Monday, November 23, 2009

Gay Is Not The New Black But Gay Rights Are Civil Rights

Gay is the new Black is one of the most offensive slogans that the LGBT community has employed to help fight for their civil rights.  If these claims originated with same gender loving people of color, it would be problematic but hardly the racial offense that it constitutes coming from Whites.  There has been much tension between the GLBT community Blacks regarding gay rights, culminating in an all out attack after Prop 8.  Ignoring that there are many in the African American community who have worked alongside gays and lesbians to fight for gay marriage, Black people were painted as uniquely homophobic.  Interestingly enough, when marriage rights were lost in Maine, there was no discussion whatsoever regarding race.

 image While the Black community has every right to be upset by the racism engaged in by the GLBT community pre and post prop 8, that does not give license to perpetuate this wrong by engaging in homophobia.  Certain Black ministers have a fondness for publicly displaying their ignorance and hatred for the world to see, while acting as though they are spokespeople for the African American community.  They use scripture to spread their hatred, forgetting that even according to the bible that they read from, that no man is above sin.  All are sinners in the eyes of God. Ken Hutcherson in particular is an example of what happens when you take one to many blows to the head.  Today he is a senior pastor but he was formerly Seattle Sea Hawks Linebacker.

In an article for World Net Daily Hutcherson wrote:

It has been said loudly and proudly that gay marriage is a civil-rights issue. If that's the case, then gays would be the new African-Americans. I'm here to tell you now, and hopefully for the last time, that the gay community is not the new "African-American" community. In fact, I think Christians are the new Negro – but that's an issue for a follow-up column.

In 2005, the Rev. Jesse Jackson stated that the fight of gays and lesbians wanting to marry should not be compared to the fight African-Americans faced for civil rights. The comparison of the plight of the gay community to slavery is a stretch; remember, gays were never called "three-fifths" human, according to the Constitution, and they did not require the Voting Rights Act to gain the same democratic rights as whites.

What is this world coming to when you see the likes of myself, a conservative African-American, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a liberal African-American, both agreeing on the same subject?

Recently, over 100 black clergy met in Atlanta to publicly object to the comparison of gay marriage to the civil-rights movement.

I'm sure the gay community felt it was thrown a curve. It thought that the African-American community would stand with it in totality if it could convince us this was a civil-rights issue.

But many black clergy are offended that gay rights would be compared to civil rights. The circumstances are different. As an African-American, I can never expect to have the choice of, "Don't ask, don't tell."

Though African Americans have had to fight for even the smallest legal recognition of personhood, it cannot be said that civil rights is a term that belongs only to Blacks.   To claim ownership of the term civil rights, is to ignore the struggles of women, Latin@’s, First Nation Peoples, the differently abled, Asians etc and etc.  We do not live in an equal world and many people face several marginalizations.  Racism is very much an issue but it is no more or less important than any other ism.

It is fair to state unequivocally that gay is not the new Black or that gay rights are not the same struggle that is faced by African Americans, however; to deny that an oppression is  occurring is simply an expression of heterosexist privilege. At what point does fighting for the right to live openly not considered a civil right?  At what point do you decide that sexuality means that you should have a closeted experience? 

The LGBT community has so polarized this issue that men like Hutcherson seem to be speaking for the African Americans, even though people like Julian Bond and Coretta Scott King have expressed the exact opposite position.  There are certainly racist members of the LGBT community but that is because they are reflective of the larger society. Just as Black people are not uniquely homophobic, gays and lesbians are not uniquely racist.  The issue is that the loudest squeakiest wheels have been speaking for both parties. 

The problem with appropriating the African American experience is that it buoys the position of men like Hutcherson.  You see, Blacks are more than aware that this so-called attempt to identify with us, is not because of a supposed kinship, rather; it is a plea to general society that the White members of the LGBT  community not be reduced to the same level as Blacks on the hierarchy pyramid.  Hutcherson is able to prey upon this to make it appear as though the GLBT community is not being persecuted.  While the oppression faced by the GLBT community is different, it is still oppression.  To be constructed as an other is not something that is quantifiable and therefore; attempting to construct the experience of being hated because of race as somehow more meaningful or painful is a fools errand. It also ignores that there are same gender loving people who are Black.  To turn our backs on this struggle is to abandon members of our own community.

Hutcherson is a hateful, ignorant homophobe. He uses the real struggles faced by Blacks to buoy his position.  Though he claims to care about God, it is clear that he is only interested in cherry picking the passages that fit his agenda.  Men like Hutcherson will say whatever they must to have the ability to invoke even the smallest amount of privilege.  Just as members of the GLBT community have learned that using racism gives them the opportunity to use power coercively, men like Hutcherson have employed the same strategy regarding homophobia.  Until all members of the LGBT community and all African Americans, learn that supporting the oppression of others maintain the mechanisms that  embolden and inform hierarchy, there can be no progress.  My brothers oppression is my oppression.