Patrick Saunders: Privilege, Trump and signs of solidarity

Because every month is White History Month. There, now that we have that out of the way…

I didn’t start exploring the concept of white privilege until about six or seven years ago. Knowing what I know now, that’s embarrassing to admit, especially considering how people of color are unfortunately forced to learn about it through experience as children.

I had heard the term before, but never had a conversation with anyone about it beyond that. There wasn’t one particular incident that made me grasp it, just like there’s never really one time that you come out of the closet.

Of course, when I did start looking into it, it was painfully clear that it’s not so much a concept as an ironclad fact of life. The irony is that the fact I could spend that much time on this Earth without having to explore white privilege was, in itself, an example of white privilege.

Privilege extends beyond race of course, into male privilege, cisgender privilege and more. And different examples pop up all time, good examples that need to be voiced and pointed out in order for those who experience such privilege to learn and recognize the experiences of others.

One such example was pointed out to me last weekend at the photo shoot for this issue’s cover. I recently found out about “Signs of Solidarity,” a local art project with the goal of denouncing hate and encouraging unity (can’t for the life of me wonder who inspired that). Over 30 Atlanta artists, poets and musicians painted massive banners with various messages of love and harmony and hung them all over the city.

One banner hung at Ria’s Bluebird caught my eye and I figured it would be great to have a couple embracing or kissing next to it as the cover of our Sex & Dating/Valentine’s issue. The problem? All of the banners had been taken down since it was only a four-day project. So I tracked down the artists, George and Kristy Gomez, the husband-and-wife team behind design and communications shop SOAP Goods Creative. They had the banner and would be thrilled to have it be part of the shoot.

Our cover models Kayin Malik-Macosay and his husband, Carlos Malik-Macosay. (Photo by Patrick Saunders)

I was lucky to then connect with Kayin and Carlos Malik-Macosay, who were going to be our cover couple. We met at The Jane at Grant Park, hung the banner and had a great shoot.

But it was the conversation the five of us had afterward that stuck with me. It took place the day after President Trump issued his executive order effectively banning Muslims from entering the US. Kayin is a gay, African-American man. His husband Carlos is a gay Mexican-American man. George is a straight Dominican and Ecuadorian-American man. His wife Kristy is a queer, African-American woman. And then you had this white, gay man.

We had a conversation about “Signs of Solidarity,” the executive order and what’s going to have to happen to get us through the next four to eight years. After voicing some of my own frustration at what was happening, Kayin pointed out that if he made the same point to most white people, they would just view him as an angry black man. That doesn’t stop him from advocating of course. He’s a writer and an activist involved in the local Black Lives Matter movement.

When people say different communities need to come together, to join forces to fight injustice, it often doesn’t stick. I think (hope?) this president has shaken people up enough to follow through this time.

One of the things that has to happen to get through this is more conversations with people that don’t look like us, followed by lots more action. And the more that people recognize their own privilege, and their own biases, the faster we’ll all get to where we need to be.