Speaking out against racism in Leather.

If you’re just catching up on the issue of the Portland Eagle Blackface Problem, please read my original post here.

(Thanks to  Sprinkles McGillicuddy for making a captioned version available!)

Some people have stepped up to the place and stepped up as allies.

Being an ally means fighting alongside. It is about taking a stand, in front of everyone. Vocally. Holding people accountable. Not “agreeing to disagree” when people support racism. About saying “privilege is real.” and talking about ways to mitigate racism, ways to educate so that it is a shared responsibility.

Some folks are tired of fighting this fight. I had several People Of Color who fight these fights respond to me privately and say “I support you and i am too tired and to bruised to fight this today.” Because you know what? For a Person of Color? To walk down the street is to make a political statement. To call out racism is a revolutionary act. And we can’t battle this without great personal cost.

I approached Leathati to ask if I could  write an editorial. I was advised that it would be better to have a “Town Hall” style meeting to discuss it as it is a “larger issue.” No response was made to my request to speak on the topic, and then they found someone else. Originally listed as the “Calendar Editor” for Leatherati, Ms. Best’s byline was, subsequent to posting, changed to “contributing editor.” The Leatherati editor then stated that I was unresponsive to his invitation to the “Town Hall” and that he “welcomed” different opinions. I’m not sure how welcoming it is to not answer when one offers to write on an issue, but shit happens and so it goes. He since corrected his error. I invite Leatherati to post my video entry, linked at the top of this blog, as a response.

Almost all of the people responding to Ms. Best’s column defending the racist blackface act were clear: there is no place for this in our Leather community. I want to personally acknowledge, call attention, and give my deepest, humblest gratitude to the people who have, thus far spoken up on that page. Lady !Kona, Patrick Mulcahey, Janet Hardy, Dana Pellebon, Lane Campbell, Sailor, Sé Shay Sullivan, Shannon. I want to call attention to the titleholder who is representing Washington State who commented, most puzzingly, that a drag act where a white man dresses in blackface and mocks the worst stereotypes of Black women is “social commentary that gently pushes us to challenge our own preconceived ideas or propriety and acceptance.”

Thankfully, there are people who are titleholders who are taking a stand against racist performance.

These are Leatherfolks…leaders in the Leather Community…who took a stand.

Master Obsidian’s post http://www.powerandsurrender.com/?p=457

Slave Namaste’s Post http://www.powerandsurrender.com/?p=457

There are people who are leaders in their own right who are taking a strong stand.

Andrea Zanin’s Post http://sexgeek.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/some-dos-and-donts-for-white-perverts-in-our-efforts-to-not-be-racist

Elaine Miller’s Post http://elainemiller.com/blog/2013/blackface-racist-stereotyping-and-other-sophisticated-humour

Sé Shay Sullivan’s post http://twistedqueer.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/here-is-my-response-to-the-leatherati-post-on-defending-racism-for-pay

Leland Carina’s Post http://lelandcarina.com/updates/2013/02/06/empathy

Roxy’s Post http://uncommoncuriosity.com/2013/02/07/outrage/

Zak Greanty’s Post http://zak.greant.com/2013/02/why-is-blackface-harmful.html

Blythe Baldwin’s Post https://www.facebook.com/notes/blythe-baldwin/sounding-off-about-shirley-q-liquors-act-being-cancelled-at-the-eagle-portland/10151512864452265

Karol Collymore’s Post http://bitchmagazine.org/post/im-tired-of-explaining-why-im-offended-by-a-racist-drag-queen

If you are moved to action, please use the contact button to your right, let me know where you are writing and fighting against racism in the Leather community, and I will add you to this post.

I also want to send a particular shout out to the Black Leatherwomen who have walked this path and fought these battled for decades. Your support and your example gives me hope and fortifies my resolve. Thank you, Sisters.

ImageThose of you who have decided that you:

…don’t have time.

…aren’t interested in getting involved.

…don’t see how it impacts you.

…are just gonna let it die down.

…are going to wait until it blows over.

…don’t want to “take sides.”

…will chalk it up to a difference of opinion.

…are not allies.

It is increasingly becoming very difficult for me to even think of you as my friends.

