Health
Nothing about current events of racism at Equitas SantÃ© is a surprise. The systematic discrimination and mistreatment of black employees of the organization has long been an open secret. More than that, it’s a bleeding wound that never had a chance to heal, let alone heal.
Racism runs rampant at the heart of many queer and trans institutions in Columbus. It is hardly a shock; it shouldn’t be more than a superficial debate. Equitas Health exists within a larger American system built on a foundation of anti-black exploitation and dehumanization. No person or institution in this country can fail to internalize harmful attitudes or not be shaped by systemic advantages and disadvantages. Queer or trans identity offers no protection or absolution.
Racism within queer and trans institutions is not much different from racism elsewhere. Former Equitas Employees said they left the organization because of harassment, limited opportunities for advancement, disparate treatment and lack of institutional power. Rainbow racism is just as ugly and just as damaging as any other manifestation of systemic white supremacy. If anything, as Bob Vitale told the Mail, the sting of being hurt by your own community means that rainbow racism can cut deeper.
What is unique about racism in queer and trans spaces is the depth of denial practiced by queer and trans white people. Too often, white gay and trans people act as if our own experiences of violence and prejudice prevent us from having racist attitudes. We tend to believe that our experiences of queerphobia and transantagonism nullify our white privilege. Many of us use our LGBTQ identity as a shield, or worse, a weapon.
Generations of queer and trans black people have underscored this dynamic. James Baldwin wrote: âI think white homosexuals feel cheated because they were born, in principle, into a society in which they were supposed to be safe. The abnormality of their sexuality puts them in danger, in an unexpected way.
Queer and trans people can’t say that members of our black community haven’t tried to explain it to us.
There is another way that racism within queer and trans communities is distinctive. White queer and trans people who recognize racism within our communities often act as if this knowledge in itself is a blow against discrimination.
All kinds of white people are doing that kind of self-glorification, sure. But the specifics of the situation at Equitas – that the institution may pretend to be anti-racism while continuing to harm its employees of color – shows that queer and trans people may have a special flair for knowing we have it. a problem without doing anything meaningful about it.
We can no longer say that we didn’t know or that we deserve credit for simply knowing. The only question becomes what are we going to do.
As always, black queer and trans people lead the way. To begin the process of transforming our community institutions, white queer and trans people must listen to and support them.