We Have To Hold Our Allies Accountable, Too

I’ve always enjoyed Madonna’s music. In 2015, when she released her 13th studio album Rebel Heart, I replayed it on a loop, especially “Livin’ For Love.” Many fans argued that Rebel Heart was not her best work, but, I understood why people called her the queen of pop. She is the queen of pop.

Madonna is also one of the only musicians who fought for queer rights before it was trendy. She included queer people of color in her music videos before today’s visibility was afforded to them. She used her platform to discuss HIV/AIDs.

It isn’t hard to see why the LGBTQ community is super defensive of Madonna. However, I don’t believe that her resume should exclude her from the same criticism other artists are canceled over, especially since she is still a powerful white woman with special privileges.

I’m not saying that Madonna is a racist or a homophobe, but she is culturally insensitive. She comes from an era where cultural appropriation was standard for white artists. When I mentioned this in one of my pieces, Madonna’s fan base attacked me for nearly one week. Some called me a “disgrace to the LGBTQ community.” Others called me “a fat loser.” Others argued that Madonna’s activism gives her a pass to use the “n-word,” “unintentionally” compare herself to Dr. Martin Luther King, and appropriate countless cultures.

Countless insults filled my mentions, and none of the insults or arguments acknowledged Madonna’s behavior. Some people argued that I was making everything up; however, no one could tell me what exactly that was. Some people — and I probably have more respect for these people — stated that they are willing to ignore Madonna’s behavior because of her activism for the LGBTQ community.

However, for Black and queer people like myself, I cannot ignore somebody’s racism because they support my queerness — just like I cannot ignore somebody’s homophobia because they support my blackness. Ignoring the intersectionality one’s racial and sexual identity is a privilege only afforded to white queer individuals. Therefore, I can’t ignore Madonna’s troublesome behavior because of her activism for the LGBTQ community.

Some (*cough* white *cough*) LGBTQ people were willing to ignore Rosanne Barr’s racism because she has used her platform to denounce homophobia. However, one’s willingness to ignore racism says a lot about that person. To me, it means that the majority of the LGBTQ community is as self-serving as many white rad-feminists and homophobic pro-black people.

Some people, like Caitlyn Jenner, were willing to ignore Donald Trump’s beyond disgraceful antics because she believed that Trump will protect her rights as a rich and powerful transgender white woman. However, this changed the moment Trump began threatening transgender rights. This was truly a big loss for the less rich and powerful transgender community — but even more of a loss to have someone as influential as Caitlyn support everything else Trump has done (i.e: racism, sexual assault and blatantly discriminate against black and brown communities).

We can’t wait until our favorite “ally” does something that threatens our lifestyle or community. Chances are, a racist is also a homophobe. Nothing separates one form of bigotry to the next.

Being an ally means supporting everyone within a particular community — this includes colored people, queer people and women. The Black men and women who supported Bill Cosby revealed how anti-black they are after ignoring or attacking Jewel Allison, a Black woman who Cosby assaulted.

In a piece for the Washington Post, Allison wrote, “When I first heard Andrea Constand and Tamara Green publicly tell their stories about being drugged and assaulted by Cosby, I wasn’t relieved; I was terrified. I knew these women weren’t fabricating stories and conspiring to destroy America’s favorite dad, but I did not want to see yet another African American man vilified in the media. As I debated whether to come forward, I struggled with where my allegiances should lie – with the women who were sexually victimized or with black America, which had been systemically victimized.”

Allison stood quiet because her pro-blackness would be attacked (by both Black men and women) if she went public about Cosby sexually assaulting her. She was tasked with one of the most difficult decisions: being an ally to all women or being an ally to the black community, even if that community often excludes her.

Being an ally means always being able to see how our identities intersect; you can’t be an ally to transgender people if you don’t support transgender people who are Black or Brown. You can’t be an ally to the LGBTQ community with racist views. Our communities aren’t singular, and true allies are able to recognize that – so should their fans.

Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Madonna’s MDNA SKIN

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