About the ‘Homo Cholo’, and racial profiling

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So, I watched this ‘Homo Cholo’ video about a gay Latino dude in LA, and it got me thinking: Donald Trump’s suggestion that we start profiling Muslims to prevent shootings like the one that happened in Orlando is kinda ironic.

Not just because of our country’s pathetic history of racial profiling, but because profiling is precisely what places like Pulse were designed to protect against.

It isn’t accurate to just say that the attack targeted “Americans”. We need to be specific: it was an attack on a club full of Americans who live at the overlaps of a Venn diagram of profiling and discrimination: black, Latino, and LGBT.

To forget that these were LGBT Americans of color is to forget why Pulse existed in the first place. The history of clubs like Pulse — and actually, the history of dance music period — is a history of institutions created to allow, if only for a few hours, a feeling of safety from the homophobia and the racism of the outside world.

But that’s why, again, it isn’t enough to only talk about homophobia. If you are an LGBT person of color, you can go to West Hollywood and encounter the same ‘polite’ racism you’d find in Beverly Hills.

‘I guess this is considered the gay capital of Los Angeles. WeHo. [But] it’s never really been my gay capital. I never really felt accepted here’. — Deadlee

One of the things that really hit me about this video was the part where this guy talks about one of the last black gay clubs in LA. It’s gone now — turned into a parking lot. He laughs about it, but you can tell this was no joke for him or his community. That place was one of only a handful of spaces where he felt safe.

Given what happened in Orlando, it’s almost too timely.

There’s a line in a book on music culture that always stuck with me:

In Chicago, as the seventies became the eighties, if you were black and gay your church may well have been [a club called The] Warehouse.

That club, like many others at the time and Pulse until a few weeks ago, offered ‘hope and salvation to those who had few other places to go.’ When people are pushed into the margins of society, sometimes by people who look like them, places like Pulse serve the function that many people find in a church — a sense of belonging, and a feeling of protection.

That’s why Pulse was important. Pulse wasn’t designed to protect people from foreign ideology or outside attackers. Pulse was there to protect people from other Americans.

Americans like Donald Trump, for example. Since the shooting, Trump has called himself a ‘friend of the LGBT community’, but he’s the same Donald Trump who said that as President he would ‘strongly consider’ appointing justices to overturn the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage.

He’s also the same Donald Trump who suggested that a judge was unfit to oversee a trial on Trump University simply because, in Trump’s words, ‘he’s a Mexican.’ (Claiming that someone can’t do a job because of their appearance or background sounds like profiling to me.)

Trump isn’t the only one who has come out of the woodwork to make statements of support for the LGBT community that conflict with past actions. It’s become a pattern. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi got caught rainbow-handed last week.

But, really, this isn’t just about the politicians.

The stuff Deadlee is talking about in this video —facing racism from LGBT people, facing homophobia from his own Latino community, facing both from everyone else — is a triple-dose of bias that I’ll never have to deal with personally, but it’s a story I’ve heard from way too many of my friends. And the more that we’ve found out about this shooting, the more that it’s become apparent that this was an American problem.

This one’s on us, folks. If we’re going to support our fellow Americans, we need to do it all the time. Championing the rights of marginalized people only when it is convenient, because an aggressor can be portrayed as ‘non-American’, is disingenuous. (So is using LGBT support as a smokescreen for anti-Muslim rhetoric, but apparently that’s fashionable in Europe.)

I don’t know, man. There’s a reason that so many people called Pulse a ‘sanctuary’. So I guess that before we think about profiling, or even flipping out about terror watch lists, we should probably think about who the victims in that sanctuary were.

And we should think about why that sanctuary is still necessary.

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