BY DREW-SHANE DANIELS
Far too often, I’ve read (or stumbled across) articles and heard conversations debating over who has it worse: blacks or the gays. I’m no African American history expert, but I don’t think you have to be a featured spokesman for McDonald’s 365 Black campaigns to decipher between the Civil Rights and gay rights movements. However, I am so tired of hearing people make a scapegoat of which they haste to make a correlation between the two.
The latest offender: John McWhorter’s op-ed, “Gay really is the new black” for the New York Daily News. The author reiterates the impractical charge to African Americans that we have aresponsibility to advocate for equality. Because, you know, with blacks on our side we cannot lose. To quote The Bible loosely: “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” I think that’s either the King James Version or The Fugees. Don’t quote me.
Throughout the post, I wasn’t certain if he was writing to appease white gays in the struggle or to those who believe blacks have to carry another burden on our backs. McWhorter suggests that although the percentage of blacks in favor of gay marriage has increased, the support still needs to be greater. He writes:
However, rising support isn’t enough — we must keep going. When Michael Richards spouted the N-word on stage, he was shamed by the nation for weeks. It won’t do for Tracy Morgan to get a mere slap on the hand for crowing that he would stab his son if he turned out to be were gay.
As a consequence of its painful heritage, black America has a special responsibility: to be further ahead of the curve than whites on accepting gay people as full citizens.
The Bible cannot be used as an excuse to hold us back. We should remember that racists once also appealed to the Bible to justify segregation, slavery and all manners of hatred. Let’s be progressive for real this time around.
Evidently since blacks endured said harsh treatments as slaves and have a long underappreciated legacy of being discriminated against, we should quickly identify and jump on the gay rights movement train.
I, or anyone else, would be a fool to think that civil rights should be put up for a vote or aren’t important. Equal rights should never, ever be put to a majority vote. As of January 2013, 10 states have recognized same-sex marriages; mind you, there are 50 states. If gays want to gain more traction, we must not only focus on earning the support of blacks but also our communities as a whole and our local and federal legislatures. Blacks were enslaved and lived under Jim Crow for more than 100 years. Imagine how long blacks waited for whites to see them as more than three-fifths of a person, yet alone decide which side of the Mason Dixie line to reside.
Many social campaigns mirror the Civil Rights Movement because of its “success” – depending on how you define success. Blacks were able to mobilize and create a movement that took decades and millions of people dying for the cause. I hate reading the ignorance of people not seeing the issues with inequality; regardless of the color of our skin, the content of our character, sexual orientation or gender, injustice is injustice. Equality should be something for which we all advocate. Race baiting is unfair to any movement. The black experience is the black experience; while the gay experience is the gay experience. Now for those who are black and gay like myself: bipolar is real, son.
During President Barack Obama’s inaugural address, he linked the Seneca Falls Conventions and the movements of women’s rights with the marches during Selma, Lord, Selma and Stonewall riots. Beautifully delivered on the 27th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, all these allusions painted an interesting picture of how these minority groups have been affected. As someone who is linked to movements he stated, many African Americans were upset he would even eloquently utter these in the same sentence. Like McWhorter and the destructive propaganda being released daily, blacks must somehow be the change the gay rights movement needs to be more successful. In my opinion, the solution is not to sit around and argue over which minority group has been oppressed the most.
During a time when activist Baynard Rustin was kicked to the back of the Civil Rights Movement due to his sexuality, as an advocate for change he drew many comparisons to both movements. He lived them. Although many African Americans didn’t embrace his sexuality, this openly black gay man realized the fight for equal rights for gays would be another battle within itself. In Rustin’s 1986 speech injunction with New York state’s Gay Rights Bill, “The New Niggers Are Gays,” he stated: “Today, blacks are no longer the litmus paper or the barometer of social change. Blacks are in every segment of society and there are laws that protect them from racial discrimination. The new niggers are gays… it is in this sense that gay people are the new barometer for social change…The question of social change should be formed with the most vulnerable group in mind: gay people.”
I’ll be glad when I see the day where gay rights and civil rights aren’t being linked together because they are just rights. As someone who is black, male and gay, I find it difficult to see us splitting hairs over who has had it worse and which oppressed group will reach out first. Any group that has been oppressed should understand that any civil rights movement is for civil rights for all. We are all cut from the same cloth of oppression. Black people have somehow hijacked civil rights, as it seems we are forced to romanticize about civil rights. No gays are not told to drink out of certain water fountains or even forced to stand in the back of the bus; somehow the litmus test doesn’t give us good logic without the pointless debates. We need to stop comparing the two, but I quickly forget coloreds own the copyright and trademark to all things civil rights.
Thank you for reading,
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