I’m not against police officers, I’m against the underlying foundation that modern police forces are built upon.
June is Pride Month, which means hella parades and more rainbow themed makeup than ever before. I love Pride as a social function and for the space it provides for LGBT+ people. As an active supporter and participant of this community, I think it’s important to address our flaws. The LGBT+ community is far from perfect and we have so much work left, within American society and LGBT+ culture itself.
In recent years, I’ve noticed Pride becoming more and more of a business. Maybe it’s just a natural thing in American society? As fringe groups and ideas become the norm, people will eventually capitalize on them. I can understand people wanting to create a business out of Pride and LGBT+ culture. Queer people have been crawling through the mud to be recognized for our contributions to art and culture, so I'm okay with the LGBT+ community making money through Pride. With that being said, I think there are more sinister and troubling things brewing in the LGBT+ community.
For example, I’ve noticed the presence of more uniformed police officers at Pride parades all over the country. It’s nice that queer people in traditionally “masculine” roles are visible; we can all appreciate the subversion of gender and sexuality. But, there seems to be something off about having openly uniformed police officers at a Pride parade. I’d like you guys to remember the Stonewall Riots, one of the biggest catalysts of LGBT+ liberation in this country. The whole point of the protests was to demonstrate civil disobedience against an institution that systemically undermined and disenfranchised queer people.
In the heat of the moment at Pride events, it's easy to dance to Whitney Houston and Britney Spears in unicorn outfits that we forget about police atrocities against queer people. The cognitive dissonance can be astounding with some of us. There are queer and trans folx who still live in fear from police brutality and violence. There are members of the LGBT+ community who continue to face systemic oppression from our governing institutions, like the police force. How is it okay that we allow the same groups who have oppressed this community to take part in moments of solidarity? It’s baffling.
What’s more so, is that people will confuse my ideas as being anti-police. I’m not against police officers; I’m against the underlying foundation that modern the police system is built upon. Our police force was created to protect property, not people. Even though we’re trying to move past this fact as a society, it seems that systemic oppression lingers on. I think everyone should be invited to Pride and LGBT+ community related events. However, we need to be mindful of what we bring into these spaces.
I actually asked a younger queer friend what she thought about this topic, and she said it didn’t really matter. Maybe the bitterness is too deep in me and I’m just old? I’m all for people of all backgrounds, careers, and lifestyles experiencing Pride. But the thing is, you wouldn’t allow a Klansman to a Black History Month event. You wouldn't allow a Nazi to be at a Passover Seder. Then why do we have openly uniformed police officers involved in Pride festivities? Police forces have antagonized queer people all over the world, and especially in America. There is too much of an imbalance of power in bringing an oppressor into a space dedicated for the oppressed.
I understand that the police play a crucial role in maintaining order during rowdier Pride events, like parades. Yet, having uniformed police officers for security is very different than having uniformed police officers involved in the actual parades and parades. I do think it’s important for queer police officers and people of all careers to be visible in the LGBT+ community. However, having uniformed police officers involved in LGBT+ activism and prominent events may end up giving a negative impression to others, especially queer people who have experienced systemic discrimination and harassment from the police.
The politics surrounding uniformed police involvement within Pride events have been making queer people of color very nervous. For me personally, I think I’d be a little shocked and taken aback if I saw uniformed police officers marching in a parade. I’m South Asian and Muslim, yet even I have an innate fear of the police from previous negative interactions. Looking the way I do, I am constantly bombarded with questions about my bags and belongings by authority figures. I can specifically recall instances where I have been prejudged by police officers for “looking suspicious." And to be honest, I feel like I have things easy. I don’t wear a hijab, so I don’t get harassed like some of my other Muslim friends. As a South Asian woman, my experiences with police prejudice has been very tame compared to other ethnic groups.
Overall, I think it’s important to consider if our local Pride parades and parties are okay with uniformed officers partaking in the events instead of maintaining their role as security. I think Pride is awesome, because it’s such a warm and loving environment for everyone. As we move on, let’s try to keep it that way.
Marina Ali is a student, writer, poet, and blue lipstick enthusiast. She is a staff writer for Brown Girl Magazine, the features editor for Drunk Magazine, and the social media manager for TMO Media. When she’s not writing or studying for classes, you can find her picnicking in pastoral East Texas, crafting for her sorority sisters, or making food.