As Pride month draws to a close, I think about all the “first pride was a riot” t-shirts I have seen this June. The shirts and the slogan have now become an early summer tradition of the US left, alongside rediscovering Juneteenth, the sharing of Frederick Douglass’s speech on July 4th, and commenting on how as hot as this summer is, they will become literally unbearably hot if we do not actually overthrow capitalism and imperialism.
Tradition is not always bad. We have our own traditions. The aforementioned slogan is certainly a good one. The referenced rioting is even better.
But in many locations across the US, including in some of the most densely populated coastal cities with a disproportionate share of the queer-and-out working class, one does not feel the riotous energy. Pride month often has, despite the apparently popular wishes to the contrary, the energy of an officially mandated period of relative tolerance for queer summer fun.
Obviously, no one can be individually blamed for not simply declaring, launching, willing a riot into existence. If we could do this, we would do it constantly and with great enthusiasm, an enthusiasm with a popular basis easily observed at the outbreak of actual spontaneous riots, in which to this day queer youth play a visible and considerable role, often confronting those same cops face to face in spite of the latter’s heavy weaponry, legal sanction to use force, and de facto guarantee of getting away with “excessive” use thereof.
Debates rage over the inclusion of cops in parades, but even where the debate is settled for the anti-cop side, uniformed cops at any rate are frequently seen around and walking through pride events without direct challenge, only with the scornful gaze of participants.
But there is a problem here: queerness is understood (rightly) as an axis of oppression and accordingly a potential focal point of organizing, young queer people are increasingly politically radical and conscious about diverse issues, and yet queer political agitation and organization is surprisingly reserved in the US at present.
Behind this lie several interconnected objective and subjective factors, which I am briefly outlining my thoughts on per request by comrades, a modest set of notes towards further discussion and action.Continue reading “Notes Towards the Re-Rioting of Pride”