To commemorate Flag Day, Philadelphia LGBT Pride debuted an updated version of the LGBT Pride flag June 14. In addition to the red, orange, yellow, green, royal blue and purple stripes, Philadelphia LGBT Pride added a black stripe and a brown stripe to the top of the flag. The organization specifically did this to intentionally acknowledge the LGBT people of color within the community in Philadelphia.
Before diving into the controversy surrounding the adaptation that Philadelphia Pride made to the flag, it is important to acknowledge the history and representation inherently and deeply embedded within the LGBT Pride flag already.
Gilbert Baker created the original LGBT Pride flag for San Francisco Pride in 1978. Each color of the rainbow on the flag represents something specific about and for the LGBT community. The original flag had eight colors, but the most common version seen today has six. Red means life; orange means healing; yellow means sunlight; green means nature; royal blue means serenity; and purple means spirit.
Although the LGBT Pride flag was adapted multiple times since its creation to represent different moments within the community’s history—including the removal of the hot pink stripe due to lack of fabric availability and the adding a black stripe to represent the loss of those due to AIDS during the 1980s—the recent addition of a black stripe and a brown stripe onto Philadelphia’s Pride flag has stirred controversy.
According to an article by Melissa Romero from “Curbed Philadelphia” from June 14, the flag was debuted as a step toward intentionally striving for a more inclusive LGBT community for all individuals in Philadelphia, but especially for people of color. The step was taken to specifically reinforce the efforts in combating racial discrimination within the LGBT community and to honor the lives of LGBT people of color who have died in Philadelphia.
Adding these two stripes caused controversy and division within not only the LGBT community in Philadelphia, but in LGBT communities throughout the country. Some have argued that the LGBT Pride flag with six stripes was inclusive enough. Others have argued the LGBT community as a whole is diverse enough and specific communities should not be singled out on the LGBT Pride flag. Some have argued the additional stripes are an intentional nod toward acknowledging and becoming more accepting of people of color within the LGBT community. Others have argued if stars can be added to the United States flag, stripes can be added to the LGBT Pride flag.
Many within LGBT news spheres, including LGBT bloggers and social media celebrities, have mentioned something about the adaptation of Philadelphia’s Pride flag. But what is often left out of their discussions is that this adaptation is specific to Philadelphia. The LGBT Pride flag with six colors is not universally adapting to what Philadelphia has done.
The controversy that surfaced from the inclusion of people of color within the LGBT community caused the underlying racism that still exists within the LGBT community to resurface with a vengeance. When individuals are marginalized, such as because of sexuality and gender identities, but also possess privilege like whiteness, they may not acknowledge the internalized racism they project onto others.
Internalized racism is so deeply embedded within our society, some do not or cannot acknowledge their microaggressions against others or lack of awareness toward racial issues and injustices. Some white LGBT people treat people of color within the LGBT community how the larger society treats them, which unsurprisingly is not well.
I read an article with a headline that said, “If you hate the new pride flag, you’re the problem.” And honestly, I have to agree with the headline.
People of color built the LGBT community. People of color ignited and were on the forefront of every single act of resistance within the LGBT community, including the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Yet because the LGBT community is indescribably whitewashed, these histories were accidentally or even intentionally forgotten.
Now, in 2017, these histories are still forgotten in the uproar over an adapted LGBT Pride flag in one specific city that has had a year strived with racism, homophobia/transphobia and conflicts between white LGBT people and LGBT people of color.
If you personally feel distraught or upset about this adapted LGBT Pride flag in Philadelphia, you might want to check yourself and your racial privilege.
Jakki Forester is a graduate student in communication studies. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to [email protected]