Monday, February 24, 2014

An Open Letter From a Culpable White Person to the Queers of Uganda and Nigeria

Queers of Uganda and Nigeria, I am sorry. I am sorry for the havoc that my ancestors have caused you. I am sorry for the pain and the suffering they have put you though, even after they passed away. I am sorry for labeling you as queer even though I imagine that is not what you would call yourself.

I do not know my lineage; I do not know my ancestors, but through the hints left like riddles in the sand, I know I am of colonizer blood. I have guessed from my white skin, red hair, Howard last name, and proud Haas ancestry that I am the kin of colonizers, of the vicious white skins who came in, pillaged your homes, ruined your women, and took your family as slaves. I come from the families who tried to "civilize" you without realizing their own lack of civility. I am of the lineage that imported their homophobic and transphobic ways onto your soil.

Howard is a last name that can follow its roots back to the British Empire. But why does this matter? Well, in 1533, a law was passed, known as the Buggery Act of 1533, which prohibited any unnatural sex act to the penalty of death. While this did not immediately affect Africa, Britain later created the Colonial Laws Validity Act of 1865, which forced the colonies to abide by the laws of Britain, which is important for Nigeria and Uganda because Britain occupied them. This was not your ancestors’ first exposure to homophobia, the priests, who wielded my religion like a broad sword and who were on the first "civilizing" missions, carried with them the ideas and notions of their homeland, which they forced upon the Africans. The effects of colonization did not end when England released most of its colonies and territories in 1997. These laws were ingrained and reinforced by western Christian missionaries.

Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan LGBT advocate, once said that "homophobia is not African. It is imported." This is true, and it is imported from us (Anglo-European people). And this colonizing and policing of bodies and identities is not over. Not only are "Christian" Missionaries still having a role in these homophobic laws, but the mainstream media is constantly naming Uganda's and Nigeria's bill the "Anti-LGBT" laws. This colonization of language, colonization of thought, colonization of identity removes the multiplicity of the lived experience and coercively replaces it with the now common white, gay male experience in America. We have removed your words, your identities, your representations and inserted western language and symbolism.

We need check our privilege and ancestry. We need to recognize our colonial past and understand our culpability. We need to halt our current rate of colonization. Instead of assigning words to you, we need to listen to what you call yourselves. Instead of fighting to throw Uganda out of the Embassy, we need to realize that we caused the state that you are living in and listen to what you want and need. We need to break the cycle of the White Savior to Africa and listen. You know what you want and need for support, and all that we need to do is for once stop, ask, and hear you. 

In Solidarity,

A Culpable White Person

No comments:

Post a Comment