Having a lens and identifying queer African American youth in the 1970’s was not difficult. Not to say that my ethnographic lens was so keen, and nor was there a ratchetness to highlight queer youth at that time. Instead, those that were queer though did not respond as queer for fear of being ostracized, shared subtle ways of displaying their uniqueness. It was either by associations in sub-groups of like-minded students, be it theatre, cheerleading or visual arts, or that individual would stay to themselves in quiet spaces, often times claiming shyness to be their identifier. In my class, queer high school students both black and white had an outlet to mix with other students who were queer. That said, these students would not openly claim themselves to be part of an LBGT+Q community. Whereas today, Bettina L. Love’s ratchet methods of queer black youth exploration and discovery, given its messiness, would be key in developing a community for which African American queer students would be accustomed to sharing their identities by way of provocative introductions.
When looking back to the 1970’s and comparing black queer youth to today’s black queer youth, its obvious that the door is held open much wider than in the 70’s. Although students in my day were not very vocal against a person’s sexual orientation, they did have moments of quiet disrespect for those students who had no choice in themselves being different from the norm. Society today, teaches us to be culturally responsive and open to all queer youth. In media, especially television and film, young writers, producers and directors have made a definitive point in bringing the lifestyles of queer youth to the forefront. So, becoming queerly responsive is not only on trend, but its accepted across many educational and artistic platforms.
For one, the hip hop industry has begun to play with the notion of black queer youth and adults finding a home within the phallocentric community. However, the industry is still dominated by men who seem to refuse to close its gap of having little to no women interfere with their hip hop success. That said, it is even tougher for the urban black queer youth to take a stand. Again, as in my high school daze, we find the black queer youth segmenting themselves over to the side in sub-groups, where on display is a resistance many times portrayed as ratchetness.
In closing, becoming culturally responsive on every level is vital to our growth as human beings. As discussed by Ed Brockenbrough in the article ‘Becoming Queerly Responsive,’ todays pedagogy must be inclusive of queer youth starting in elementary schools and moving through grade 12. The implications of not attending to this matter leads to consequences that are violent physically and emotionally, hurting not one person, but a whole community of children, youth and adults who carry the emotional weight for those that carry the burden of not being able to live openly.
Love, Bettina L., “A Ratchet Lens: Black Queer Youth, Agency, Hip Hop, and the Black Ratchet Imagination.” Educational Researcher 46(9) (2017): 539-547
Brockenbrough, Ed., “Becoming Queerly Responsive: Culturally Responsive Pedagogy for Black and Latino Urban Queer Youth.” The Author(s), 51 (2), (2016); 170-196