It may have escaped your notice, but June is LGBTQ+ Pride month. To celebrate, the city of Philadelphia unveiled a new pride flag. The rainbow flag has been used as a symbol for the struggle for inclusivity for 40 years, and whilst we have seen huge advances, inclusivity is by no means universal. The rainbow flag started life as a symbol for Gay Pride but has expanded as an umbrella symbol for many groups who are still struggling for equality and inclusivity.
At the beginning of this month, Philadelphia-based organization More Color More Pride added two new colors — black and brown — to acknowledge LGBTQ+ people of color. As reported by Refinery29, Philadelphia activists added the new colors to the rainbow flag to recognize “the disproportionate oppression and erasure that LGBTQ+ people of color experience.” It would be easy to assume that the updating of the rainbow Pride flag would be seen as an inclusive and positive move. Unfortunately not.
According to Heat Street, Philadelphia’s Pride flag may make a strong visual statement, but it ignores intolerance and discrimination within the city’s LGBTQ+ community, especially towards people of color and those with conservative political views.
The Philadelphia Commission on Human Rights took the owners of 11 gay bars to task when it concluded that gay bars had created “preferable environments for white, cisgender male patrons.” Almost unbelievably, the commissioner had to order owners and employees of all 11 bars to undertake anti-discrimination training.
Earlier this year, Chuck Volz, a well-known gay activist, was attacked on social media over his support for Donald Trump. Volz was called “a racist, anti-immigrant misogynist” for supporting Trump.
It has even been suggested that Philly’s new rainbow Pride flag is racist because it doesn’t have a white stripe. Perhaps those protesters have missed the point. When all the colors of the spectrum are combined in an additive way, as with light, you get white. When they are mixed in a subtractive way, like with paint, you get black. The rainbow Pride flag represents inclusivity, it celebrates difference because underneath we are all the same.
Perhaps ironically, the controversy around the rainbow flag doesn’t begin and end in Philadelphia. Confectionery company Wrigley has been blasted for supporting Pride month by withdrawing the rainbow colors in its Skittles candy. As Fox News reports, Wrigley has been accused of racism for making all of their Skittles candy white for this month.
Wrigley Criticized For All White Skittles Candy In Pride Month
Wrigley say that they chose one color for Pride month “in order for Pride’s rainbow to take center stage.” Some claim that Wrigley’s decision to make their candies all white goes against the notion of inclusivity.
Perhaps, instead of stirring up controversy about flags and candies, we should use Pride month to celebrate how far we have come in the last 40 years. At the time of the Stonewall riots, back in 1969, who would have believed that same-sex marriage would now be legal? Who would have thought that schools around the world would be flying the Pride rainbow flag? No one would have suspected that school notice boards would be displaying posters that say “some people are gay – get over it.” Who would have believed it possible for our armed forces to be openly celebrating Pride month?
Our society is much more inclusive today than it was when Pride launched the rainbow flag. However, no one would argue that society still has a long way to go. Pride month is a time to celebrate diversity in all its colors. Bickering over a new rainbow flag and the color of candy misses the point and detracts from the progress that has been made.
When anti-LGBTQ+ protesters in the Ukraine, and elsewhere, are attacking Pride marches and burning the rainbow flag, perhaps we should reflect on just how far we have come.
[Featured Image by Carolyn Kaster/AP]