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Charlotte protests remind us of intersections we can't ignore 

When silence equals violence

Charlotte. It is here.

The metaphorical chickens have come home to roost.

Now is the time to have the conversation that's been a long time in the making, and we have to face it head on. The killing of Keith Scott by an officer with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department symbolized the "final straw" for communities long silenced in this glistening New South city. Decades of sometimes polite and sometimes aggressively coerced silence bubbled over into frustration and anger. The largely peaceful protests in Uptown and elsewhere that followed Scott's killing have forced this city — more appropriately, forced our leaders — to have a conversation that, perhaps, we were never really ready to have.

I get a go at this column just once a month, with about 750 words to reflect on recent events and their impact on our local LGBT community. This was one of the most difficult times I've had in trying to determine what to write and how to write it.

It is not my place to speak for people of color, the Charlotte Uprising, Black Lives Matter or other POC-led organizations. But I do want to speak to my fellow white LGBT people. From one white person to all others, there are some things we need to talk about.

As the protests unfolded over these last few weeks, I sat in astonishment at the level of misunderstanding, ignorance, fear and, yes, prejudice, toward organizers of the Charlotte Uprising and others. Most disappointing was the prejudiced and biased language I saw coming from white LGBT people, several who have held themselves out as leaders in our local community. I was angered and saddened to realize that these so-called leaders were so blind and unable to understand the very real intersections of prejudice and discrimination occurring right here in Charlotte.

It's no coincidence the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement are queer. It's no coincidence that BLM is overwhelmingly LGBT-affirming and often seeks to center the experiences of some of the most marginalized among our community — queer and trans women of color. It's no coincidence that here in Charlotte, even a cursory glance at those organizing local protests will reveal them to be those who move within our very own LGBT leadership, activist and advocacy circles.

It's not a coincidence, because the issues being addressed by BLM, the Charlotte Uprising and other advocacy efforts aren't just race issues. The racial, social, economic, health and criminal justice issues at hand are interwoven with LGBT issues and our collective struggle for freedom and liberation.

That's what the white LGBT people I have interacted with simply didn't understand. They couldn't see past the skin tones of organizers to analyze critically the demands of the Charlotte Uprising and the efforts of BLM organizers.

Whether it's policing and criminal justice reform, the school-to-prison pipeline, continued economic or health disparities and so many more, the issues faced by people of color are magnified for those who also identify as LGBT.

Trans women of color, in particular, face increased levels of violence from civilians and law enforcement officers alike. In schools, LGBT youth are more often hit with disciplinary actions, up to and including arrest. New research shows that as many as 60 percent of LGBT youth arrested or detained in the juvenile justice system identify as Black or Latino. Our continued HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to disproportionately affect LGBT people of color. Men who have sex with men and transgender women continue to account for a staggering proportion of new HIV diagnoses. Among them, men and trans women of color are more likely than white men and women to get HIV.

It is simply not possible to care about LGBT equality without also caring about the issues pushed to the forefront of our social consciousness by groups like BLM and the Charlotte Uprising. To my fellow white LGBT leaders, it's time to take a stand and quit turning a blind eye toward justice that more fully includes everyone in our community. It's time to hold ourselves and each other accountable, examining our own privilege and exactly how that shapes what kind of movement we are instead of the movement we should be.

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