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NEWS & LETTERS, July 2002 - link

Gays target racism

Chicago—The Chicago Anti-Bashing Network (CABN), a queer direct action group, held a meeting on June 21 to confront anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism post-September 11. Connections were made by the four speakers about how this new racist climate can be understood by non-Arab and non-Muslim Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) forces who know what it feels like to be hated and brutalized for who they are.

Andy Thayer of CABN stated that the best tradition of the LGBT struggle has been that it understands itself as part of the movement for total human liberation, and as such, it cannot act in isolation or in a narrow fashion, that is, solely along the lines of LGBT liberation.

Mubarak Dahir, a gay Palestinian-American journalist, gave a detailed and moving history of his life growing up as gay, Arab and Muslim in the U.S. He talked about the painful racism he has faced not only from straight people, but from within the LGBT community—the one community where he said he had "felt most at home" before September 11. "Today" he said, "Arabs and Muslims have become the new communists, the ones to fear, to loathe."

Nevertheless, there was no discussion about what human liberation is and how to develop it globally, nor a frank discussion about fundamentalism within the Middle East or in the U.S.

Mubarak said that among Palestinians there is a widely-held view that for now there is only one struggle, the fight for national liberation. Thayer added that because feminist and queer liberation struggles have historically come out of national liberation struggles here and abroad, it is the national liberation struggle that must come first!

This argument is one that feminists have fought against for decades. It is the same argument that feminists in groups like the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan have had to endure in the face of recent alliances between some left tendencies and fundamentalists who have joined together in the name of "fighting U.S. imperialism."

Doesn't it make sense that national liberation, anti-racist and anti-war movements broaden themselves to include LGBT, feminist and other liberatory concepts offered by those subjects of revolution? While it's important to grasp freedom movements as part of the whole, it is equally crucial to see that each particular freedom movement has something unique and necessary to offer humanity.

That said, it was an important meeting in addressing the new racist stage the U.S. has reached. Working out the contradictions within liberatory movements so that a perspective of freedom can develop is the only way to ensure that they succeed.

—Sonia Bergonzi


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