Latrice Royale on Why She’s More Excited By Black Future Than Black History (Guest Column)

RuPaul's Drag Race's Latrice Royale on
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We do not teach Black History as we should in schools. However, this entire country was built on the backs of Black slaves. The fact that so many people are unaware of that is astonishing to me.

When you think about it, and get down to the root of it, we are still fighting for Martin Luther King’s dream to be fully realized. We’ve come a long way, which only amplifies how much further we have to go. I am very hopeful! I have faith in the new generation, faith that they will continue to ring the alarm at racial injustice. Faith that every variation of gender identity will be accepted and respected. Billions of humans walk the earth, and to live in a world where everyone had to look and think alike would be miserable. We saw how that did not work. The thought and notion that people are still holding on to ideals that were outlawed centuries ago, is mind-boggling. The world is ever-changing and evolving, so how can this be the ONE thing we can’t seem to shake?

My birthday is February 12, which is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday as well. My mother taught me that great men share my birthday, and to recognize the role that this president played in our Black History. The fact that I was born during what is called “Black History Month” magnified the celebration. My mother always referred to me as her special child. She would tell me that I was destined for greatness and that there would be a lot of distractions along the way to try to deter me from my goals and dreams.

I grew up in Southeast Los Angeles County, in a city called Compton, which was a rough place with heavy gang activity. Two of my brothers joined the military and two got into the gangs. And then there was me, playing in dresses. I was exposed to a lot as a little kid, between the gangs, the violence and the drugs. I’m from a single-parent home, where my mother worked and provided for me. Wanting a different path to my future than those of my brothers, she made arrangements to have me bussed to the Long Beach School district. There I would be exposed to other races and cultures. I would receive a proper education and have a better shot at a brighter future.

I can remember the first time I ever experienced racism. I think I was in 7th grade, and it was my math teacher. When I told my mother of the troubles I was having with this one teacher, we scheduled a parent/teacher conference. As I sat and listened in tears as this man told my mother horrible things about my actions in class, I felt like I had no defense. But to my surprise and amazement, when we got into the car, my mother explained to me that what was happening was NOT my fault. That I had done nothing wrong, and that no matter what, I would be singled out simply because of the color of my skin. She would go on to teach me that I would encounter many more like him.

The first thing people see is my color. I can’t hide my Blackness and I’ve been called every name you can imagine. When I was a little kid, my mother taught me, “It’s not what you’re called, it’s what you answer to.” So it was instilled in me to pay no mind to people who call you names. Does it hurt sometimes when I’m feeling vulnerable? Can I go down the rabbit hole of feeling “less than” because of my color? Absolutely!

But now, as an adult that has been on this earth for nearly 50 years, I can fully celebrate who and what I am. It is because of the works of those who fought and died for our Civil Rights! From Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King, Jr., to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, we are still dreaming of a day when we can be free in the country that my ancestors built.

It is time to CELEBRATE the Black people who made this country and change the way we think, look, and feel about Black people in America. Especially as police brutality and racial tension have escalated over the last year, it is up to each individual to not be ignorant and to take a stand. “Each one, teach one,” I say! The truth is ugly and people need to start accepting our country’s history and acknowledging that it is not acceptable to claim superiority over another race. What is great, is that the new generation is not having it anymore. Racism is not acceptable in this day and age — 400 years is enough! As much as Black History Month means to me, I am much more excited by the Black FUTURE!!!

Latrice Royale made herstory when she became the first queen to appear on QVC, in drag, while promoting Ruby Royale by Squirrel Brand. Royale appeared on the fourth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” in 2012 and on the first and fourth seasons of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars.”