CultureFilm / TV

i’m rooting for everyone black (unless they’re queer)

February 15, 2019
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Yesterday, the NAACP announced its 2019 Image Award nominations, highlighting and celebrating the excellence that is Blackness across various forms of media and entertainments. Upsetting but not surprising, the critically acclaimed show POSE was left out, receiving zero nominations. Outrage from the Black LGBTQ was swift as many of us have unfortunately seen this happen before when organizations built for Black people, struggle to acknowledge anything that isn’t cisgender and heterosexual.

“I’m rooting for everybody Black” is great in ideology but piss poor in practice and the NAACP yet again proved just why. An organization, dedicated to the advancement of “colored people”, still unwilling to acknowledge and recognize many of their own because of their sexual identity. Many of us would like to think something different occurred or that POSE didn’t make the cut, but that would be denying the evidence that is right here in all our faces.

POSE isn’t just a good show. POSE is a groundbreaking piece of art that delves into a part of the Black community that is often lost in the margins of the pages of our story. The largest trans and queer cast in major network history, POSE not only brought great storylines and acting to the forefront, but became the change agent in an industry that rarely centers trans and queer characters outside of the normal trauma porn we see.

POSE was nominated for EVERY major award in multiple categories during the most recent award season, including the Golden Globes. POSE has one of the highest ratings for shows that were reviewed last year, made most if not all of the top 10 shows list of 2018 and continues to be one of the most anticipated shows of 2019. The snub from the NAACP serves as another reminder that although we have come very far, we have so much further to go.

It’s not lost on us how fractured we still are with staples in the Black community like the Black church and historic Black orgs struggling to change their ways around the treatment and acknowledgement of LGBTQ people. Although the NAACP hasn’t issued a statement about this situation, it isn’t surprising that POSE wasn’t centered. In 2012, although the NAACP endorsed marriage equality on a macro-level, controversy was caused when local officers around the country began resigning in discord with the organization’s stance on that issue. Gay folks were accused of hijacking the civil rights movement and being praised for our “deviant behavior” by many of the rank and file of the organization.

These sentiments are nothing new for Black Queer people who have often felt shunned by our own community. It always needs to be said that we understand that the Black community isn’t the most homophobic, and that in many ways there have been great strides in acknowledgement and treatment. But that we still deal with higher rates of violence, often from cishet people who have not been able to grasp the danger that is homosexuality.

The greater implication here is how resting on the “we will create our own” principle isn’t enough. Networks, publications, and award shows have been created by us out of the lack of acknowledgement our work was receiving from white community. Many of these orgs rose to power during the civil rights movement but haven’t shifted much of the archaic ways of thinking around who allowed to participate in Blackness. For us to finally have a show that includes Black queer people and still not be acknowledged is another reminder that gatekeepers are still operating being pro-black with conditions.

It is important that we continue to call a thing a thing. It’s easy when the oppressor is white, much harder to call out when it is one of our own. However, we can’t be silent when the homophobia and transphobia is loud and very clear. There is NO WAY possible that the NAACP Image awards overlooked POSE, when every other award show didn’t. What we see most often is that Black award shows become the catch all for when our excellence is being denied by mainstream media. Yet, here we are today watching our own deny access into the room, being nothing more than a gatekeeper of Blackness while sending the chilling reminder that some of us will never be allowed in.

One could only hope that the NAACP further examines how much work is still needed around this issue. It is easy to write this off as “just another award show” but the cut runs deep, and Black queer folks are tired of being harmed. It means something totally different when we are seen by our own people. When we are acknowledged and even accepted by our own people. The NAACP missed the mark on this decision. One can only hope the future for them and many other historic gatekeepers shifts to a Blackness inclusive of queerness, an inherent quality which continues to be denied.