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Amid the national horror following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, LGBTQ and civil rights groups have issued a joint statement declaring anti-racism and an end to white supremacy must be “integral to the objective of full equality for LGBTQ people.”
Anger over the death of Floyd, a black man who appears on video to have been choked to death at the hands of white police officers as he pled to breathe, sparked riots in Minnesota and prompted the governor to call in the National Guard. Tensions were increased after police arrested CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his crew on-air as he was reporting on the riots.
“Many of our organizations have made progress in adopting intersectionality as a core value and have committed to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive,” the statement says. “But this moment requires that we go further — that we make explicit commitments to embrace anti-racism and end white supremacy, not as necessary corollaries to our mission, but as integral to the objective of full equality for LGBTQ people.”
The statement, which was spearheaded by the Human Rights Campaign, was signed by 75 groups, issues the call “Black Lives Matter” and enumerates the names of several black people who have been victims of racism and violence in the past year alone.
Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, who’s black, echoed in a statement words by Archbishop Desmond Tutu 30 years ago: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
“The racist violence that has filled our television, computer and phone screens this spring is a stark reminder of how far we still must go to ensure that the promise of America is not dependent on the color of one’s skin,” David said. “When we see injustice, we must speak out as strongly as we can. Otherwise, we are complicit in oppression.”
Among the incidents cited are Floyd’s death as well as the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia; the death of Breonna Taylor in a shooting with police in Louisville; a white woman in New York City calling the police on Christian Cooper a black gay man who told her to obey the rules in Central Park and leash her dog; and the killings of at least 12 transgender people so far in this year alone.
“All of these incidents are stark reminders of why we must speak out when hate, violence, and systemic racism claim — too often with impunity — Black Lives,” the statement says.
As onlookers recoil from the images of riots in Minnesota, the letter invoked the Stonewall riots of 1969 in New York City, which is considered the birth of the modern LGBTQ movement.
“The LGBTQ community knows about the work of resisting police brutality and violence,” the statement says. “We celebrate June as Pride Month, because it commemorates, in part, our resisting police harassment and brutality at Stonewall in New York City, and earlier in California, when such violence was common and expected. We remember it as a breakthrough moment when we refused to accept humiliation and fear as the price of living fully, freely, and authentically.”
Signers of the letter include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Trevor Project as well as state LGBTQ groups, such as Equality Arizona, Equality California and Equality Florida.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.