With protests over racial injustice continuing to roil the United States, Queer Eye star, Karamo Brown, has called on LGBT+ people to recognise the racism and transphobia in the community, and remember the radical roots of the gay rights movement.
Brown, the culture expert on Netflix’s reality makeover show, which begins its fifth season on Friday, said white gay men in particular need to recognise how they have benefited from racial injustice.
“There’s a lot of racism that exists in the LGBT community,” Brown, 39, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“The things I’ve seen outside (in society) I’ve only seen perpetuated in the LGBT community. Yeah, you might have had a struggle because you’re gay, but white privilege still exists.”
Brown is the only black cast member on the show, which sees the Fab Five transform the lives of a different ‘hero’ each episode, through everything from haircuts to home renovation.
Brown’s tearful one-on-one conversations are often the emotional heart of the show.
As proof of the racism still inherent in the gay community, Brown pointed to the negative reaction from gay men on social media to moves from dating apps including Grindr this week to remove ethnicity filters in a bid to tackle racism.
“White gay men were like ‘this is wrong, I should have the right to be like I don’t want blacks, I don’t want Asians,'” Brown said. “If you inherently don’t understand why that is wrong, as a gay person … then you need to check yourself.”
The killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis last week has drawn renewed focus to racism and police brutality in the United States, with protests arising in cities across the country over the death of George Floyd in police custody.
But for Brown, the scenes playing out across the United States in recent weeks are nothing new.
“Growing up as a black man in America with immigrant parents raising two black sons, this is a constant conversation that I’ve been having,” he said.
“These are constant things that I’ve seen with my friends and family members being harassed by police, being brutalised by police.”
With June marking the start of the annual Pride month, when many gay and trans people commemorate riots against police brutality in 1969, in New York City, Brown called on the LGBT+ community to recall the protest-driven roots of the celebration.
“Protests are always part of Pride. It’s just they get overshadowed by boys and girls with rainbows painted on their faces,” he said.
“What should be shifting is that the LGBT community should be highlighting … the fact that this is where our history lies – in protesting.”
-Oscar Lopez @oscarlopezgib – Thomson Reuters Foundation