Civil rights are a common cause for people of color and GLBTs

Karol Collymore

For months now, the falsehood has spread that Blacks - as a general population - dislike the gay community. I've tried to argue that this is simply not the case. Blacks have been unfairly blamed for the passage of Proposition 8 and Black churches have been put on Front Street as the leaders of that campaign. Gay leaders like Dan Savage have repeated this notion so much that I worry it will cause a permanent rift in relations between the two communities and that it sweeps Black GLBTs so far under the bus that they aren't sure where to feel comfortable. Trying to get this across is like shouting into the well that little Jessica fell in to. Then, thanks to Blue Oregon contributor Caitlin Baggott, I read this:

Homophobic black clergy do not speak for the entire black Christian community. Though they receive dramatically less media attention, many African-American religious leaders, like Reverend Lee in Los Angeles, are encouraging acceptance and inclusion in their congregations and communities. African-American Christians have long resisted readings of the Bible that exclude and oppress. Enslaved blacks were admonished to "obey their masters" but they believed the story of Moses leading his people from bondage. Jim Crow religion told black people to be silent about oppression because the "meek shall inherit the earth," but Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. called for "justice to run down like waters and righteousness as a mighty and ever-flowing stream."

and this:

LGBT communities and black communities are not separate constituencies. They are overlapping communities full of our own brothers, sisters, daughters, friends, preachers, and choir directors. To oppose equality of any kind for LGBT individuals is to oppose equality for black people. They are us, we are them. Empathy reminds us of that basic truth.

Read the rest here.

  • JTT (unverified)

    I'll raise an "Amen" and double it with a "Hallelujah".

    When ever one group is pitted against another (whether actually or imagined), I'm reminded of the "First they came..." poem by Niemöller...and ironically, MLK's "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". Equality under the law with non-discrimination, repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, repealing DOMA, and passing equal marriage rights is just a contemporary battle of the never-ending civil rights struggle and march toward equality.

    I think too often we focus on how we are different from one another because it helps us put a little box around things. It helps us to "understand" or "relate". We compare how bad we have (had) it versus other people. "My upbring was hard because we didn't have a car and I had to walk to school/work". "My ancestors were slaves that were ripped from their homeland and their families and demeaned and oppressed for hundreds of years". "I have had to go through life trying to understand and accept my sexuality while people yell 'faggot', vote to deny me rights, fire me from my job, or deny me housing or public accommodation, or the right to marry the one I love". "My family was exterminated by Hitler and the Nazi because they happened to be Jewish/Gypsy/Gay/non-aryan/etc." Oppression and discrimination sucks in any form and is a waste of human ability and creativity.

    The fact of the matter is that we're all different, but we're all the same. We have different stories to tell. Some have been oppressors and most have been oppressed. Different immigrant groups to this country at different times migrated from being the oppressed to being the oppressor of the new immigrants. This country was founded on the principles of diversity and on the indisputable fact that we are all equal and deserving of the same rights, privileges, benefits, and responsibilities of each other. It's disgusting that anyone would try to say that anyone else is more/less deserving of dignity and equality under the law.

    It is perhaps fitting that yesterday was Bastille day. Freedom, liberty, and equality will never stop it's march. While along the way, sometimes history crafts and ironic fate whereby the oppressed becomes the oppressor.

    I, for one, and happy that you, Karol, are making the effort to bridge our communities and call out hypocrisy when necessary. I wish more would do likewise and speak out. I'm also reminded of when Ben Franklin was asked what kind of country the constitutional framers had created...he replied (in some version), "A democracy, if you can keep it". We'll only continue to have a free, democratic society on the march toward equality and liberty if we keep fighting for it and don't get caught up in inter-oppressee finger pointing.

    Though we are close to celebrating the confirmation of our first latina Supreme Court justice, we must recognize that while we have come a long way, we still have a long and never-ending path ahead.

  • Laura Calvo (unverified)

    Um maybe somebody down in the well is listening?

    NAACP weighs support of gays who want to marry

    Also just as certain ministers do not speak for the black community, not every gay man in the media speaks for the entire GLBT community.

  • John F. Bradach, Sr. (unverified)

    [Off-topic comment removed. Use Google to find what you're looking for. -editor.]

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)

    First you need to find out who your real friends are (i.e. people who treat you as equals). try to find the video from earlier today of Sen Boxer playing the race card on Harry Alford, the chair of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, during a committee hearing on energy. He apparently opposes some of the ideas like cap and trade. He was there as a man, as a citizen with views he arrived at over many years of his personal experiences and education.

    Yet Boxer thought all blacks should think alike, so she mentioned to him that this group of "80 black business owners", and the NAACP support cap and trade, so why don't you? Mr. Alford then ripped this bigot to shreds while trying to get her to talk about the actual issue.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

  • pacnwjay (unverified)

    Great commentary, Karol. Thank you.

    I lived in Washington, DC for 14-plus years. The city is in the throes of something very topical. The gay community there (both black and white) are fighting for marriage rights. And winning!!! Race has been front and center in the push-back against granting marriage rights to lgbt folk.

    DC is a very segragated city. The neighborhoods. The bars. The community organizations. The churches. Even where you shop is likely decided by the color of your skin.

