I followed a stay Twitter link today that lead to this short discussion of how to deal with someone acting racist:
I’m pretty New York ignorant–I think I’ve spent a total of about 5 days in Manhattan, and none in the other boroughs, so most of my sense of what’s what in NYC comes from literature and pop culture. I had a vague sense that Christopher Street had a relation to gay culture–I think mostly because I’ve loved Lou Reed‘s New York since I was about 16 years old1, and the song Halloween Parade makes the association–but I didn’t know any of the history mentioned here.
The clip is interesting enough on it’s own–I always like to see a bigot get given a verbal smackdown, and I always like to see a History Smackdown in particular, and I’m down with people who want to kick back at Authority Figures Who Are Also Bigots, especially in defence of their inherent rights–but what was even more interesting was following up on the Stonewall Riot reference.
I’m not going to summarize all the reading threads this lead to, let me just point you to the Wikipedia entry on the Stonewall riots as a starting place. (Oh, and the page for Christopher Street, which had me imagining a story where the ghost of e. e. cummings haunted Harlan Ellison with the riots as a backdrop–there’s almost a Tim Powers story there.)
I’m interested in everything human, so this kind of social history fascinates me–the moreso because it’s something I’ve never really been exposed to. A basic Canadian education doesn’t include anythng on the history of the gay rights movement, and neither my autodidactism nor cultural osmosis seem to have brought me the details in the same way as they have for say, the equivalent history of the Black struggle for civil rights. Maybe this is a particular blind spot of mine, but if it’s also an area where you lack some knowledge, starting at those links above and working out could be a profitable use of some of your time.
I’m always pleased to erase some of my ignorance–there’s so much of it, that I never regret getting rid of some–especially when it happens as a result of an off-hand comment, or an unlikely chain of associations.
- I have a distinct memory of other nerdy teens, who should have known better, playing the “I’m cooler than you” card because I was listening to a song called “Last Great American Whale”, and that was obviously not something a person concerned about “cool” should be doing. From the perspective of history, I’m comfortable with who was actually a cooler cat: someone listening to Lou, or someone mocking him for it.(back)