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.