    I'm hopeful that their struggle for marriage rights will be won. But i do worry a great deal about a massive schism between already less than perfect relations between black community leaders and gay activists.

    DC's City Paper and the Washington Blade have been covering this story well. I encourage you to check it out.

  • Oregon Bill (unverified)

    Hi Karol -

    Efforts to deny civil rights to my family don't emanate from anyone based on their race, or ethnicity...

    The arguments against full inclusion for your gay and lesbian brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc. are religious arguments: i.e., my god or goddess doesn't like you (it says so right here in my magical Book, which also backs slavery), so your family deserves fewer rights than mine.

    Religious organizations deserve our ire. And yes, this includes many Black churches - the Albina Ministerial Alliance was the third biggest financial backer of Measure 36 (after the abusive Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, and those wacky, special underwear clad boys at the Mormon Temple).

    And anyone, of any race, who still contributes money to these churches still funds active efforts to selectively deprive their fellow Americans of basic civil rights.

    So I don't care if you're Black, white, Asian, Native American, Hispanic or mixed race: you can't claim (honestly) to support equality while funding these awful churches that work (hard and successfully) to deny equality...

  • (Show?)

    Thanks Karol. Although it's not an exact parallel (nothing ever is), it might be useful to think about the history of the complex and fraught interrelations among black people and Jewish people. Anti-black racism and black anti-semitism have both been realities, often promoted by forces outside of the control of either community. I think e.g. of Hillel Levine's The Destruction of an American Jewish Community on the dynamics of real estate red lining and block busting in the Roxbury and Mattapan sections of Boston in creating racist perceptions and "racial" conflict, or Anna Devere Smith's astonishing interview-based performances exploring among other things black-Jewish conflict in 1990s New York.

    Yet Jews were highly disproportionate as members of the minority of whites who were vigorous and active supporters of the Civil Rights movement; the active Jewish supporters were still a minority in their own community, but a much larger one, while black intellectuals and political leaders on the whole over the last century have understood the role of anti-semitism in the creation of racialist ideologies and opposed it as part of the cultural underpinnings of African-American oppression.

    Yet there is an ineluctable temptation, it appears, when faced with the threats and harms of marginalization, repression and oppression, to look to places where one is not marginalized, and often those places are marked by the exclusion and denigration of others.

    The story you linked is interesting because it suggests a process and people pushing it who are looking at the dynamics of black homophobia even while rejecting false claims about its universality.

    I wonder how much such a process may be happening or may be needed in the LGBTQ communities. In some ways a version has gone on for a long time, in the context of consciousness raising -- I have the clearest picture of this going on within the feminist movement going back to the 1970s with the development of interacting self-criticisms about racism and homophobia (& classism) in the movement & am not as clear about how much of a counterpart went on in gay male culture or around bi- & trans- struggles.

    But I think that the great strides toward inclusion and acceptance made by LGBTQ people in the last two decades possibly re-pose the issues again. I'm not really aware of any U.S. equivalent of the racist gay Dutch political leader who was assassinated a few years ago. Still it is striking to think not just about all the white people who supported Measure 8, but how very few years indeed it has been that any substantial proportion of straight whites has supported full marriage equality, and the vigorous presence of white conservative Protestant evangelical leaders in opposing LGBTQ equality.

    That Protestant connection makes me think along two lines. One, when thinking about white queer scapegoating of black people, is the long dominance of conservative ideologies which retain persistent power, combined with the recentness and far from complete or solidified expansion of mainstream white acceptance of LGBTQ equality, making the gains in an uncertain and insecure. Insofar as that conservatism is massively, disproportionately white, to what extent may that create pressures or incentives, probably often subtle and not conscious, to identify with whiteness if one is white and queer, in response to the insecurity?

    And, on the other side, particularly in the case of conservative black Protestant evangelical religious leaders, often put or accepted in the role of spokespeople for conservative Protestant moralism and homophobia, what are the pressures and incentives to take up the opportunity to be identified first as "Christian" in the exclusionary conservative Protestant way?

    Anyway, thanks for taking up this occasion and opportunity to resist the forces of polarization among progressive should-be allies, and opening the door for others to join you from our different standpoints

  • Andrew (unverified)

    RELIGION is the ONLY thing that makes homosexuality WRONG. Until gays redefine "homosexuality" we will NEVER be equal. Well, unless religion goes out of business - which should be around 2060.

    Why wait? Religion is the enemy.

    ALL of them.

  • (Show?)

    Thank you, Karol. It always riles me that the broad community of folk - which includes ALL races, ethnicities and sexual orientations - is constantly targeted for "cutting". Whatever little loose thread the righties might spot to yank on, they do with full zeal and fury.

    Sadly, many of us on the progressive end of the spectrum buy into the right wing spin, not realizing that they play into the "divide and conquer" strategy perfected by right wing zealots.

    <h2>Sure, there will be different results between different demographic groups when focusing on a specific election or issue question, but accentuating the differences helps no one and simply serves to alienate us from one another. As progressives, ours is the harder task: evaluate, bridge, listen, discuss - in other words, we're constantly tasked with putting out the fires the right has set. Sometimes it's hard not to get burned, too.</h2>

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