I’m having to do some pretty serious gymnastics to understand how people I love can take a stand to support, or refuse to take a stand against  something that is injurious to people they purport to love.

I beseech you to add your voice. Write a blog post. Link to this one. Comment on the blogs above. Call people out on their shit. Don’t make excuses for your friends when they are taking a stand you know to be wrong. Do not agree to disagree. KNOW THAT YOU ARE RIGHT to call out racism.

In the same way I DO NOT associate with people who are homophobic, sexist, transphobic, anti-choice, etc, I DO NOT associate with people who support racism.

How about you?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Arli on February 6, 2013 at 10:43 PM

    As I said to our mutual friend at lunch today. I’m here! I’m standing beside you. It will be sloppy sometimes and I’ll do my best always. I will not agree to disagree, I will not wait for it to blow over. I will sit in my own discomfort and speak up.

    You have my support and admiration

  2. Lucia on February 6, 2013 at 11:02 PM

    Dear Mollena
    Standing up against injustice is never easy. But those of us who understand have your back!!! We stand with you thank you for your courage now and always.
    Carinos from Puerto Rico

  3. Sailor on February 7, 2013 at 2:35 AM

    Go you!

    I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep saying it if you want me to: I’ve got your back on this. I don’t know why something like blackface is totally inappropriate, hurtful, and not at all funny is still something that needs to be debated in this day and age, but here we are. I’m happy you’re continuing to speak up on this.

    Contrary to what some people may think, continuing to speak loudly on this issue will not only NOT scare people away from speaking up, or wanting to know more. Sometimes people don’t know how much something effects people until their reactions are so impaction they have no choice but to pay attention. I think continuing to loudly voice our outrage will let those who are unaware of what’s going on, or unaware of why it’s such a big deal, and what serious implications what someone says can have.

  4. Thaniel on February 7, 2013 at 6:21 AM

    I’ve been following this. These people are astonishingly thick-headed. Even more alarming to think that this isn’t a one-off, but that this “person” trots out this “character” on a regular basis. I don’t presume to know what it’s like to be a POC, but as a trans person I am familiar with the feeling of shock & betrayal when suddenly someone who you thought had a clue turns out to be an idiot, & a hurtful one at that. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. Bad enough to go they constant shit in an overall way, but then to get kicked in the face w/it…ouch.
    Im no “leader” but One thing I do to fight: I find that I’m often in a position where white people say racist crap to me b/c they think they’re “among friends.” I pull them up short, of course, but I try to do it such that they actually have to THINK about it. Sometimes when a bigot uses their brain, they start to wake up.
    I’m glad you’re fighting back on this travesty. There should be ZERO tolerance for this in the Leather community of all damn places!

  5. Leila on February 7, 2013 at 8:01 AM

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past week.

    I was looking at that clip and wondering if there were any black people in the audience. Did they grimace and shake their head while their friends next to them laughed? Did they walk out? Did they boo? Did they laugh along with the others on the outside while dying in the inside? I can see myself sitting at one of those tables with a drink in my hand watching that show and feel the anger, the humiliation, the shame, the paranoia, the betrayal. I can see myself sitting there wishing I had the courage to shout him down and storm out of the place demanding my money back, but instead just sitting there getting smaller and smaller in my seat wondering if my friends saw me that way. And if not, then why not?

    What saddens and angers me the most is that it wasn’t all that shocking to me. I have seen and experienced racism is so many places in my life where I thought I was safe, that I’ve realized there is no safe place. I’ve been thinking a lot about my “otherness”. I’m black, female, poly, kinky, nerdy… maybe I’m so used to being on the outside I don’t even recognize when I’m on inside?

    I don’t really have a point to any of this other than to say thank you for bringing this to everyone’s attention and for standing up and fighting back. I have a really, really long complicated blog post in my head.

  6. Laura Antoniou on February 7, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    As Leatherati restores their comments, let me just get on the record here with my thoughts regarding a white, male performer doing blackface in order to portray a fat, black, “welfare mom with 19 kids.”

