I haven’t written a post about the events unfolding in Ferguson and have pretty much limited myself to “hearting” sporadic posts on the subject rather than commenting to the posts with my usual gusto and flair. I would be saddened if people attributed these actions to apathy because it’s quite the opposite. It’s about self-preservation.
Despite improvements in relations between the police and the gay community, I’m still somewhat fearful of the police. And by “the police”, I don’t mean the band. The Police were quite delightful, actually. How can you not like the song, “Every Breath You Take”? I also don’t mean individual cops because I understand, as with every group, there are fine, upstanding people doing the job of policing and there are utter lowlifes who strap on a gun and pin on a badge for the power rush, giving little thought to the concept of protecting and serving. Everyone. Equally.
I fear the institution of the police because I grew up in an era during which police organizations routinely and viciously persecuted the gay community. They raided gay bars. They conducted numerous entrapment stings targeting gay men. (And still often do.) The LAPD once beat and stomped a gay man to death and nothing happened to the officers. It was labeled an “excusable homicide”.
Hell, our two famous SCOTUS sodomy cases involved police arresting consenting adult males having sex in the privacy of their own home. When you can’t have consensual sex in the privacy of your own home without the fear of police busting into your bedroom and arresting you for it, are we really the land of the free?
I came out in a conservative southern city. I remember the nights the police would come through the bar under the guise of public safety to make sure the maximum occupancy rules weren’t being violated. As they were walking through the bar, they would mutter phrases like “godd*mn cocksuckers”. I’ve also been stopped leaving the parking lot of a gay bar and asked, “Hey, faggot, had anything to drink tonight?” I can’t even describe how degrading it is being forced to respond with a polite, “No, sir,” because you know the cop talking to you has all the power and you, as a member of a marginalized part of society, have none.
And I’m certainly in no position to be judgmental about the concept of rioting. The fact is I, as a gay man, probably wouldn’t have the rights I do if it weren’t for the well-known Stonewall riot or the somewhat remembered White Night riots.
Lesser known riots such as the Castro Sweep, in which police used unnecessary, heavy-handed tactics, blowing the situation out of control (Sound familiar?), also helped bring about much needed change within police organizations with respect to how they interacted with the LGBTQ community.
There were also now largely forgotten riots like the ones at Compton’s Cafeteria and Cooper’s Donuts which preceded Stonewall and began to give the LGBTQ community the courage to stand up to the brutality and unfair tactics the police employed against them.
Living a life in which you are afraid of the police exacts a powerful emotional toll. And, for that reason, I’ve largely opted out of the Ferguson discussion.