Posted Feb. 26, 2008 – All this time I thought that, the reason for gay America’s refusal to focus on any other civil rights issue but gay marriage was because of their privilege. But today, it’s clear to me that race and poverty aren’t of any real relevance to their movement because they’re too busy laughing at it.
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I may not be supporting Senator Hillary Clinton for President, but there’s one thing I wholeheartedly agree with the Senator on, this is very personal for me.
That was the answer Senator Clinton gave to New Hampshire voter Marianne Pernold Young’s question, how do you do it?”
“It's not easy, and I couldn't do it if I didn't passionately believe it was the right thing to do," Clinton said. "You know, this is very personal for me. It's not just political. It's not just public. I see what's happening, and we have to reverse it.”
My sentiments exactly regarding Charles Knipp, this is very personal for me.
You can call me a bitch, you can call me a hoe, you can even call me a nigger, I’ve been called worse. You can publish my number on the Internet and have me barraged with death threats, I can handle that.
I can even handle you superimposing my face onto the body of porn star Norma Stitz, and then posting it to the homepage of your website. Bring it!
However, I draw the line at this notion that in 2008 it is ok for a white man, gay or straight, to make $90k a year to dress up in blackface for white gay men, rednecks, and their moms, and degrade Black women.
I draw the line with gay America when they can persecute a Black actor for his perceived homophobia and then support a self-described forty-five-year-old, fat, gay white man and his alter ego character Shirley Q. Liquor, “a welfare mother with nineteen kids who guzzles malt liquor, and drives a Caddy.”
And just like there are Blacks that embarrass me, as a Black lesbian woman, there are gays that do the same.
Knipp doesn’t make his living at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. You won’t see him on BET’s Comicview. It’s not African-Americans that sell out his shows from city to city. It’s white gay America that keeps Shirley Q. Liquor alive.
From nightclubs to pride celebrations, Knipp is still around because the gay community continues to take pleasure in the degradation of the Black female, further proving that race is still an issue in America.
Let’s be real about this. Shirley Q. Liquor is a Black welfare mother with nineteen kids (Cheeto, Orangello, Chlamydia, and Kmartina...) who guzzles malt liquor, drives a Caddy, and speaks Ebonics.
Knipp likes to justify his routine by saying that his character is a tribute to the good Southern women he grew up around.
I’m going to address the obvious first, Black women do not name their kids after venereal diseases.
And while on the surface you might be tempted to laugh at Knipp while in his afro and blackface makeup, for many Black Americans poverty is reality and not entertainment.
"Baby, we was extremely povertied this week. My check had not came on time. Oooh, we was stretchin' it, honey. I aks them to keep my power on. I said, 'A woman have got to have some fans runnin' down here in this heat.' "
From living in the projects to spending an entire day in the County office just to find out why a check didn’t come, is a chapter in the story of some Black woman’s life.
“On the fifth day of Kwanzaa, my check came in the mail/AFDC!/Thank you, lawd!/Come on, kids/Let's go to the store/For some collard greens, ham hocks and cheese!"
Why is it that a Black woman would be on welfare in the first place? Let’s start there. What role did whites play in blocking the access of Blacks to the same higher education that Knipp took advantage of that earned him his nursing degree? Think about that.
Think about the fact that Black women, since we were brought to America as slaves, have been forced to endure every form of racism and sexism there is at the hands of whites. And that no matter how straight and long our hair is or how light our skin, when we speak up for ourselves we’re labeled the angry Black bitch. Or in my case, the angry Black lesbian bitch.
Consider the fact that generations of strong Black women before me, including those that gay America likes to quote in an effort to show how diverse they are, paved the way for us sistas today so that we would could have the same access that came so easy to those with white colored skin. Some of those women died without ever seeing the fruits of their labor. Some like my 87-year-old grandmother, are still living and pushing their children to go further in life than they did.
Think about the Black women and men who were forced to go to work at the age of 12 to help support their families. Never having had the opportunity to finish grade school and learn how to speak and write your English properly, today they depend on their grandchildren to fill out forms for them and read them their mail. There is nothing funny about that.
For years, it was the Massuh we had to contend with and his penchant for darker skin. Then it was the racist police officer, landlord, or boss. Fast forward forty years and we’re nappy headed hoes and being found in shacks, raped, beaten and urinated on. Our asses are being analyzed during tennis matches on live television for the world to see. Misogynistic lyrics recited by Black men and financed by white, continue to portray Black women as sexual objects to the point where some of us are so confused that we’ve gladly taken on the roll. And as if all of that wasn’t enough, we have to contend with a white man who gets his rocks off making a mockery of us and our ancestors.
Yes, this is very personal for me.
It’s personal when America has reduced thousands of Black families in New Orleans to living in trailers all the while the same city’s gay pride celebration, Southern Decadence, can shell out the dough to bring in Charles Knipp’s to perform his character Shirley Q. Liquor blocks from where they sleep. So while New Orleans Blacks are living below the poverty line and in some cases still homeless, it’s all good with the gays.
I’d say that’s personal.
Paraphrasing Senator Clinton, it’s not easy, and I couldn’t fight this fight if I didn’t passionately believe it was the right thing to do.
This is very personal for me. It's not just political. It's not just public. I see what's happening, and we have to stop it.
My people deserve better. Black women deserve better.
At 30, Jasmyne Cannick, pictured above, is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class, sexuality, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. A regular contributor to NPR’s News and Notes, she was chosen as one Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World. She can be reached at www.jasmynecannick.com or www.myspace.com/jasmynecannick.