    It’s ridiculous to even HAVE to, but just to be really, really clear…this is NOT OK. This is offensive, insulting, demeaning; this passes insensitive and goes straight to are-you-fucking-kidding-me land, because it’s 2013 and at the VERY LEAST, I expect that sort of thing to go on behind closed doors, accompanied by juvenile snickers of over-age delinquents who don’t have the guts to actually wear a white hood and become terrorists, but feel oh-so-superior and powerful when they tell racist jokes and photoshop pictures of the President and his family and accidentally hit “send to all.”

    And this is not a struggle between edgy art and censorship. When the *government* comes in and says this douchebag can’t do his show and they truck his ass over to Cuba for some waterboarding, then come to me and start whining about censorship. He can do his show anywhere that wants him, he can do it out on the STREET if he likes, and I would be happy to suggest some neighborhoods where his act might really be attention-getting.

    This is about 1) Why any gay business would even want this, and 2) Why, specifically, the defense continues to support this, and 3) the silence of allies who kind of don’t like it but don’t know what to say (see the picture me me in this place) and 4) the silence from people who actually would love to go see a nice minstrel show making fun of stereotypical poor black women who have “too many” babies and laugh at those wacky jungle bunnies and their oversexed, drug-using, government-supported ways.

    Was that phrase offensive enough? I can get some more.

    Would the Portland Eagle have hired a straight guy who came out in pink and lavender chiffon, limp-wristed and lisping, making jokes about dead fags? How about some humorous stories about molesting boys? After all, let me tell you, there are a TON of people out there who laugh at stuff like that. It’s just HUMOR, right? And if the performer didn’t intend to actually go out and hit someone with a baseball bat, and he only wanted to make them laugh, we should welcome him, right? He could follow his defamation – or, rather, his gentle poking – of gay men with some snappy jokes about hairy-legged rug munchers who can’t get a man and how they should be raped, because that would be funny, too. This is classic stuff, folks! Straight comedians have been telling those jokes for YEARS. It’s practically tradition.

    Frankly, if that sort of comedy is popular in gay venues these days, I’m glad I don’t get out much. I suspect, though, that you won’t find too many performers at gay owned clubs spouting the usual frat-boy sniggering jokes about fags, let alone the seething, frustrated snarls of an actual homo-hater who spends his time trying legal means to make sure the gays know their place. But it’s OK to hire someone if their “jokes” are in that same vein except they make fun of poor back women?

    In what universe, exactly? Not in mine. Period.

    And then, when confronted with reasonable objections – like, say, the actual voices of ACTUAL BLACK WOMEN – instead of waking up and realizing, oh, shit, this is an iceberg and we are sinking already, up comes the chorus of derailers, who immediately start whining about censorship, freedom of speech, and those mean, mean women, people of color and concerned allies who won’t just lighten up and laugh once in a while.

    It’s not censorship. (Already covered that.) Douchebag has complete freedom of speech; he just doesn’t have the “right” to get paid for it, or a venue to perform it in. And if you really think the answer to offensive behavior should be “just laugh it off,” thanks for stabbing progressive activists in the back while enjoying your relative security.

    I would have hoped for, if not careful, mindful consideration of racism, that maybe there could have been…empathy? “I don’t like jokes about rape, AIDS, dead queers, weak fairies, ugly dykes, cheap Jews. They hurt my feelings, they make me feel unsafe and demeaned and marginalized. So maybe this “welfare mom” drag identity done in blackface might hurt the feelings of my black friends. Or my female friends. Or friends of mine who grew up in poverty, or are poor now. Or, maybe even my non-douchebag friends.”

    But no. I am actually seeing people defend blackface in a gay venue.

    Well, as Obsidian wrote, at least now we will know you by your fucked up gait.

  7. Kelly Beaton on February 7, 2013 at 7:18 PM

    This is a shameful and awful representation of expression and it is very confusing that this performance was not the first time. Standing up for what is right is never easy and in such a small community it is even more difficult but essential, essential to the life and growth of the community and the individuals involved.

  8. Stabbity on February 7, 2013 at 9:05 PM

    I wrote a whole post about this shit here, but it can pretty much be summed up with “what the fuck is wrong with people?”

