A Letter to Black Greeks Who Happen to be Black and Queer
Dear Queer Black Greek,
I could start with why organizations within the Divine Nine were created, but I imagine you know this already. Words like exclusion, isolation, oppression, violence, and white supremacy should come to mind, should- but history seems easily forgotten, reshaped, and reprioritized.
This letter is for you- and other Black Greeks within the Divine Nine system who happen to be queer, beautiful, and enough- but may be unsure of all three.
The Black greek system will never love you. Not ever. Bear with me, as I know this hurts, but I want to be truthful. Someone has to be honest with you. The oppressor will never give-up such critical information. They will spin love, they will warp love, and truthfully, they can’t conceptualize what loving you in your fullness looks like, as they lack the imagination. They will exploit your labor, and throw you away in critical moments. They will even have the audacity to lean on you in their time of need, poaching the very breath you struggle to breathe.
Love has been experienced and expressed within a cis-heterosexual lens from the conception of the Divine Nine. This lens centers the binary of gender, and the glorious and inextinguishable love between a Black man and a Black woman- Kings and Queens. It shows up in the stories passed down to you. The policies you have written. The traditions you all celebrate. The rituals you all perform. The people you recruit. The programs you implement. And the causes you champion.
And the way you engage difference before, on, or after being on line.
You all have been given a pass. And have been deemed untouchable and above critique- much like Black Christians, and Christianity. Oops, that’s another discussion for another time, but read THIS in the time being. Privilege has a way of protecting itself.
Now, I must admit I am not a part of any of the divine nine organizations, however, that won’t stop me from critiquing them. There is a dynamic present that doesn’t allow an outsider to critique the Black greek system. This parameter is set-up intentionally, and meant to silence Black queer voices. Hear me again, this dynamic is meant to silence Black queer voices, and Black queer critique.
An outsider critique will usually be compared to a white person critiquing a Black or brown body, or a straight cisgender person offering commentary on queer life- but this is not the same dynamic, not at all. I am Black and my struggles are akin to yours. Oppression impacts me, as an outsider, in similar ways, as it does you in our shared Black identity.
I still get treated as if I’m dangerous.
I still have to perform whiteness in professional spaces.
I still work with and in colorblind organizations.
I still have to monitor the places I engage at night.
I still get followed around in department stores.
I still have to be mindful of white fragility, and misguided brown people that are committed to anti-Blackness.
I will have a similar conversation with my children and the young I’m responsible to, about how susceptible their bodies are to unapologetic and inevitable violence. I am still a target of, and vulnerable to, the prison industrial complex. I can still be stopped by the police and be beaten, be shot, or be choked.
One would think that the aforementioned violence would be enough to bond us, but nah.
Your greek organization does not give you access to a marginalized group membership, your Blackness does that. Black greek is not an identity, being Black is.
Black greek queers (or just Black queers) routinely work to survive the murderous fist of white supremacist cisheteropatriarchy, in addition to, the white cisheteropatriarchy played out on a Black and familiar stage- they must ready their bodies for both unremitting attacks.
You are made to believe that you are tew butch, tew femme, and tew non-binary. Though the truth is, it is they that have always been tew little.
In most cases, being Black greek creates a preferred class of Blackness. For goodness sake, we must remember that it all began in 1906 at Cornell University. In 1906! Can you imagine which Black bodies had access to higher education in 1906? And access to an institution that eventually became part of the Ivy League?
You all recreate your very own violent system that gives you a one-up, but not a one-up over whiteness, only over other Black and brown folk. There is often a class element that affords you more opportunity, and of course a system that privileges cisgender heterosexual Black men. And so when I say, Black greeks hate queers- when I say they hate you. I mean that they uphold a system that actively commits violence aimed at queer folk, trans folk, gender non-conforming folk, femmes, women, disabled people (people with disabilities), non-Christians, fat people, poor people, and dark skin people.
You will never be enough for them, Beautiful, at least not in the foreseeable future.
