The Surprising Controversy Surrounding A More Inclusive Pride Flag

June 15th 2017

It’s Pride Month, a thirty day celebration of LGBT culture intended to honor the queer community's impact on history.

While the month of June is a call to fight further for equal rights that might include some very colorful lingo, it also reveals that the microcosmic disagreements within minority communities mirror America at large.

An excellent example of this can be found in the current controversy surrounding a more inclusive Pride flag.

In the hopes of recognizing more faces within the LGBT community, the city of Philadelphia introduced a simple new version of the iconic rainbow Pride flag that added two more colors to represent queer persons of color.

“We’ve expanded the colors of the flag to include black and brown,” the campaign—titled “More Color, More Pride”—noted on their website. “It may seem like a small step. But together we can make big strides toward a truly inclusive community.”

The effort takes artist Gilbert Baker’s venerated 1978 flag design and feature black and brown before continuing on to the symbolic red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple typical associated with the flag. It can also be seen as an effort on the city’s behalf to heal the city’s racial divides within the queer community after many were distressed after a video of a gay bar owner yelling the “n” word made the rounds.

The new flag has been met with praise, with fans pointing out how it highlights how the queer community can further unite.

However, some disagree.

Some stated that the Pride flag is already all inclusive, arguing that adding colors to denote race is redundant.

Some pointed out that the colors of the flag have nothing to do with race, but rather sexuality. They argued that race is a completely separate conversation.

Most distressingly, some commented that this is a means to put identity politics before an identity—or that such additions are worthless.

The division here is emblematic of a not-so-secret secret about the queer community: it struggles with race.

While it appears that the queer community is intent on ensuring the amplification of all queer voices, frequently it can feel like this is synomous with “white voices.”

As ATTN: reporter Danielle DeCourcey noted just last week, many queer persons of color repeatedly feel left out of the community. As queer DJ Khellie Braxton shared with DeCourcey, "Pride in itself is not an inclusive brand...I don't think of, 'oh im going to find a bunch of people who look like me and it's going to be great,' that is unless I'm bringing those people with me."

Moreover, recurring botched interactions between activists from groups like Black Lives Matter and the queer community have illustrated this problem. From Toronto Pride in 2016 to Washington, DC’s Capitol Pride last weekend, groups seeking racial justice and those celebrating LGBT pride have clashed over what inclusivity looks like within the community by stopping parades and activities to start a discussion.

Philly’s suggestion of a new flag highlights a riff that is reaching fever pitch. Even behind rainbow walls, intersectionality stumbles through racial division.

The controversy surrounding the flag highlights the issue.

In acknowledging the controversy, Amber Hikes of the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs shared with NBC News that the intention of this new flag was to cause conversation. “They’re very difficult conversations to have,” Hikes said. “This is not going to be an easy process...If [the original] symbol was inclusive, there is nothing wrong with having a further inclusive symbol.”

Writer Amanda Kerri took to “The Advocate” to address the problem as well. “If it really irks you that people of color wanted to feel represented on a Pride flag, you need to rethink your battle plans,” Kerri wrote. “There’s something very telling in the reaction to the new Pride flag as well as the impetus for it...We haven’t been listening, and we haven’t been supporting each other, and so we aren’t really a rainbow.”

The controversy surrounding Philadelphia’s Pride flag represents ongoing growing pains that are all too familiar in America—both inside and outside queer circles.

Changes are being made—from Congress reaching new heights in diversity to one-in-six newlyweds being interracial couples—but discussions like this illustrate how far we still have to come, even in areas where equality is worn so openly.

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