When you compare the Civil Rights Movement to the LGBTQ*? movement, expect critical backlash from Blacks as it happened on Tuesday with former RNC chairman Michael Steele and John Heilemann**. In fact, expect backlash from anyone who understands that the plight of Blacks in America is not the same for those who identify with being LGBTQ?. It’s understandable why the LGBTQ? community would want to draw comparisons between its history and African Americans history. It’s smart, too. For all intents and purposes, the Civil Rights Movement worked. African Americans mobilized themselves in the most hate-riddled pockets of the South and challenged discriminatory practices rooted in racism. And when images of Bull Conners ordering dogs and hoses on women and children reached the outside world, reasonable arguments in support of segregation flew out of the window and the emotional appeal to be treated as fairly and equally as whites opened the front door. People criticized movement leaders for using children in their non-violent tactics which they knew would be met with brutal force. I wouldn’t have sent my 10 year old down to Birmingham but I would have been secretly proud of his defiance and his willingness to do anything to get Americans to see that Black people are people, too.
My mother grew up in Jim Crow south, in segregated schools even though she was born after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision which overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine and ruled segregation unconstitutional but acknowledged that de jure segregation was quite harmful to the Negro because it denotes a sense of inferiority. How right Chief Justice Warren was. In cases such as this one and Loving v. Virginia, Blacks (and whites) were not just fighting for civil rights; they were fighting to be equal in every frontier of American life. It wasn’t just a fight for marriage, a fight for integrated public schools, a fight for counter service at Woolworth’s, or a fight to walk through the front door. It was a fight for humanity. There is the distinction. There is one right, as far as I know, that the LGBTQ? community seeks; the right to be married. Because with it, a quiver of rights become available to them as they are to straight married couples. And I want this community to have this right to be married and its associated rights and benefits but I will bare my fangs if someone tries to cling onto the history, blood, sweat, and tears of my people.
That being said, I readily admit there are likenesses between African Americans and LGBTQs. As I mentioned in the above paragraph, one family had to take the right to be married to members of another race all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It wasn’t until 1967 when the decision was handed down to repeal anti-miscegenation laws. Up until that point some states considered sex with Blacks an act of bestiality, sexual relations between a human and a lower animal. Anti-miscegenation laws were created to protect Whites from the threat of non-white blood in their families. States didn’t just impose laws that prohibited whites from marrying Blacks, but it prohibited interracial marriage from whites and Asians, Filipinos, Indians, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiians. The good ole boys in Georgia were so lazy in their legislative language that they flat out prohibited All non-whites from marrying whites. Apparently, there was nothing more important to them than saving the family. The same is true today for conservatives who purposefully seek to preserve family and marriage by defining it in exclusive terms. However, the target in 2012 is the LGBTQ? community.
By 1967, 40 states had had anti-miscegenation laws in effect since the early 18th century. Frankly, I don’t know how long sodomy laws have been on the books. My guess is since Biblical times. In 2003, the highest court in the U.S. ruled sodomy laws unconstitutional and repealed the laws in the 14 remaining states that held them. The fight for gay love, sex and marriage is finally turning a corner, with the recent decision ruling Prop 8 unconstitutional. I envision thousands of gay singles, lovers, parents, families with their family and friends in tow marching the Golden Gate Bridge hand-in-hand singing We Shall Overcome. This is a sweet victory in the fight for gay marriage and maybe 300 years from now, the Congress will authorize the month of May to be Gay History Month* and the rest of the society can scorn those 31 days the way they do Black History Month.
Another similarity between us and them? (Hopefully, you get that I’m being funny. Or at least trying to be funny.) The intolerance, prejudice, and hatred breeds violence. I’ve spent more hours than I would have liked watching the accounts of GLBTQ? lives ended far too soon. Matthew Sheppard, Brandon Teena, Fred Martinez Jr., and Gwen Araujo. And these are just the stories that garnered national attention and caught my eye. Gay people been murdered for being gay since the days of Leviticus. Blacks? Well, we all know of the brutality that reigned over the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade before domestic terrorism took over in the form of white robes, burning crosses, whites only signs, and nooses. All of which, my own mother bore witness to in NC during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. And in 2005, burning crosses popped up overnight in my NC hometown, never identified as the work of the klan although there has always been speculation about the location of a meeting house, no more than a few miles from my high school.
Did Blacks overcome? In some respects, yes, but we all agree we haven’t been to the mountaintop yet. Has the LGBTQ? community overcome? Not completely. Although, in most countries sodomy is not met with death by stoning. We all know why Iran doesn’t have a homosexual population and it isn’t because Persians are immune to gay. These two groups, set apart from greater society at large on the basis of race and sexual orientation, will undoubtedly continue to march up the mountain and even seek new avenues to crusade. How wonderful it would be to do it together, under the collective umbrella of one humanity. That might also be the day hell freezes over.
It’s not just a Black thing. It’s not just a LGBTQ? thing. But when your group is targeted, attacked and denied basic human rights, then you seek solace with the people in the same boat as you; not with the people in a similar boat. The same boat. Maybe we can admit that other groups have it bad, just as bad, not as bad, way
more bad worse. What is this? Why do we do it? I’m not sure. We can blame it on human nature. It certainly makes sense to me to forge alliances with people who are like you in look and condition; people who you maybe wouldn’t even like but because you share a history of oppression, you create a culture together and the rest is history. We’re apples. You’re oranges. Don’t compare the two, unless you’re making general fruit statements.
It angers me and a lot of Black people that I know to draw parallels between the Civil Rights Movement, which waged for many rights and liberties denied to Blacks, with the gay marriage movement which is about marriage. I really do see the irony of my words. It’s the focus on differences that pitted Blacks against whites, Jews against Christians, and straight against gay. And still, please don’t do it. Here we stand, our nation is 235 years old (if you go back to the Declaration of Independence) and is one nation to millions of people of different ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs. I imagine our Creator beaming with pride that we haven’t killed each other off by now. Not only that, but there are friendships across religious lines, there are families across racial lines. There is love across lines. The lines men created many moons ago still against. Let us not pretend that they aren’t there. Look at the Holocaust. Look at U.S. slavery. Observe the prevailing themes of hatred, violence and forced labor. Don’t call slavery the Black Holocaust. There is no need. It’s not the same thing. Slavery is one of the most ugliest blights of American history. It doesn’t need to be compared to one of the ugliest blights of world history.
What does that do for African Americans, progeny of U.S. slaves? What does that do for Holocaust survivors and their descendants? Or put another way, can you imagine anything worse than slavery? Can you imagine anything worse than the Holocaust? Can you imagine anything more tragic than Rwanda? Or people turning against people because they aren’t white or Christian or free or straight — or even considered people? What is worse than humanity looking at their fellow man and refusing to see their humanity, denying them the full life and rights of humanity? Hopefully, it’s just a matter of time before our government upholds its end of the social contract and declares marriage as a civil contract between two consenting adults. Until then, this much is true. Yes, we’re alike. But we’re not the same.
*Is there any way to shorten LGBTQ? to something that wouldn’t offend one of those letter groups? All those letters wrecked my flow.
**For the record, I agree with John Heilemann. However, this kind of reasoning wouldn’t work on someone like Steele. He’s Republican.
***Why did I just find out that there is such a thing? Did anyone else know?