  9. Thomas Roche on February 7, 2013 at 10:39 PM

    Laura A. touches briefly on what I think disturbs me most about this whole thing. This is an offensive performer (like…duh?) and when an African American woman says “this is offensive,” Caucasians tell her she’s wrong. Huh? Fox News sure does lose a lot of sleep worrying about the “PC Police” running roughshod over U.S. culture. It’s good to know just how much pull the “PC Police” really has if, when someone has the balls to say “this is offensive,” it becomes about a “white artist” being “silenced” or “censored.” Apparently, it really is still the white people who get to decide when members of minority groups get to be offended.

    I’m going to take that back…that’s not the most disturbing thing to me about all of this. The most disturbing thing to me is that anybody EVER laughed at that hateful, unfunny shit. It is not even remotely close to comedy…it’s just a repetition of a politically expedient racist fiction decayed into counterrevolutionary purulence. Laughing at that non-comedy is in my eyes tantamount to laughing at a lynching.

  10. Karlyn Isaac Lotney on February 8, 2013 at 2:28 AM

    Here is what I said on The Portland Eagle’s page one week ago: (They may have deleted the comment–I saved a copy.)

    Wow, there are some ignorant white people up in Portland! Not that there aren’t ignorant white people everywhere, but I don’t know why I expected better of you, PDX. I have heard recordings and seen videos of this person, and let me tell you, blackface is just the beginning of the incredible amount of racism portrayed in his act. The hurtful racism that spews out of his mouth is unending, with the 13 or 18 or whatever children the character has with them being named after fruit and what have you–it’s DISGUSTING.

    The whole amplification of the “welfare queen” archetype is just another manifestation of the white, racist, usually Republican, reality that is just another facet of the stone that keeps Black people down. Shame on you, LGBT people for booking an act that is just one of many attempts to keep another marginalized minority down and at a distance, not to mention painting a target on the back of Black people of all sexual orientations.

    For me, the definition of being socially responsible is quite simple: Does it move our culture forward, in a progressive manner that uplifts community members? Or does it move us backward, into an ugly past that makes us feel scared and petty and small and vengeful–so that we act out by applauding that which lionizes our worst instincts?

    To all of the white people involved in booking and supporting this travesty, you have certainly done the latter–shame on you. And on behalf of the bearers of white-skinned privilege who happen to have at least a modicum of sense and decency, I apologize to the lovely Sophia St James, Quincy Jones, and the other Black folks within range who have to deal with this horseshit. Please know that some of us are fairly decent–for white people.

  11. Doreen Johnson on February 8, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    I was born north of the Mason-Dixon line in the heart of the Underground Railroad country. Most of the racism I was exposed to while I grew up was covert. I was not, however, unaware that it was happening. I spent part of my years growing up watching what was happening in the South with the Freedom Rides and the horrible images of young children being called names, being pelted with garbage, being soaked and injured with fire hoses, and being blown up in churches. The Klan was active and the Grand Marshall lived in a town about 30 miles from my home.

    I know that I grew up with white privilege and racism that I wasn’t (and still am not) aware of. I hate that!!! I hate when I find myself judging someone because of the color of their skin or the way they speak, or some other “thing” that has nothing to do with the person they are. I find myself stopping short, in the middle of a thought, realizing that I’m being racist when that isn’t my intent at all.

    That said, I cannot fathom how something so overt as black-face can even be considered OK in this day and age. What is funny about a stereotype? What is OK about making fun of people at all? It’s WRONG and there is nothing about it that can be made right by rationalizing.

    I know the hurt this must cause, the anger this must bring to the surface, and the lines that will again be drawn as a result. I stand with you and all my friends who are saying this is completely unacceptable. I will say so to anyone who tries to ignore it or who says anything in my presence that is racist. I will continue to check myself as I’m still finding the covert, insidious shit coming up in my own head.

    I’m sorry.

  12. GingerNic on February 8, 2013 at 5:31 PM

  13. Friday Spencer on February 9, 2013 at 5:44 AM

    Don’t worry about adding my name to the list of supporters, I’m not all that important.
    I can’t say I know what you go through day to day. I’m white, male, straight. Even with the amount of profiling I get because of my long hair, biker outfits, being outspokenly Pagan and Dominant, I don’t have to live what you do, day in, day out. I’m truly sorry that this happened, and in the BDSM community! Like you said in your video, “a place I think of as ‘home'”.
    I breadcrumbed your note on FL (too poor to support, so I couldn’t ‘love’ it, sorry), and posted the YouTube on my FaceBook account, and for the first time actually sponsored a link.
    Bigotry, no matter if it is slut shaming, gay bashing, or racism, must be fought. FCK H8!

