Monday, March 29, 2010

Celebrating RuPaul during Black History Month Can Be Dangerous for Your Job. A Homophobia Smack-Down!

Okay, let me explain why I'm all mad, and then you can join me in my righteous indignation, or tell me I'm wrong...

So here's this from the LA Times:

Three teachers at a South Los Angeles elementary school have been suspended for allegedly encouraging students to celebrate O.J. Simpson, Dennis Rodman and RuPaul for Black History Month, officials said Wednesday.

Children at Wadsworth Avenue Elementary School were carrying pictures of the men at a parade Friday on the school playground, said Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman Gayle Pollard-Terry. She said Supt. Ramon C. Cortines learned about the incident Tuesday and had the teachers, who are white, pulled from their classrooms pending an investigation.

The suspension is without pay for the first three days.

“The superintendent believes there are better choices,” she said.

Other students were carrying pictures of President Obama and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Okay, are you mad yet?

As if that wasn't infuriating enough, get this:

"I just can’t fathom what these teachers were thinking of except to make a mockery of African American history,” said Leon Jenkins, president of the Los Angeles branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.

One parent said that he didn't mind the inclusion of Rodman and Simpson, saying that even though they were fallen heroes, they had been heroes. But including RuPaul?

"That alone, to me, qualifies for a suspension."

And in an editorial that made me cringe, "The wrong history lesson; Common sense went out the window when three teachers demeaned Black History Month," the LA times wrote:

And it's not as though RuPaul isn't worthy of regard, but the tender years of elementary school are not the time for introducing the modern complications of cross-dressing and gender identification.

Putting aside the controversy over the inclusion of Dennis Rodman and OJ Simpson, I need to focus here on what in the world are they upset about with including RuPaul?

Is it solely that she's a drag queen? Does that, by definition, make her a BAD role model?

The most recent update in the news on this is that the teachers won't be fired, they'll be transferred to other schools.

Which of course, led some Black Religious leaders to lament that
"That exposes other children to the racist teachers."

So celebrating RuPaul makes you RACIST???


RuPaul is an AMAZING role model. She's re-defined what's possible for a man in drag - she became a drag queen supermodel! A makeup spokesmodel. An author with a new book out (Workin' It!) A best-selling pop star. She even has her own TV show - now in it's second season!

All this from a thin black boy who had a dream.

I think that's pretty role-model-worthy, and you don't have to want to dress up in a dress to celebrate that.

I can admire someone as a role model without wanting to be just like them. (I can see President Obama as a role model without my wanting to run for public office!)

But maybe that's the point of the school district's action. Maybe the school district and the NAACP are afraid that allowing kids to celebrate RuPaul will be telling kids it's okay to be queer? Well guess what? It IS okay to be queer!

Hear that, students?

So yeah, bring on the RuPaul photos to celebrate Black History Month every year! 'Cause RuPaul is fierce, and we - no matter what color we are, or how gender conforming or non-conforming we are, or who we're attracted to - should celebrate her!

And that's my homophobia smack-down.



Hayden said...

Oh, and here's a great come back to use against phobic types:

Ru Paul for President

ivanova said...

Yeah, I saw this story in the paper a few weeks ago, and I also thought it was very, very strange. The OJ Simpson part makes perfect sense. Dennis Rodman and RuPaul, I don't get it at all.

Anonymous said...

I quite clearly remember a certain three letter F-word being tossed around during my elementary school years. I also remember that I learned about what homosexuality was not from adults, but my peers in elementary school. So much information is spread in whispers behind the backs of adults at that age, and I think it's rather naive and dangerous for parents (and editorialists) to assume that children are too "tender".

pussreboots said...

Handled well, even O.J. Simpson could be a teachable moment. But RuPaul seems like the best role model of the 3 being singled out.

Unknown said...

God damn that's sad. So you can only celebrate "official" heroes? Bad enough there has to be a token "Let's not be racist" month, but this? Pah.

kittens not kids said...

RuPaul is AMAZING. I am a serious, serious fan of RuPaul's Drag Race - it's a very, very SMART and funny reality show, totally drag and camp and over the top in every way, and very much playing with the conventions of other reality shows.

But what strikes me most about Ru is that she is always, always kind, even when she is being an imperious diva. She said it herself: "I do sassy; I don't do bitchy." She is supportive, loving, caring, hilarious, clever and encouraging. Every episode ends with "If you can't love yourself, how in hell can you love somebody else?" which is a pretty fundamental lesson.

RuPaul is about being yourself, in whatever myriad ways that occurs. It's about caring about other people and caring about yourself.

She's a FANTASTIC role model.

OJ - maybe not so much.
Dennis Rodman - meh.

This is a complicated issue - is it only okay to celebrate "safe" Black people, the ones that white people like?

It sounds to me like the teachers were "guilty" of some poor judgement here, but I am not sure if *racism* is the underlying problem.

Placing Rupaul in the same category with a convicted criminal is not okay, at all.

what a mess.....