“We’re not talking about one person’s experience…we’re talking about what it looks like when a system is disproportionately impacting folks on multiple levels, and I think for the first time there are many people grappling with that.”
letterthat committed to centering racial justice in the fight for LGBTQ equality. “We have to recognize that racism exists in the LGBTQ movement,” she says, “And I think that is a shock to a lot of people. Because many people think that because LGBTQ folks experience oppression that they are not likely to engage in racism or other forms of oppression, and that’s very much not true.”
To Rupert-Gordon, prioritizing racial justice when working for LGBTQ+ equality means fighting for a whole person and not only for their LGBTQ+ identity.“Folks have to think about, how do we get to LGBTQ equality when Black folks and other communities of color are having different interactions with police and with larger systems, with incarceration,” she says, “[and when communities of color are] disproportionately impacted by healthcare, and are disproportionately [lacking] economic power. When we’re looking at all these different levels, we see that it is not just talking about LGBTQ liberation, but we actually need to look at the entire person.”
When it comes to the movement to Defund the Police, Rupert-Gordon says she is open to a lot of different ideas for what that looks like—as long as legitimate structural change occurs. “I want to make sure that at the end of this we aren’t so worried about putting liaisons in places or coming up with big binders of information with a ton of focus groups, and then the same people are being unfairly targeted by police and we have the same incarceration levels and education levels, and our health outcomes for Black and Brown folks are still not what they should be. So, I just want to make sure that whatever we collectively decide to go to that we are actually creating the change we want to see.”
She also hopes the public remains as engaged as it is now in these crucial conversations.“I hope this is something that isn’t just in this moment, just this pride. Let’s look at, how are we having this conversation next week and next month and next pride?...When folks are talking about how to look at racial justice and center racial justice, it means not just in this moment. It’s not putting someone in a position of power, but it’s actually creating institutional and structural change.”
Rupert-Gordon sees NCLR as working in tandem with activists in the streets.“It has always taken all types to get to our equality,” she says. “When we look back at our history of civil rights, we don’t have one leader that got us there. We have a lot of different people that have a lot of different perspectives about our ways to get there.”
“Nothing in this country was ever gotten without people being in the streets, and that’s something that I like to keep with me as someone that works at an institution. The fights that start in the streets are the fights that end up in the courts.”Right now, Rupert-Gordon is especially fired up about the Supreme Court’s recent decision that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act means employers cannot discriminate against the LGBTQ community.
“It’s an amazing step in the right direction,” she says.“This is the first federal protection for LGBTQ folks and with this in particular we’re talking about employment discrimination, so that’s going to be huge for the type of cases we’re going to be looking at, but we also think this decision is going to have broader implications for LGBTQ communities. We think this is going to be able to protect folks in housing, education, and healthcare….I’d really like to see us making some gains here because this administration has been very difficult for the LGBTQ community, but I think having this Supreme Court decision is actually really really big, and I’m really excited to see what we can do with it.”
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