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A Response to Gay Rights Letter in The Dispatch

  A Response to Gay Rights Letter in The Dispatch
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So, the Dispatch put up a Letter to the Editor yesterday titled “Gay rights aren’t same as those of blacks“. Can I just get on my soap box for a second and respond?

I’m not surprised that The Dispatch chose to run this. Speaking as a black man, I take offense to this Letter to the Editor for totally different reasons than most. I’ll even agree with the writer’s argument that gay rights are not the same as the African American struggle for equal rights. What I think is wrong is that he is insinuating that the African American struggle is greater and therefore should have more deference than a far less important and presumably debatable injustice of gay rights. This argument has been made in variously thinly veiled forms for years. The writer conveniently forgets recent history when the same religious arguments were made to prevent black people from achieving economic, political, and social equality. And the gay community lets Darryl Baker and others get away with it for fear of getting caught up in a racially based argument.

But the real source of my consternation is twofold; black people don’t understand white gay people because they see them as a political leach, and white gay people don’t care to understand the social and economic complexity of black people and their struggle to keep what is left of their relatively young and fragile institutions. Black people are some of the most socially regressive and conservative people regarding sexual orientation and I think it has a lot to do with a profound lack of self confidence we have as a people. Black people have not done a very good job of learning from what has been done to us. And rather than being an unwavering supporter of human rights in all of its forms we have chosen to fear the unknown and as a result harbor some of the most homophobic leaders in America. As a result we are repeating the mistakes that our society has made throughout history.

However, I have to add that gay rights advocates have done an even worse job of building bridges with the African American community in order to educate and assist with credible information regarding gay issues. Blacks have the same percentage of gay people as any other ethnicity and their problems regarding public health and other commonalities with the gay community. These similarities are being ignored by the leaders of the Columbus gay community who are middle income and upper income white males, with few exceptions. Not only are African Americans (and other ethnicities) ignored by the leadership, but they do not help their cause when they choose not to come out. Effectively silencing themselves and perpetuating the perception in their communities that being gay is “not a black thing” and allowing white gay community leaders to get away with not advocating for very real gay issues like public health, domestic violence, and bullying that are prevalent in the black community. Very few African Americans are out to their families and friends. And we all know that coming out has been the most effective method of gaining support from public opinion.

And so, Darryl Baker has room in the Dispatch for his fear based attack, gets to speak for all of black Columbus, and not one gay black person challenges him. Darryl Baker has gay people in his family… he just doesn’t know it. And when his brother, son, daughter, uncle, or friend comes out to him, he will need the gay community to support him and his family with positive advocacy and information to help his family and his community. But first, black people need to come out and the gay community needs to be there for them.

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21 Responses to A Response to Gay Rights Letter in The Dispatch

  1. Marmo December 18, 2010 9:56 am at 9:56 am

    I read that editorial yesterday and was pretty irate with Mr. Baker’s reasoning for his views. It had to be addressed and I’m glad this website had the backbone to do it.

  2. readysetdisco
    readysetdisco December 18, 2010 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm

    i’ll second marmo.

    the racial segregation and power inequalities in the local gay community only serve to echo those other communities around us, which is both frustrating and horribly sad.  queer politics has a fantastic opportunity to reorganize the debate on race, gender, sexuality and poverty because we understand that all of these are related, that they intersect with one another in overlapping spheres.  darryl baker is a perfect example of what a community that has shifted its values from challenging normalcy to desperately pleading for inclusion creates. 
    i’m sure he’d be unhappy to learn that a similar debate occurred during the civil rights era, and that the compromise of ideals for assimilation’s sake can be directly compared to what’s happening now in the glbtq community.

  3. J.R. Locke
    J.R. Locke December 18, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm

    I have always made it clear when addressing the glbt community, as a political consultant of sorts, that you must stay very far away from comparisons with the civil rights struggle of African Americans. It is not the same, and the issues were/are not the same.

