Philadelphia shouldn’t have added black and brown stripes to the rainbow

The city kicked off Pride Month with the introduction of a new pride flag. The new design includes two additional stripes, one black and one brown, to symbolize the inclusion of LGBT people of color.

While I think it’s a given that the inclusive values behind this idea are shared by the vast majority of the city’s queer community, no one at the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs apparently felt it necessary or even just a good idea to bother finding out if this was something the community actually wanted.

The new design was kept secret from the Philly LGBT community at large until it was revealed on June 8th, and it’s pretty obvious why the Office of LGBT Affairs chose to do so. Taking the time and making the effort to get input on the move from the community this flag represents would have necessarily carried the very real risk that a significant portion of the community would have opposed the move. That is, however, how truly inclusive movements are supposed to work: when there are decisions to be made that impact everyone, everyone gets a say.

We are right now several months into the most authoritarian presidency in American history, saddled with a federal government that makes it clear that it considers LGBT Americans to be second-class citizens, unworthy of the freedom to control even such basic aspects of our lives as choosing who we marry, where we live and congregate, what government services we can access, or even where we go to the bathroom.

Philadelphia, a city that’s considered one of our country’s most progressive, unilaterally decided to significantly alter one of the LGBT community’s most cherished symbols without bothering to seek any input at all from the community at large. As much as I can appreciate and support the sentiment behind it, the way this went down was anything but inclusive.

Personally, had I been asked, I’d have voted no. Symbols are about meaning and aesthetics. The rainbow flag is by definition inclusive and always has been. Its brightly colored stripes already have specific meanings, and none of them have anything to do with race. Taken as a whole, it’s well-known what the rainbow flag means and that it represents the entire LGBT community.

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