Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Choice Ain't Got Nothing To Do With It

I had a good chat with my sister, Rhonda, today. She's married to that maven of fame, Bob.

Rhonda is often my muse. She has all of these great ideas and she doesn't mind my swiping them for writing material. Today we were talking about my last blog entry; the one about how the percentage of black folks who engage in homophobia and anti-gay discrimination is disgraceful. I was sharing concerns with my sister that were raised by my blogami, Marc, that the focus needs to be on addressing the express rejection by some in the black community that discrimination based on skin color and discrimination based on sexual orientation are equally offensive and indefensible.

The reasoning among black people that I know personally and on some of the black websites and blogs is that we don't choose our skin color but that people choose to be gay. I've always found this to be outright idiocy. If people choose to be gay, then obviously the rest of us choose to be straight. I don't recall ever making that choice. I just remember being in fourth grade and really wanting Bruce, who was in sixth grade, to notice me. I didn't make a decision to like boys; I just did and do. I figure that it's the same way for people who are gay. Do you choose to be right handed, left handed, or ambidextrous? No, you just are.

My sister and I were discussing this when I shared with her that the core issue for me was that it really shouldn't matter even if one's sexual orientation were something that you chose.

"If I choose to shave my head, does that mean that my boss should be able to fire me because she doesn't like women with bald heads?"

Rhonda, who is actually a whole lot sharper than I am, took my babbling about bald-headed women to a much more relevant analogy--choosing to wear Afrocentric or ethnic hairstyles. You may recall that I wrote about hair as political more than once when I was blogging on AOL journals. (It's a Hair Thang! and Embracing Me...). Simply put, black women choosing to wear natural hairstyles still run the risk of discrimination including being fired from their jobs.

A collateral effect of the civil rights movement was the acceptance by the Black community that our natural hair texture didn't need fixing. Afros became a political statement and a fashion statement, followed by a multitude of other styles that played up our natural hair textures. However, this embracing of the natural also has resulted in lawsuits involving employers attempting to ban certain hairstyles from the workplace as being unprofessional, hairstyles typically worn by black people--braids, cornrows, twists, afros, and locks. This hair issue is not a thing of the past, in 2007, two women who worked at a corrections facility in Virginia were fired because their supervisor decreed that their natural braids and locks were inappropriate and extreme hairstyles, and they refused to alter them. In 2006 in Virginia Beach, Kokoamos Island Bar refused admission to people wearing their hair in locks, twists, cornrows, or braids. Another 2007 story had a private pre-school expelling a three year old because his parents chose to lock his hair.

I certainly support that black women have the right to choose to wear their hair in whatever style pleases them and that it is discrimination to object to styles that are more readily worn by black women and men that reflect our ethnic and cultural heritage. However, if we follow the logic of the, "Oh no you don't try to claim that racial discrimination and discrimination based on sexual orientation are fruit of the same poisonous tree. You choose to be gay; I don't choose to be black!," well, I think that we lose on the hairstyles thing. After all, I choose how I wear my hair. I don't have to refuse to straighten my hair. I choose to wear twists, braids or an afro. My sister chooses to wear her rocking locks. Clearly if one chooses some attribute then it's okay to discriminate against you on the basis of that attribute. Not!

I realize that I probably won't readily change anyone's mind based on this logic, but I'm certainly going to give it a shot. It seems beyond unreasonable to me to find discrimination acceptable. The LGBT community comes in all colors, including black. If you believe that you don't have anyone in your family who is gay, you probably also still believe in the tooth fairy. I find this whole argument of choosing or not choosing to be ludicrous and a distraction from the real issue. There are people who live in this country, who contribute to this country, who pay taxes, but who are denied a right that the rest of us take for granted, the right to publicly and legally declare their commitment to the person whom they love. I cannot and will not be silent in the face of bigotry; even if that face bears the same skin color as my own.

Marc has written an article that is published online on the topic of California's Prop 8 and gay marriage issues. Click this link to check it out.


Yasmin said...

I get your point entirely about hairstyles and our rights in the UK they are deemed as aggresive hairstyles which might not be suited to all jobs!

I've been in several dialogues about gay men and women, with a fellow blogger, who cannot seem to understand that gay men and women were not coerced into being gay and cannot accept that they just are, we bat back and forth and I don't even make a dent I fear this kind of thinking as it is passed on to children and they grow thinking that it's ok to discriminate, governments have their own agenda but people really must learn to look around them, and accept that others may have different lifstyles, hair skin colour, the list goes on and live with it, and take care of what's going on in their own backyard before they seek to critisise others.


Beth said...

As you know, I find the whole "I choose to be gay" argument ridiculous.

I read Marc's article and it was excellent.

Hugs, Beth

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I choose to not be a bigot. It is sad that there are those out there that cannot come to grips with the reality of who we are as people. One of the sadest things we have prevented is the ability of people who love each other to be truly recognized as a couple, regardless of gender or race. We have come so far but have so far to go.

