Montag, 21. Juni 2010

Judith Butler refuses Berlin Pride Civil Courage Prize 2010


Press Release by SUSPECT on the events of the 19th June, 2010
As Berlin Queer and Trans Activists of Colour and Allies we welcome Judith Butler’s decision to turn down the Zivilcourage Prize awarded by Berlin Pride. We are delighted that a renowned theorist has used her celebrity status to honour queer of colour critiques against racism, war, borders, police violence and apartheid. We especially value her bravery in openly critiquing and scandalising the organisers’ closeness to homonationalist organisations - a concept which was coined by Jasbir Puar's book Terrorist Assemblages. Her courageous speech is a testimony to her openness for new ideas, and her readiness to engage with our long activist and academic work, which all too often happens under conditions of isolation, precariousness, appropriation and instrumentalisation.
Sadly this is happening once again, for the people of colour organisations who according to Butler should have deserved the award more than her are not mentioned once in the press reports to date. Butler offered the prize to GLADT (, LesMigraS (, SUSPECT and ReachOut (, yet the one political space mentioned in the reports is the Transgenial Christopher Street Day, a white-dominated alternative Pride event. Instead of racism, the press focuses on a simple critique of commercialisation. This even though Butler herself was quite clear: ‘I must distance myself from complicity with racism, including anti-Muslim racism.’ She notes that not just homosexuals, but also ‘bi, trans and queer people can be used by those who want to wage war.’
The CSD, via Renate Künast of the Green Party (who appeared to have difficulties pronouncing the award winner’s name and grasping basic aspects of her writings) introduced Butler as a determined critic. Five minutes later, the same critical determination caused the faces of presenters to drop. Rather than engage with the speech in any way, Jan Salloch und Ole Lehmann could think of nothing better than blanketly refuse any charge of racism and attack the ca. 50 queers of colour and allies who had come out in Butler’s support: ‘You can scream all you like. You are not the majority. That’s enough.’ The finale was an imperialist fantasy matched by the backdrop of the Brandenburger Tor: ‘Pride will just continue in its programme... No matter what... Worldwide and here in Berlin... This is how it’s always been and will always be.’
In the past years, racism has indeed been the red thread of international Pride events, from Toronto to Berlin, as well as of the wider gay landscape. In 2008, the Berlin Pride motto was ‘Hass du was dagegen?’, which might translate as ‘You go’ a problem or wha’?’ (with 'Hass' a wordplay on 'hate'). Homophobia and Transphobia are redefined as the problems of youth of colour who apparently don’t speak proper German, whose Germanness is always questioned, and who simply don’t belong. 2008 is also the year that the hate crimes discourse enters more significantly into German sexual politics. Its rapid assimilation was aided by the fact that the hatefully criminal homophobe was already known: migrants, who are already criminalised, and are incarcerated and even deported with ever growing ease. This moral panic is made respectable by dubious media practices and so-called scientific studies: Where every case of violence that can be connected to a gay, bi or trans person (no matter if the apparent perpetrator is white or of Colour, and no matter if the basis is homophobia, transphobia or a traffic altercation) is circulated as the latest proof of what we all know already - that queers, especially white men it seems, are worst off of all, and that ‘the homophobic migrants’ are the main cause for this. This increasingly accepted truth is by no small measure the fruit of the work of homonationalist organizations like the Lesbian and Gay Federation Germany and the gay helpline Maneo, whose close collaboration with Pride ultimately caused Butler to reject the award. This work largely consists in media campaigns that repeatedly represent migrants as ‘archaic’, ‘patriarchal’, ‘homophobic’, violent, and unassimilable. Nevertheless, one of these organizations now ironically receives public funding in order to ‘protect’ people of colour from racism. The ‘Rainbow Protection Circle against Racism and Homophobia’ in the gaybourhood Schöneberg was spontaneously greeted by the district mayor with an increase in police patrols. As anti-racists, we sadly know what more police (LGBT or not) mean in an area where many people of colour also live – especially at times of ‘war on terror’ and ‘security, order and cleanliness.’
It is this tendency of white gay politics, to replace a politics of solidarity, coalitions and radical transformation with one of criminalization, militarization and border enforcement, which Butler scandalizes, also in response to the critiques and writings of queers of colour. Unlike most white queers, she has stuck out her own neck for this. For us, this was a very courageous decision indeed.


