It was January 21, 2017, and there I was, sitting in Studio 1 at the Fox News Channel DC Bureau. We were just moments from coming back from a commercial break. And just a second prior to the two-minute warning, it hit me: We were departing the era of cautious optimism and entering a new era of unpredictable, untested American carnage. An era where the most vulnerable, the voiceless, and those teetering on the edge would be forced to play an endless game of Russian Roulette for survival.
And as I sat there, I felt helpless. What could I do to change the lives of those I cared the most about? What could I do to calm the fears of the black queer college student from Mississippi who had sent me an email a couple days after Trump’s election expressing concerns about his safety on campus? What was going to happen to the transgender sex worker, whose post is a couple blocks from my apartment — that depends on the underground economy for survival?
And as I pondered these questions, I heard my mentor’s voice echo in the chambers of my mind, in her conservative southern twang:
Baby, you are here for a reason. People will see you on this channel and understand that it is ok. A young black boy or girl struggling with their own identity will see you and know its ok to be brave.
When she said it to me a couple years before, I didn’t quite understand the meaning, but on that cold January day it all made sense. You see, what that conservative southern women was saying was that my life and my identity — being a black gay man in a divided nation — was inextricably connected with a community of individuals all fighting for a voice, recognition and understanding in a country and world where those in power have chosen oppression as their weapon of torture.
For a long time, I hid my true self from the public, but that inauguration morning the hiding was over.
For a long time, I hid my true self from the public, but that inauguration morning the hiding was over. That morning, I understood that my story and presence was a weapon against all the bullies, all the cowards and all of those that thought Trump’s victory would push people like me back into the closet; back into the shadows of society. And in that moment, all the shame from my story was erased, the victimhood was over. And sitting there in the Fox studio, ready to discuss the issues of the day, with a camera in my face, I looked down at the TV monitors and recognized a strong, bold and brave individual prepared to face a world full of judgement, stereotypes and false notions.
The only cure for oppression is freedom, and freedom for black queer folk – like me — will only come when we make the choice to free ourselves. And that choice starts by having ownership of our stories and utilizing these stories as a tool to connect, educate and build a movement strong enough to fight back against the oppressor, and march forward, towards a society that accept us fully, no matter who love, how we chose to identify, or our unwillingness to conform to gender norms.
By boldly sharing and proclaiming our stories, we as a movement of people can leave our mark on the moral arc of the universe and move just one step closer to justice and equality. And in the process, we can also rewrite and inform policy. We can elect individuals that appreciate us. We can put an end to discriminatory rules and regulations. And most importantly, we can work on ending this era of American carnage—an era with simple recipe: two scoops of racism, two scoops of homophobia, a dash of white supremacy, add a little bit of water, and stir.
We can elect individuals that appreciate us. We can put an end to discriminatory rules and regulations.
Now don’t get me wrong, telling your story isn’t easy. For some of us, we have the economic privilege to tell our stories without the harm of losing our job, our housing, or our place in society. Regrettably, those of us with all the privilege have become the most complacent. We have accepted the heternomative framework passed down to us by family, church, and friend groups and in the process, we have given our oppressors a stronghold to take advantage of us, our black queerness, and all those in our community that continue to remain voiceless.
When we sit silent as friends, family members, pastors, traditional black organizations, and others around us utilized homophobic or transphobic language; or when we allow our sexual identity to stripped for audience convenience or comfort, we are just a guilty of the hate and bigotry that we lay at the feet of President Donald Trump, the Alt-Right, or racist police officers.
If we truly want to turn the tide and improve the lives of black queer folks across this country, we all must unite together and commit to telling the entirety of our stories – every chapter. We must commit to talking about the trauma. We must commit to talking about the abuse. We must commit to talking about the hiding. We must commit to talking about the pain. We must commit to talking about the hurt. We must commit to talking about the suffering. We must commit to talking about the shame. And most importantly, we must talk commit to about our innate ability to survive it all.
We are a strong and resilient people! Hell, we are the backbone of the black community. We are the educators, the health workers and the government employees and parents that keep our communities safe, welcoming and thriving. We are the family members that take care of the sick, watch over the children and provide advice to others, both young and old. We are members of the church who give tithes every Sunday, expecting nothing in return. And while we are shunned by many in mainstream black culture, we still manage to contribute to every facet of black life in America.
Here is the truth, we can longer afford to sit silent. This goes far beyond Donald Trump and his allies, because hatred—while inflamed by him—will continue when he leaves 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This fight is about our freedom and our best tool is our story. If we make the choice to come out of the shadows and tell our stories free from shame, both our ancestry and future generations will rejoice.
Richard Fowler is the youngest syndicated progressive and/or African-American radio host in the United States. Fowler is a Fox News Contributor, SiriusXM radio host and a Senior Fellow at the New Leaders Council.
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