THE BLOG

LGBT People of Color: Our Lives Are Valuable

03/19/2013 04:01 pm 16:01:58 | Updated Feb 02, 2016

It is quite common for the media to sensationalize stories. After all, their first goal is to sell, not to inform or educate. It is also common for the media to ignore LGBT people of color who are victims of hate crimes. Matthew Shepard. Charles Howard. Teena Brandon. In the LGBT community these are names and tragic stories that made national headlines. But how many of us are familiar with Sakia Gunn? Tiffany Berry? Micheal J. Sandy? Roberto Pancho Duncanson? Where was CNN? The New York Times? Where was -- dare I say it? -- BET? Is it that people of color are expected to be victims and thus receive far less media attention? Aren't our lives as valuable as the next?

History has proven that a missing white child or white woman garners far more national media attention than a missing black or brown child. Think JonBenét Ramsey and Laci Petersen. News reports, updates, live court coverage and even Lifetime movies were made about the cases. If you add the fact that the victim is LGBT and of color, then more than likely you won't even hear about the story beyond the local news, if that! For years people of color have been vocal in asking for fair representation in the media. Thousands of black and brown children and adults have gone missing and/or been murdered. Sadly, many of their stories are similar to the Ramsey and Petersen cases. But rarely are we mentioned nationally in the media. Who should be held accountable for this? Why aren't our stories in the news? Why isn't Lifetime or Dateline asking to hear our stories?

The media surely shoulder their fair share of the blame. But what about the LGBT community? Are we accountable too? It is no secret that our community mirrors the world around us. Rich white men in positions of power make decisions that affect all of us. They are television, radio, movie and cable company owners and producers, and owners of national newspapers and radio and television stations. They are responsible for what is and isn't reported and what type of information is and isn't disseminated among the public. It isn't a stretch to say that rich white gay men wield power in the LGBT community. We have come to expect unbalanced stories in the media, but the real question becomes: Is the LGBT community doing enough to ensure that all our stories are told? Are we people of color in the LGBT community doing enough to ensure that? Granted, there is no way to report every injustice, every hate crime, every victim, but it just seems to me that people of color in the LGBT community are always forgotten. Is the LGBT community simply mimicking mainstream media by only reporting on white victims of hate crimes? Was Sakia's life less valuable, less newsworthy because she was a black lesbian? How much blame should people of color take responsibility for? Are we our own worst enemy?

When the Trayvon Martin shooting occurred, it was one of the few stories about us that made national news. But it didn't happen until 10 days after the event. Why? Because people of color were galvanized, mostly online. We posted and shared photos of Tryavon nonstop. We protested. We contacted the authorities. We put constant pressure on the authorities to arrest his shooter. We forced them to make it a national story. People of color, even the LGBT community, stood together to demand justice. The fight is nowhere near finished, but our efforts seemingly paid off. But would those same folks have supported those in the LGBT community had a similar injustice occurred?

The black community is notoriously homophobic, especially because most of us were raised in the black church. And according to their interpretation of the Bible, homosexuality is a sin. We black folks who happen to be LGBT are expendable. When we are murdered, there is no online protest in the black community, no letter-writing campaign, and very little help from the community. We are on our own. We rely on each other to get the word out about yet another victim of a hate crime. Is this why Tiffany Berry's murder went without notice in the black community? Whenever there is an injustice, the LGBT community is tapped for resources. We are always asked to stand with heterosexuals against injustice, but the same support cannot be garnered when gays and lesbians are murdered. The black church is nowhere to be found.

The mainstream media. The LGBT community. The black community. Do we all share the blame? All three are at fault for the lack of responsible reporting on LGBT people of color who fall victim to vicious hate crimes. But where do we begin? How can we get our stories out there? Should we contact all the major stations to report our stories? Should we force the LGBT community to admit to their own selective interests? How do we even begin to address the hypocrisy and homophobia in the black church? These questions I have asked myself many times. I am still unable to answer them. Can you?