Recently, the city of Philadelphia hung a Pride flag with an additional brown stripe and black stripe to represent people of color within the LGBTQ community. The intention was to create a flag that was more diverse, therefore being all the more inclusive for queer people of color. Before I begin, I want to make it known that I understand the motivation behind this design. I can definitely say that I have noticed a prejudice against people of color within the community which I find quite disturbing and it’s clear that something needs to be done.
That being said, I do not support this flag.
Sidenote: The intent of this article is not to criticize the More Color More Pride campaign or Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs. I only want to discuss why I disagree with this alteration and suggest an alternative tactic. I now invite you to sit back, read with an open mind, and experience an opposing viewpoint or a viewpoint that strengthens your argument. Either one can be beneficial.
The original Pride flag was first constructed in 1978 by the late Gilbert Baker. His first flag included eight stripes, which each symbolized a different human/natural element.
The flag was later redesigned (without hot pink and indigo) in 1979 due to commonality between elements and fabric unavailability. Baker’s new six-stripe flag, the one we use now, has represented the entire LGBTQ community ever since.
Red represents life.
Orange represents healing.
Yellow represents sunlight.
Green represents nature.
Blue represents art.
Violet represents human spirit.
If you notice, none of these elements have to do with race. In fact, nothing about Baker’s original flag was race-specific or exclusive to certain members. He wanted to produce a symbol for our community: a symbol of diversity, a symbol of unity, and a symbol of inclusivity.
Each of the six stripes can be applied to every single member of our community, race holding no limitations. However, a specific skin color cannot. Those six original aspects, defined by Baker himself, have absolutely nothing to do with the color of my skin. In fact, I do not even want the Pride flag to symbolize any part of my race. It stands for something much deeper than that: my spirituality, my human conscience. When race is added to the flag, no matter what color it may be, the flag becomes divided. It creates a special section of the flag that is reserved only for certain members. With a black and brown stripe, the Pride flag only stands for 80% of who I am as a human. The added 20% creates a sense of exclusivity for me, so therefore our community’s flag no longer represents the entirety of my spirit.
I will say this as many times as I need to: I am not racist for thinking this way. I am not racist for disagreeing with this design. The Oxford definition of “racism” is defined as “a prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.” I do not believe that my race is superior in this community, or even the world for that matter. Do not, and I repeat, do not call me a racist. I would be opposed to adding a stripe for disabled LGBTQ people. I would be opposed to adding a stripe for LGBTQ veterans.
However, I do recognize the racial discrimination within our community. I do see the racism on Grindr when people say they are not interested in Blacks or Asians. I do see the media’s portrayal of the LGBTQ community as fit, white, male, homosexual couples. I do see the rising amount of murders of trans women of color. Are these issues that need to be addressed? Without any doubt, yes. Is altering a symbol that has stood for unity and inclusivity for the past 39 years the way to do so? Absolutely not.
If queer people of color wanted to join together to create their own flag that celebrates a unique characteristic, much like the bear flag, trans flag, or pansexual flag, then I would hands-down support that idea. In fact, I would wave one of those flags in each hand, standing in solidarity with queer people of color and honoring the trans women of color who led the Stonewall riots. But to alter what has become the known symbol of our community, our entire community, I disagree.
We need to respect the history of the rainbow flag and the inclusivity it was originally intended to represent. The colors of the six-stripe Pride flag already represent people of color, the disabled, veterans, trans, drag queens, two-spirited, female, and the list continues on and on. Instead of trying to alter Baker’s vision, fight discrimination on a personal basis. Call out people for their actions. Pressure dating apps to institute stricter guidelines. Advocate for other marginalized groups, even if you are not part of them. Demand that your political leaders and social icons treat you with recognition and the utmost respect. Make the efforts that will actually lead to social change.
The problem is not the meaning of the flag.
The problem is those who choose to ignore it.
For those members who are promoting racial discrimination, you are not only betraying the Pride flag, but also the entirety of the LGBTQ community. And we see you.
I do not stand with the redesigning of the Pride flag, but I do stand with queer people of color.
*This article is entirely opinion-based and does not reflect the ideologies of the LOUD. Team. These are simply my thoughts on this topic.