Beautiful, there are several types of Black greeks you will encounter. (1) Brothers, sisters, and siblings who will physically, mentally, and emotionally break you down- violence reminiscent to many of the other loved ones who refused to love you. (2) Those that will remain silent, and hover over the sidelines to avoid conflict by any means necessary. (3) And then there are those who will say they care for you. Who will tell you that they got your back. Who will allow you to cry on their shoulders if need be, but will do nothing to challenge this system that is destined to take all of our lives, likely, our Black queer lives first.
You must be weary of all siblings, but the latter are a tricky bunch.
The latter are not willing to lose their professional networks. They are not willing to challenge their mentors, femmetors, and tors. They are not willing to lose a connection that will give them that sought out promotion. They will be silent when it counts. They are not willing to risk on your behalf. They are not willing to lose, but they will somehow do all they can to make you comfortable in the living hell that you’re experiencing.
And of course, this is all assuming you trust your siblings enough to come out to them. We both know safety is paramount, as we reveal parts of ourselves that push against the normative narrative. We know that the reveal could be the difference between breathing and being lowered six feet under this damned earth.
For some of us, this is not a new phenomenon. We experience this everyday of our lives from folks we call friends, siblings, peers, colleagues, mothers, fathers, guardians, and at times, even lovers. This is not new. And it feels oh so familiar to the dynamic relationship we have with whiteness; however, this is so much more intimate.
You are enough. You are beautiful. You are queer.
I understand the chase, the yearning, and the need.
The need to be wanted by Blackness, specifically, Black cisgender heterosexual men.
The need to be understood, heard, and loved by the very people who will usher you to your death- I suspect you would even die for them voluntarily.
I get it. Truly, I do. But you got to live, beautiful. You must choose you. You’ve got to make room for something new.
Make room for communities that love you in your fullness.
Make room for folks that appreciate your talents and labor.
Make room for people who will put back into you, build you up to be more, and embrace you- all of you, even as you prove that you’re imperfect.
You deserve this radical love and prioritization. You have a responsibility to our ancestors to thrive, and to keep their fires burning- hell, to start your very own.
You come from a lineage of Black brilliance and disruptors. The likes of Marsha P. Johnson, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Bayard Rustin, Miss Major, Langston Hughes, Lucy Hicks Anderson, and so many more- some celebrated and many others rendered nameless. Your queerness, your anti-normal, your gifted difference is your super power.
You must make room for your “good” siblings to do actual work. It is not solely your responsibility- it is theirs. They must hold their organizations accountable for the violence that is being committed. They must get back to the basics, and start asking and exploring difficult questions.
Why do we exist?
Were we created in the image of our white patriarchal father?
Can our organizations ever love queer people? Poor people? Fat people? Disabled people (people with disabilities)? Non-Christian people?
What are we doing to dismantle systemic oppression?
When we speak, what are we saying?
When we are silent, what are we saying?
They must quibble with these questions. It is their work, because what I know now is that they don’t love you- and that’s enough for you to move on. Could you imagine if one of these self-identified accomplices wrote this very same letter to members of your organizations, instead of me- a black queer cisgender Fat outsider?
You are queer. You are beautiful. You are enough.
You live in a place where beauty is inherent, but cannot be explained to sad minds.
It’s time to move on, beautiful.
They hate you.
They hate us.
Sit back and watch their responses to this letter I’ve written to you.
Your Fiercely QUEER Conscience
This is the work of Cody Charles; claiming my work does not make me selfish or ego-driven, instead radical and in solidarity with the folk who came before me and have been betrayed by history books and storytellers. Historically, their words have been stolen and reworked without consent. This is the work of Cody Charles. Please discuss, share, and cite properly.
the aspiring urban blogger @PhaedraParks speaks of- Cody Charles is the author of The Night The Moonlight Caught My Eye: Not a Review but a Testimony on the Film Moonlight, Radical Friendship Contract: 10 Expectations for Loving People Fully, 10 Common Things Well-Intentioned Allies Do That Are Actually Counterproductive, I Will Burn My Name Onto It, Higher Ed Hates Me, and What Growing Up Black And Poor Taught Me About Resiliency. Join him for more conversation on Twitter (@_codykeith_) and Facebook (Follow Cody Charles). Please visit his blog, Reclaiming Anger, to learn more about him.