A new column by Erica Barz
Des Moines area activist
GoGuide September 2020
Des Moines, IA-Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the city of Des Moines is hosting meetings on Zoom to maintain social distancing. Unfortunately, the city did not take into account that someone on their staff would need to be proficient in Zoom in order to make this a workable reality. White supremacists quickly figured out that city staff had no idea what they were doing and seized the opportunity to deploy several n-words and murderous threats before they can be muted.
Every one of these outbursts is horrific, and one sticks in my mind more than any other. The anonymous person started seemingly innocently enough, talking about his experience seeing Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Des Moines. Things changed quickly when he voiced his support for the Des Moines Police Department and said, in summary: “I’ve seen what kind of people attend these protests, and I’d like to ask DMPD officers to shoot every one of those n-words and f-words down.”
My heart dropped into my stomach, but the city council pressed on while barely acknowledging what had just happened. It’s true that a large portion of the protestors in Des Moines, particularly the medics, are visibly members of the LGBTQ community. This person knew this and urged city officials with guns to smear the queers with bullets.
I’m a white gay person. This was the first threat that could have conceivably been read as targeting me and many of my friends. It came from within the city itself, expressing familiarity with the people attending the protests. Knowing there are people living in my city that want to see me and my loved ones dead is not a fact I’m confronted with often. It’s a fact that Black people in Des Moines can’t escape. Every other deplorable threat on these calls is hurled at Black residents of Des Moines, a group also targeted by a racist criminal legal system.
The vast majority of the LGBTQ community in Iowa is white. It’s a matter of demographics; we live in one of the whitest states in the country, and that whiteness pervades our community. The privilege and relative comfort our whiteness grants us cannot prevent us from fighting for racial justice.
LGBTQ Black people in our state are leading protests in cities around the state, fighting for justice. White LGBTQ people need to join them and lend our power and resources to their cause. Bayard Rustin, a gay Black man and advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.” In whatever capacity you’re able, support the angelic troublemakers in your city working to make our state more equitable.