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.