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Controversy Over Philadelphia’s Racially Inclusive Pride Flag Highlights LGBTQ Community’s Problem with Racism

Supporters of Philadelphia’s revamped version of the Pride flag say it’s meant to be more inclusive to nonwhite LGBTQ persons. (Photo by Kelly A. Burkhardt/Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs)

In an effort to recognize more faces within the LGBTQ community, Philadelphia unveiled a new, yet simple, version of the symbolic rainbow Pride flag this week, featuring two more colors to represent nonwhite queers.

“We’ve expanded the colors of the flag to include black and brown,” Philly-based campaign “More Color, More Pride” noted on its website. “It may seem like a small step, but, together, we can make big strides toward a truly inclusive community.”

The new eight-stripe flag was proposed and designed by local advertising agency Tierney, which approached the city’s Office of LGBT Affairs with the update, reported. LGBT Affairs Director Amber Hikes said she teared up when she first laid eyes on Tierney’s work, adding that such a flag “instills so much pride in me as a queer Black woman.”

“When I see the flag, I feel like I see myself,” Hikes said.

The unique twist on artist Gilbert Baker’s iconic rainbow flag has garnered mixed reviews, however, highlighting the not-so-secret racial divide between white and nonwhite members of the queer community. The new flag is seemingly an effort on the city’s part to help mend its racial rift after video of a gay nightclub owner repeatedly using the N-word surfaced late last year, ATTN: reported.

Critics of the new flag took to Twitter to voice their disapproval with the colorful additions, arguing that the Pride flag is already all-inclusive and that adding stripes to represent race is unnecessary.

Others contended that the colors on the flag are unrelated to race and race should be reserved for an entirely separate conversation.

Still, there were those who rejoiced at the idea of the new flag and its efforts to represent nonwhite people who’ve often marginalized within the community.

In a recent interview with NBC News, Hikes addressed the controversy over the new flag, describing it as an especially important symbol for Philly and its local “gayborhood,” which has had a history of racism. She noted that it will take some time for everyone to embrace it, however.

“It’s a push for people to start listening to people of color in our community, start hearing what they’re saying, and really to believe them and to step up and say, ‘What can I do to help eradicate these issues in our community?” Hikes told the news network.

“This is not going to be an easy process,” she added. “If [the original] symbol was inclusive, there is nothing wrong with having a further inclusive symbol.”

Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, co-founder of Philadelphia’s Black and Brown Workers Collective, also weighed in on the issue, telling Mic, “The fact that two stripes have triggered the online and offline responses that it has, it just proves that there is entrenched racism and anti-Blackness [in the community].”

“This is real, this is lived, and this is felt by us on a daily basis.”

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