20 June, 2010.

SUSPECT is a new group of queer and trans migrants, Black people, people of colour and allies. Our aim is to monitor the effects of hate crimes debates and to build communities which are free from violence in all its interpersonal and institutional forms.

24 Kommentare:

  1. Amazing !!! Judith Butler !! Thank You and thanx to Suspect for the great efforts !!!!
    Solidarity from london !!

  2. Well done to SUSPECT on initiating this brave move. It is a first step in attempting to make clear the racism of homonationalist organisations in Germany and elsewhere and their complicity in the war on terror logic that pits the marginalised against each other in a way that does nothing but serve the dominant and perpetuate oppression.

    Dr Alana Lentin, Senior Lecturer, Sociology, University of Sussex, UK

  3. Well done, this is fantastic news!!!!

    Huge respect to Judith Butler and to SUSPECT for standing up.

    I have translated your statement into Russian, for circulation in Russian GLBTQ networks (with the link to this post).

    in solidarity
    Adi Kuntsmsan

  4. This is indeed terrific news! Bravo to Judith Butler and to SUSPECT. Here is a link to a news regarding the return of awards by 23 recipients of various awards and honours from Pride Toronto over the years, to protest against Pride Toronto,s decision to effectively ban the queer human rights group ‘Queers Against Israeli Apartheid’ from marching in the parade.

    Sirma Bilge

  5. Thanks to all at SUSPECT for this campaign and to Judith Butler for taking a very important stand.

    In struggle

  6. thank you for this beautiful news. so proud to be qtpoc today!

    from toronto, love to you all!

  7. This type of organizing is SO needed in our queer communities. Sending you lots and lots of support from Vancouver and thanks for inspiring us as well!

  8. thank you SUSPECT for providing such thorough analysis of this courageous act by Judith Butler so quickly and in both german and english. the complicity of mainstream LGBT movements and events in racist discourse and action is definitely not an issue confined to Berlin.

  9. Paola Bacchetta20. Juni 2010 um 17:20

    Thank you to SUSPECT and all the queer of color and anti-racism queer groups in Germany that organised this protest. Thank you also to our ally Judith Butler for taking such a clear stand. Brava, bravo, all.

    Paola Bacchetta

  10. Seattlegayvip.NET from Seattle, WA. USA supports this incredible blog!, our dearest friend Justtino Trinidad Corcuera Real de los Montero gave us this link! Thanks for such an incredible work!

  11. Fantastic news from Germany; also making clear that critique and theoretical work has to meet political practice; it makes all the difference!!

    Dr Ulrike M Vieten (Leeds/ Amsterdam)

  12. Thank you to SUSPECT for this great statement! I am so glad to read it, because - as you write yourself - all I read in the media was that Butler finds Pride too commercial and that the organizers "don't do enough" (!!!) for multiply minoretized people (or something of that kind). That made me despair, because what should be a criticism of racist Pride and Associates had been turned around into an encouragement that they are doing the right thing, just not enough of it.
    I'm glad that Butler's critique was different, and that this statement is following up to make it even clearer. Hopefully lots of people are listening, reading, acknowledging, and things are going to change for the better.

    All best wishes!

    Johanna Rothe

  13. Important recognition of the movements and groups are denouncing homonationalis GLBT groups! brava butler!

  14. Sylvie Tomolillo21. Juni 2010 um 01:45

    So queer politics is still alive ! And "queer" is not just a new fashionable word for another "straight" agenda : white-male-liberal-identitarian hegemony. Let's keep queering borders of any kind !
    Thank you SUSPECT and Judith !

    Sylvie Tomolillo

  15. RESPECT to SUSPECT! Judith Butler's decision to refuse the Berlin CSD Civil Courage Award was really courageous. It is so important to highlight the intersectionalities of discrimination based on RACE/SEX/GENDER etc. There will be no healing without overcoming all power mechanisms of OTHERING. It's a pity I can't make it to the Transgeniale CSD on 26.06.2010. But I will be there in spirit.