    The quickest explanation is look at the socio-economical indicators.

    I’ve got to run but as someone who has spent most of my life studying and involved in these issues there are very stark differences in race debates and sexual orientation/gender debates…..and I think we should never compare the two.

  4. readysetdisco
    readysetdisco December 18, 2010 1:01 pm at 1:01 pm

    i’m sorry, locke, but if you’re comparing inequalities and the structures that create them then i have to disagree.  sexism, homophobia, racism and poverty are all intertwined on an institutional level, and it won’t be until we reframe the debate that true headway and strides toward actual equality will be made.
    with that said, in my studies, which are apparently the same as your own, the co-opting and comparing of the civil rights movement has been a powerful factor in granting the glbtq community more equal protection under the law.  in doing so, the glbtq community has framed the debate as a matter of of civil responsibility, alienating those against it and labeling them as bigots.  while i agree the movements are not incredibly similar, i’m surprised that you would advocate, as one who influences policy, to not choose the already-proven most effective path.  this is good to hear, for as i have previously stated, the debate should be less about assimilation and more about structural problems within our system.

  5. Chris Sherman December 18, 2010 1:52 pm at 1:52 pm

    “But the real source of my consternation is twofold; black people don’t understand white gay people because they see them as a political leach, and white gay people don’t care to understand the social and economic complexity of black people and their struggle to keep what is left of their relatively young and fragile institutions.”

    ??

  6. Bear
    Bear December 18, 2010 7:07 pm at 7:07 pm

    I’m just a bit surprised that the logic in the original letter could get by anybody’s filters—including the author’s.  For example:

    First, the military places restrictions on everyone who serves, not simply gays. The rights of individuals have always been trumped by the greater needs of the whole. It simply comes with the territory.


    Second, it would be an infringement on the rights of other troops and, more important, many chaplains, who see homosexuality as a moral choice that is inconsistent with their faith and its free expression.”

    Um… just how is the behavior of straight people in the military made to conform to a chaplain’s faith?  No killing?  Oops.  No worshipping other gods?  Oops.  No working on the Sabbath, no adultery…?

  7. heresthecasey December 18, 2010 8:59 pm at 8:59 pm

    Not even getting into the content of either letter, my main question is: This is on the front page of CU?

    ??

    Did Walker take the day off?

  8. J.R. Locke
    J.R. Locke December 18, 2010 9:25 pm at 9:25 pm

    Readysetdisco – Would black folks who make 65% of the dollar their white counterparts do, say that was the proven path?

    To me the difference in debate is about economics and access. Homosexuals have had access, under an unfair but real-defacto practice of passing in society. Black folks haven’t had that luxury. That is why the comparison should stop and never ever be continued.

    And to be clear I always differentiate economics/access from social acceptance matters. Although these groups have a mixture of both, the GLBT community’s goals are aimed at what I see as an unrealistic goal of changing morals of faith believers that go back many thousands of years. I see the Civil Right movement of Black folks as a fight against the younger 300 year old institutions of racial division and capitalistic social hierarchy.

  9. Walker Evans
    Walker December 18, 2010 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm

    heresthecasey Says: Did Walker take the day off?

    I don’t write everything here. There are plenty of guest writers, contributors, editorials, features, etc.

  10. Jergarr27
    Jergarr27 December 18, 2010 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm

    I thought I was the only one who felt like things (socially) were going backwards…!

  11. heresthecasey December 18, 2010 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm

    @Walker,

    I understand that, it’s just that the tone and approach of this piece is pretty different from what normally goes on the front page. Especially in controversial topics like this, from what I’ve seen you always try to keep a neutral reporting view here (like the elections, budgets, etc.), and leave opinions and discussions to the messageboard.

    Just an observation of something i noticed. No foul intended for you or coolbuckeye, he certainly is very impassioned on the subject and can write verse well on it.