  14. Layla Aaron on February 9, 2013 at 6:25 AM

    Still unable to comprehend that there are people who think that shit is 1) funny at all, 2) acceptable, and 3) not racist BS. For anyone to defend that utter shite boggles my mind. For anyone to come back with “it’s just a joke” – yeah, I’m not laughing. Nor are these other folks. Not. FUCKING. Funny. Going to toss breadcrumbs everywhere on FL because this shit needs to be addressed.

  15. DarkMatterStorm on February 10, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    One day, the selfsame father who scrupulously instilled in me values that condemned all forms of bigotry asked if I thought the O.J. Simpson acquittal signaled that racism was all over, and it was just essentially a financial horse race. Even at the time, it seemed a little sad that such an intelligent and generally insightful person had bitten at such pathetic bait. Cart before the horse, I told him. A few years later, a man was figuring out that I was “not white” when I didn’t want to join a militia, and White America was patting itself on the back: they’d nailed racism’s coffin shut by not letting David Duke hold elected office again. Marginalizing racists is like killing the cockroaches you can see. If you leave things laying around to sustain them, they’ll be back.

    It is NOT OK for white people as a class to unilaterally gauge where we are on race issues. Seriously, that alone dooms the report card to D- and below territory. Also, ask yourself if the white supremacists would book an act for their conventions before having them in anything you value as a “safe space”.

  16. Moloko Vellocet on February 10, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    [reposted here by Mo’s request – the original is on FL]

    Yep. It’s racist, and I don’t appreciate it. I think one of the things that slammed it home for me is the cultural context in which it is presented.

    I was looking to play devil’s advocate to try to understand the reactions to it. For example, Eddie Murphy can dress up in whiteface, and make all sorts of cracks about white privilege, or that white people walk with their ass cheeks pinched together, and have no rhythm, or whatever, and I can laugh and say, “Yeah, some of that shit is true” and move on.

    So then what sets me apart from a black person getting all up in their shit when someone does blackface?

    Probably a lot, but -one- thing that comes to mind is that I don’t live in an environment where I believe I will be persecuted and discriminated against for my race. There ARE people who would either dislike, distrust, or otherwise hate my lily white ass, but I am in a position where they are irrelevant to me 99.9% of the time, and when they become relevant, I usually have the cops on my side to crush them back into the irrelevancy from which they came.

    If I lived somewhere where I believed that a sizable minority of people wanted to fuck my shit up on a regular basis because I was white, and I thought the majority of society didn’t give a shit about my rights, I would be one fucking uppity Casper.

    So, yeah, I’m down with Mo saying “Hey, that’s fucked up and I’m not going to let it go.” Good for you, and I agree.

    I don’t want to derail the conversation by bringing in the fact that it’s also misogynistic and sizeist, but I will. It’s my hope that people who are allies of women, and people who are allies of fat people eventually will get to that same place too, and call that shit out too. We spend way too much of our time accepting that women are supposed to put up with rape culture and “deal with men” and way too much time putting up with the idea that fat people are stupid poor lazy unhealthy weak burdens on society. Honey fucking Boo-Boo.

  17. Shanna Katz on February 10, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    While not someone in the traditional Leather community, as a kinkser, a sexuality educator, and a human being, I stand by you as an ally calling out this racist bullshit white, cis mansplaining. http://shannakatz.com/2013/02/08/holy-racism-batman/

  18. Kyle on February 11, 2013 at 10:41 AM

  19. Lyn on February 12, 2013 at 2:25 AM

    I linked to your article, after reading about it on Kyle’s blog, in a tumblr post. I stand with you, and add my voice to the rest. I’m not a member of the Leather community, but as a human being, this makes me so angry I don’t even have words. The intersectionality on this is astonishing: He manages to blanket “isms” in such a way… there’s just so much wrongness here. I’m often ashamed of how unevolved we are as a species, but this is just a whole ‘nother level of shite. I wish you blessings, and solace, and balm for your soul.