    Greetings from London


  16. Asian Arts Freedom School Statement of Solidary

    Asian Arts Freedom School would like to extend support to SUSPECT and local queer groups of colour advocating for anti-racist change in Berlin's Pride. We also really respect Judith Butler's contribution to queer and feminist theory and want to extend our appreciation to her in declining the civil courage award from Berlin Pride. We are pan-Asian anti-racist artists and arts educators in Toronto where Pride Toronto continually marginalizes queers not considered to be part of the gay mainstream and bans anti-colonial sentiments, namely the recent banning of the words "Israeli Apartheid" from Toronto Pride (thus censoring the queer human rights group, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid). Many of us are having to deal with the gay mainstream's racism towards and exclusion and depoliticization of our communities in Toronto and it helps to know that we are not alone in the struggle against the homonationalist crusade for homogeneity.

  17. Congratulations to Gladt, Lesbenberatung and all the other couraged people who really deserve the award!!
    And thanks to Judith Butler, who produced an unespected political moment at this homonormative happening!
    Lets go on and strengthen alliances against homofobia and and racism - obviously, there is a lot more to be done...

    Melanie Ebenfeld, Gender and Education, Berlin

  18. Kudos to Suspect and Judith Butler for taking a stand against gay racism and homonationalism!

    In solidarity,

    Dr. Gina Velasco
    Gender and Sexuality Studies
    Bryn Mawr College

  19. I would like to take a minute to express my pride in this month of pride celebrations, in the Queer and Trans People of Color groups in Berlin for their hard work and political savvy in smashing the status quo and choosing the right hammer.
    Crystal Mason
    San Francisco, CA

  20. We, the group Espace Lesbiennes of Color (Lesbian of Color Space, or LOCs) in France, would like to express our support for the struggle against racism in society in general and in LGBTQ spaces in particular.
    Espace d'Expressions Lesbiennes of Color (an internet space for the
    visibility of lesbians of color)

  21. It is precisely those imbued with oppressor class status/es who are responsible for politicising and conscientising their peers. So thanks to Judith Butler for doing her duty. And inspiring others to do theirs.

    As Nelson Mandela said soon after his release from some 27 years of imprisonment in South Africa under Apartheid: all our liberations or freedoms are interdependent, interconnected. The gay white man has a lot in common with the Turkish German hetero woman - their shared oppressions under Patriarchy. Change, transformation, freedom benefit everyone, from oppressors to 'freeriders' or witnesses, as Apartheid, and its end, shows - the majority South Africans (of all colours) were not active in the liberation movement, yet everyone enjoys our pathbreakingly inspiring Constitution, which guarantees freedom from racism, sexism, queerphobia.

    Unity is strength, across continents... our struggles continue...

    Bernedette Muthien
    Cape Town, South Africa

  22. Thank you, Judith Butler, thank you all for doing your duty of world citizens. This critique is, however, a civilized one. Hopefully, in a not too remote future, like-mindedness and homochreatism/homocrhromatosm will no longer be an obstacle to dialogue. Until then, taking distance seems the best gesture to emulate. (Paolo Asso)

  23. Thanks to Suspect and Judith Butler for stopping the acceptance of this this super offensive and cynical award!

    July 2010

    We, LOCs residing in France, are deeply moved by the problems of racism within LGBTQ communities in Germany. Judith Butler recently highlighted racism, including anti-Muslim racism, within German LGBTQ communities as she refused the award for civil courage in Berlin during Gay Pride of June 2010.

    With this statement we want to express our complete solidarity and support to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters of color in Germany. The light shed on their situation reinforces our analysis of how LGBTQ milieus in Europe are not exempt from reproducing all the forms of targeting, oppression and repression that exist in the rest of society.

    In France we’ve created Espace LOCs (Lesbian of Color Space) out of a need to have our own political “safe” space where we can configure our own critical analyses, practices and actions in an atmosphere of tranquility. This space allows us to make ourselves visible to each other, but also to clearly take public positions together without waiting for others to accord us the privilege of speaking.

    As feminist lesbians of color, we work to be attentive to all formations of relations of power, discrimination, oppression, and repression. And each time they appear in Europe we will fight at the sides of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters of color.

    contact :