Gay Newspaper Editorial On Trayvon Martin’s Death Ignores Reality Of Racial Oppression

Our guest bloggers are Jeff Krehely, Vice President of LGBT Progress and Aisha Moodie-Mills, advisor of LGBT Progress’ FIRE Initiative for racial equality.

There are many ugly and ridiculous things to condemn about Trayvon Martin’s killing in Sanford, FL, and its aftermath. Some examples:

  • The Daily Texan running an editorial cartoon that referred to Trayvon as a “colored boy.”
  • Geraldo Rivera blaming hoodies for Trayvon’s death.
  • The Fox station in Orlando referring to a known Neo-Nazi organization as a “civil rights group” that was patrolling the streets of Sanford after the killing, “to protect people in case things get out of hand.”
  • A close friend of the gunman, George Zimmerman, hitting the TV circuit to defend Zimmerman’s possible use of a racial slur, falsely claiming that it was a name black people used “proudly” to describe themselves in some parts of the country.

For some reason, the Washington Blade’s editor Kevin Naff ignored all of these outrageous incidents (and others) when he weighed in on Trayvon’s killing this week (based on our search of The Blade’s website, we think this is the first time Naff has written about the case). Naff instead criticized 29 national LGBT groups for speaking out against Trayvon’s killing. From our perspective, Naff’s is a misplaced screed that, more than anything, highlights the tone-deaf nature with which some LGBT leaders approach and understand issues of race.

LGBT Progress at the Center for American Progress is, quite proudly, one of the national LGBT organizations and programs that “jumped on the Trayvon bandwagon last week,” as Naff put it in his post. Indeed, we signed a statement with 28 other LGBT groups that condemned the killing of Trayvon Martin, and expressed our sympathies to Trayvon’s family as well as our outrage that racial bias played a role in his killing.

At the heart of Naff’s editorial are questions about whether racial bias actually played a role in Trayvon’s killing. He states “there’s not much about this case that’s so crystal clear” in response to the section of the LGBT organizations’ statement that racial bias played a role in Trayvon’s killing.

Further, Naff also somehow choose to ignore press reports that describe the racial profiling that Zimmerman regularly engaged in, including warning his neighbors about the presence of young black men in the area. To us, it seems pretty obvious that Zimmerman followed Trayvon because Trayvon was black and not because he was somehow acting suspicious.

What’s more, Naff trivializes the parallels between racially motivated hate crimes and those perpetrated against LGBT people by suggesting that the spotlight on Trayvon somehow casts a shadow on LGBT victims of hate crimes. For example, Naff concludes his column with “…in the weeks since the Martin shooting, LGBT people have been attacked, shot and killed in the U.S. without a press release or peep of protest.”

This “us versus them” rhetoric implies that the LGBT victims are white, which couldn’t be farther from the truth considering that LGBT people of color are the victims of the most severe and deadly hate violence. What Naff fails to acknowledge is that our “hate crime martyrs” are overwhelming people of color, be they straight or LGBT. Among them are Brandon White, Deoni Jones, and Robert Champion, young queer people of color who were recently attacked and murdered simply because of who they were. It’s worth noting that Naff himself has yet to write about any of them despite his chiding about the lack of coverage of LGBT hate crimes in recent weeks.

We agree with Naff that many questions about the case remain unanswered, and that Florida’s ridiculous so-called “Stand Your Ground” law played a central role in the killing. At the same time, however, it is mind-boggling to us that Naff decided to use his position and power to lash out against those of us who signed the statement, while ignoring the fact that race-based hate crimes destroy the lives of both black and LGBT people. His attempt to pit homophobia and race-based oppressions against one another helps no one and further drives a wedge between the black and gay communities.