I sometimes read a blog known as Pandagon, but I hadn't visited in a while until a friend sent me a link directing me to the comments on a post by one of the writers, Pam Spaulding.
Spaulding who is both black and a lesbian, had written about the successful initiatives in Arizona, Arkansas, California, and Florida to legalize discrimination of people based on their sexual orientation. She also addressed the significant percentage (70%) of Black voters who had voted for Prop 8 in California, overturning recent law that recognized that people who are gay were entitled to marry the person whom they loved, a right that straight people take for granted. Spaulding pointed out that in spite of the large numbers, that as Blacks make up 6.2% of California's population and about 10% of voters, it isn't likely that the Black population was responsible for single-handedly passing Prop 8. However, she also indicated that the large anti-homosexual feelings that run deep in Black communities across the nation need to be addressed directly. Spaulding suggested that the LGBT community needed to engage in more outreach in the Black community challenging homophobia and bigotry based on sexual orientation.
For those of us who are black and gay, a group too often marginalized within a marginalized community, I see this as a clear signal to the LGBT advocacy community. There hasn’t been enough outreach to those groups who voted against us. We haven’t reached them; there hasn’t been enough effort expended. (Spaulding )
I think that Ms. Spaulding has a valid point, but as I was reading my friend Marc's blog entry for today, another thought hit me. When I was younger, and the civil rights movement was the hope of the future, I remember sitting in a discussion group and trying to explain to a well meaning young white woman that ultimately it was other white people who had to challenge white racism. I'm not certain that she understood me, but my words came back to me as I read Marc's entry.
As a black person, I have experienced bigotry and discrimination first hand. I know what it does to one's psyche to be treated as less than, to be denied the same rights as the majority population because you and your people have been identified as other. How can I not vehemently oppose any attempts to place any other group of people in that same cage with a lock forged from irrational fear and hatred? The same words that I spoke to that young woman some 30 years ago, I spoke to myself today with a little modification. As a black person, who understands that bigotry in any form is unacceptable, I have to challenge other people, black and white, when it comes to discriminating against anyone based on his or her sexual orientation. I like to think that I have lived my life in such a way that I have done this consistently. However, today I concluded that there is an even more important need for me to specifically address the Black community on this issue of civil rights where we should be standing in solidarity.
Yesterday, while reading Spaulding's post, I also read the comments that followed. One of them was from a woman who identified herself as a Black woman. She leaves a series of comments that get progressively more defensive and offensive. Listed below is her comment that started the discussion ball rolling ; the punctuation and spelling are those of the commenter:
Here’s my drop of honesty on this one: I am Black and a Woman.... but, I am pretty sure I am atypical:
-I do not go to church -I am selfish (I LOVE myself more than I love other people...I do not sacrifice myself on the alter of womanhood and motherdom) -I have dated more White men than Black men
-I do not espouse the status quo or the Patriarchy and I do not shy away from the word “feminist”
Here’s the thing though---; When presented with the question about whether homosexuals should be able to marry and adopt, my answer is NO. Furthermore: When people start waxing on about how anti gay marriage laws are reminiscent of anti miscegination laws and / or making comparisons between racism and anti homosexual sentiments, my hearing gets turned off. There you have it. Uhura! on 11/05 at 02:03 PM
I left the following comment addressing Uhura's words, but my comment is really for anyone who thinks like the person calling herself Uhura (I confess that as a long time fan of Star Trek in all its incarnations, I am really offended by her appropriation of Uhura's name):
I’m a 53-year-old black, southern woman. I proudly identify myself as a feminist. I am spiritual but I don’t attend church regularly. However, unlike you, my hearing is just fine and discrimination is discrimination no matter what disguise it may wear. Gay rights are a civil rights issue.
Denying people basic civil liberties based on sexual orientation is just as discriminatory as denying rights based on skin color, ethnicity, age, disability, national origin, socioeconomic class, or religious belief.
Indeed, the very act of demanding that people convince you as to why they are entitled to the same protections under the law as you are entitled to is in and of itself, discrimination.
If someone were to ask me to justify why black people are entitled to protection under the laws of this country, I would think that person to be a complete and utter fool. No one has to justify why they are deserving of civil rights. Indeed, the Declaration of Independence that sets out the founding principals of this country presents that these rights are "Inalienable." They cannot be taken away because they are not conveyed; they are each and every person's entitlement as a human being. Don't worry, I'm quite aware that the fulfillment of the promise of the Declaration and subsequently our Constitution has been an ongoing and sometimes sluggish process, but the ideology is clear.
No group of people has to justify why they are entitled to the same rights experienced by the majority. It is the responsibility of the majority to specifically delineate the basis for any restriction on those rights. That's the basis for our entire legal system. If someone is accused of violating a law, that person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is only when a jury of ones' peers determines that one is guilty of the allegations against him or her that the person's civil liberties are suspended.
You offer no basis for suspending the civil rights of an entire class of people based on their sexual orientation other than that you just aren't in favor of the idea of gay marriage or the adoption of children by gay parents.
"I really have a hard time expressing exactly why, and I would love to be converted to the other side of the argument. "(Uhura)
I find this exceptionally lazy. If you are going to express your belief that some people are not entitled to the same freedoms that you enjoy, you should at least make the effort to articulate the basis for your bigotry. Uhura, I really hate to burst your balloon, but you are a bigot and one of the more disturbing kind. Having grown up in the south, I have always preferred my racial bigots to be honest. Tell me flat out that you believe that my skin color makes me inferior and not entitled to the same rights and freedoms that you enjoy. Don't do some song and dance about how I need to persuade you of why I should have the rights that you so freely enjoy.
Your type of rhetoric is only designed to make you feel justified in your bigotry, to be able to tell yourself that you are not a bigot; it's those gay people who can't even justify why they should be allowed to get married or adopt children. No one has to justify why he or she is entitled to the same freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution to everyone.
Discriminating against the LGBT community is a civil rights issue, just like racial discrimination is a civil rights issue. No sane person would ever ask me to offer reasons why I am entitled to the same rights as white people. So Uhura, I offer you some choices: (1) you are insane; (2) you are a bigot; or (3) you are an insane bigot. You choose, but please stop running around pretending that you offer the black perspective.
Certainly there is a larger focus in segments of the black community on anti-gay sentiment and as Pam points out, there needs to be some serious strategizing as to how to ameliorate the bias. I also agree that the debate needs to be reframed to focus not on religious beliefs but on access to equal rights and equal treatment under the law.
Uhura, just so we are clear, I am not gay. I normally don't identify my sexual orientation except to people with whom I intend to have sex, but given your demonstrated proclivities for labeling any black person who disagrees with you as only doing so because they have a secret gay agenda, (Uhura accused a black male, who challenged her opinions, of being gay, in very unflattering terms), I want to make it perfectly clear that the only agenda that I have is one that recognizes that to discriminate against any person is to lessen the integrity of us all.