Pride and Black Lives Matter

July 9, 2016 at 10:28 pm (Uncategorized)

Six years ago to this day, I posted a short piece called Gay Pride 201o

Basically, I noted that in its history Toronto’s gay pride march had got from the smallish gay community and its leftist allies to the mass media spectacle it is today where prime ministers and premiers vie for camera space. When the turning point for this transformation was, I’m not sure, but it seems in the early nineties, the organizers were excluding leftists. Today of course, such exclusion is unnecessary as the parade has become a mass celebration of sexuality and the right to be whomever you choose rather than a protest, and on one wants to buy Workers Vampire. . But it’s also huge corporate sponsorship. Banks, TV companies, business from large to small all wish a happy pride and wrap themselves in the rainbow flag.

Hence the politicians. Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau was there. So was Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynn and Toronto’s Mayor John Tory. Hell, Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown was there proclaiming his support for marriage equity. It wasn’t so long ago that Brown was courting the homophobic vote in order to become Tory leader, but it seems as if he’s realized there’s more votes among people who aren’t homophobic instead. It’s a remarkable change in just a couple of decades.

In 2010 though, the issue was a group calling themselves Queers Against Israeli Apartheid which threaten to, well, rain on the parade. Some wanted them excluded.; some insisted on their right to march. In the end, a compromise was reached, and the party proceeded as normal.

In 2016, it’s Black Lives Matter. As most people know, Black Lives Matter were invited  , but at some point during the parade, the switched tactics, sat down on the street, and refused to move unless certain demands were met, the most contentious of which was the exclusion of police floats (who knew?) from future pride events. Pride executive director Mathieu Chantelois agreed to the demands, allowing the parade to get underway again, only to recant the following day.

Three schools seem to have emerged.

  1. Those who thought that BLM had every right to do as they did, it being in the spirit of pride, as well as focusing attention on the issue of police violence. This was before the events in Baton Rouge, Minnesota and Dallas, but even so there were no doubt quite a few who had experienced another side of police justice and weren’t at all happy after the presence of “Toronto’s finest.”
  2. Those who felt that BLM had abused the hospitality of Pride, held the parade hostage and attempted to focus on their issue (in the following week BLM was flooded with hate mail about their behaviour)
  3. Those who weren’t aware that anything had happened. After all, a delay of 30 minutes of so in a march of that size…

I think it was Oscar Wilde who said, the only worse than being talked about is not being talked about, and BLM’s goal is fundamentally about inclusion not revolution. Inclusion means an end to the institutionalized racism of this society,and being a part of broader forces. Can BLM transform into something as fundamentally within the system as pride? It seems like as racism is much more deeply ingrained in society than homophobia and it seems that nothing less than revolution will be required to remove it, but it also seems unlikely that this will create a fundemantal crisis for either organization


PS. I had started writing this post, when the latest round of gun-related violence in the States began. I’ll write more about that later.

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