  12. SusanB
    SusanB December 19, 2010 10:36 am at 10:36 am

    J.R. Locke Says:
    Although these groups have a mixture of both, the GLBT community’s goals are aimed at what I see as an unrealistic goal of changing morals of faith believers that go back many thousands of years. I see the Civil Right movement of Black folks as a fight against the younger 300 year old institutions of racial division and capitalistic social hierarchy.

    J.R,

    Slave owners used the Bible to justify their ownership of slaves too. Slavery is a lot older than 300 years.

    Some LGBT folks can “pass” as long as they wish not to have families,  not live with the people they love, and totally repress who they are. Doesn’t sound good to me. And BTW lesbians have historically not  had “access” even when passing. I won’t argue that the two situations are as apples and oranges, but they both are food, so to speak. Why be hostile to another group seeking equality and human rights? It’s not as if there is a limited amount of freedom and human rights to go around.

  13. J.R. Locke
    J.R. Locke December 19, 2010 2:33 pm at 2:33 pm

    The American chattel slave system and its racial hierarchy was new and used science just as much as it used religion as its basis. Social Darwinism, phrenology etc….

    There are a limited amount of resources, which was what the Blacks Civil Rights Movement was about pre-1960′s.

    Again I don’t see what is wrong in saying that these are two different movements and recent political history shows that people get offended when the two are compared for political purposes. The quest may be the same but the stakes are entirely different.

  14. coolbuckeye December 20, 2010 9:40 am at 9:40 am

    Thanks everyone for commenting.  It really interesting to hear other people’s opinions.

  15. rory December 20, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am

    Quite a few antebellum abolitionists used the “it’s two different movements or it’s not the same thing” to speak against women’s rights. I think it’s conscience examination time when we get into my movement is more important than your movement or we don’t have time for that right now.

  16. TomOver
    TomOver December 20, 2010 6:06 pm at 6:06 pm

    This calls to mind Keith Boykin’s 1996 book “One More River to Cross: Black and Gay in America.”

    To what extent have socially and fiscally conservative politicians sought to use the black-civil-rights-versus-gay-civil-rights false dichotomy  to get communities of color to vote against their economic self-interest ? 

  17. J.R. Locke
    J.R. Locke December 21, 2010 2:14 am at 2:14 am

    “To what extent have socially and fiscally conservative politicians sought to use the black-civil-rights-versus-gay-civil-rights false dichotomy  to get communities of color to vote against their economic self-interest ?

    My guess is none. Conservatives have abandon all interest in things black a long time ago. There is a small “Booker T” percentage of conservative black voters on economic matters but the overwhelming reason that the black vote does not follow the same Democratic line on GLBT issues is due to the extreme role religion plays in the majority of the black vote. People forget that some of the strongest, most faith based political action comes from the left.

  18. Core_Models
    Core_Models December 21, 2010 7:53 am at 7:53 am

    “I’m more oppressed than you!”

  19. SusanB
    SusanB December 21, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am

    Core_Models Says: 
    December 21st, 2010 at 7:53 am
    “I’m more oppressed than you!”
     
    I hate that game. No one wins.

  20. J.R. Locke
    J.R. Locke December 24, 2010 2:05 am at 2:05 am

    Actually I think the least oppressed win….

  21. DavidF
    DavidF December 24, 2010 8:18 am at 8:18 am

    Actually I think the least oppressed win….

    Nice. Good to know ignorance at least knows no boundaries. So your struggle was so important that no other group should ever seek to improve their status in society lest it be perceived as an insult to yours? Way to make the entire civil rights movement seem selfish and petty.

    I agree that the who’s oppression was the worst is a silly game to play. Because group A wants to be treated with dignity and respect, I see absolutely no reason why that should be seen as an affront to group B.
    Should the civil rights movement have taken a back seat to the struggle of native Americans?
    Can you imagine telling MLK that his struggle had to wait because African Americans were comparatively better off than Native Americans?

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