Dannelle said...

First, let me say your Meez looked strange dancing to Brookes and Dunn! Now more importantly, the issue of choice- I chose to be straight for forty years and hated every minute of it! I was married three times and it just didn't work. I am really a domestic type woman- kids, cooking, gardening, and sewing are my thing. Living as a partner to a man is not. I love them, admire them and have many friends of the male gender. So you are CORRECT my friend sometimes choice isn't the issue, like hair, it is part of the DNA and you can deny or embrace- that is the choice- To deny doesn't make one more godly or happy. It doesn't make one self-sacrificing or righteous. It does make one dishonest and frankly, quite miserable! So I share with you this fact on written record (for the first time) I have been a happy person for the last 22 years living with another woman. My family loves me, there is no shunning of crazy Mom and the grands have grown up with Aggie as one of their favorite people. End of confession/sermon from the Hill, my Hill not DC! Dannelle

Char said...

If you haven't seen the Keith Olbermann video on Prop 8 and the yes vote....please take a look. While I am not always an Olbermann fan, this was outstanding.


Indigo said...

It's amazing how some people tend to think they are taking the high road, when in reality they are walkind downhill at a steep rate. I have often said, you can't control who your heart decides to love. It's such a natural occurance. I wish more people could see it that way.

As for the hair anology, reminds me of Native Americans being forced to cut their long hair. It's not the outlook, but the person themselves people need to take a closer look at. (Hugs)Indigo

Marc said...

You know, I actually think it's useful to come up with quirky arguments when you are dealing with an irrational bias. This might have more traction than a straightforward "civil rights" argument when dealing with those convinced sexual orientation is a matter of choice. (I always posit the scenario of a straight teenager coming to his parents at 16 and telling them he thinks he's attracted to women. It makes people laugh when I further describe the parent telling him he couldn't possibly know such a thing at such an age. They suddenly "get" how ridiculous such a reaction is for all the gays who have heard it from their own parents.)
Of course, then we have to confront the "yuck" factor--which is completely learned but very powerful, and then the Bible factor, which is equally tenacious but equally amenable to logical refutation, given the Bible never once denounced the institution of slavery--including Jesus.
What is far deeper is the need for certainty people have, as well as the need for one group to feel superior to another. No one is immune to it, and that includes gays. There is plenty of racism in the gay community, just as there is plenty of homophobia in the black community. There's also a lot of fetishization of blacks, I've known many a white guy who would sleep with nothing but. Which is probably neither here nor there but does add a interesting twist. I've known many a man who adjusts his attitudes about black men when he finds himself turned on by the right brother. Black women, of course, are usually worshipped, because you are the original DIVAS with ATTITUDE.

Robin said...

I remember reading about that 3-year old boy getting expelled from preschool for his hair style. Obviously, on jobs and other locales, hair or lack of hair should be clean, free of, say, lice, and if around food or machinery it could get caught in, kept up and out of the way. I can see if someone is portraying a certain theatric role that the hairstyle may need to confirm to that of the character being portrayed. Otherwise? Who cares, sheesz, and some of it really does seem out and out discriminatory. Interesting analogy in regards to chosing or not having a choice in regards to sexual preference (or even asexuality). I liked Helen's blog post on it; she's a vet and mentioned how many species out there have members with homosexual tendencies, so either God chose that for that individual, or God is imperfect. A lot of food for thought lately on the topic. Perhaps that's the good thing -- opening up the topic more TO be discussed.

chefkelly25 said...

Choice does have something to do with it. I am telling this from experience. Very interesting discussion. Let's look at it this way, the old saying "you don't know what your missing if you have never had it" is true. Think of it like ice cream. You have only been introduced to vanilla ice cream and have eaten it for years. Then you get to taste strawberry cheesecake for the first time. You may just decide that you like that better.

warrior scout said...

hey beautiful- nice post.

i work for an african american agency that tries to address health disparities in communities of color. one of my co-workers passed around a letter discussing the "gay white agenda" and how it has nothing to do with the harsh realities that gay african americans face each day. nor was it felt that the mainstream gay culture would even begin to embrace those struggles. i found this concept extremely thought provoking and i think it speaks to the very black bigotry that you speak of.

Indigo said...

Hey Sweetie, there is something waiting for you on my journal. Come for a visit to claim what is rightfully yours dear friend. (Hugs)Indigo

~Rebecca Anne~ said...

I've read your post, and all the wonderful comments and I'm just not sure what else I could add other then the fact I admire the way you will continue to help expose and educate. I for one have never met a person who made a direct choice to be gay, or white, or black, or Indian, or Asian.....people are what they are.

Claudia's thoughts said...

I really do not care what consenting adults do on their own time, as long as it doesn't involve children....