Monday, October 01, 2007

Why black Americans should support the gay rights movement

This is so good I'm reproducing it in its entirety. Thanks to Joe for putting it up at his place. Spread the word, mis amigos.

"Gay and lesbian rights are not "special rights" in any way. It isn't "special" to be free from discrimination – it is an ordinary, universal entitlement of citizenship. The right not to be discriminated against is a common-place claim we can expect to enjoy under our laws and our founding document, the Constitution. That many had to struggle to gain these rights makes them precious - it does not make them special, and it does not reserve them only for me or restrict them from others.

When others gain these rights, my rights are not reduced in any way. Luckily, "civil rights" are a win/win game; the more civil rights are won by others, the stronger the army defending my rights becomes. My rights are not diluted when my neighbor enjoys protection from the law – he or she becomes my ally in defending the rights we all share.

For some, comparisons between the African-American civil rights movement and the movement for gay and lesbian rights seem to diminish the long black historical struggle with all its suffering, sacrifices and endless toil. However, people of color ought to be flattered that our movement has provided so much inspiration for others, that is has been so widely imitated, and that our tactics, methods, heroines and heroes, even our songs, have been appropriated by or serve as models for others.

No parallel between movements for rights is exact. African-Americans are the only Americans were enslaved for more than two centuries, and people of color carry the badge of who we are on our faces. But we are far from the only people suffering discrimination – sadly, so do many others. They deserve the laws' protections and civil rights too.

Sexual disposition parallels race – I was born black and had no choice. I couldn't and wouldn't change if I could. Like race, our sexuality isn't a preference – it is immutable, unchangeable, and the Constitution protects us all against prejudices and discrimination based on immutable differences.

Many gays and lesbians, along with Jews, worked side by side with me in the '60s civil rights movement. Am I to now tell them "thanks" for risking life and limb helping me win my rights – but they are excluded because of a condition of their birth? That they cannot share now in the victories they helped to win? That having accepted and embraced them as partners is a common struggle, I can now turn my back on them and deny them the rights they helped me win, that I enjoy because of them?

Not a chance."

Julian Bond, Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People


Miss Melville said...


It's hard for me to explain what the hang-up is, living out of the hotbed now and trying to describe the kind of hatred and stupidity which still plagues America to the people around me now. The thing is, it doesn't make sense-- and it shouldn't. Discrimination defies logic.

I know that the line "Bleed, bleed, poor country" is referring to Scotland, but I find it more and more fitting.

Michael said...

I saw an amazing documentary this weekend, Freeheld, about New Jersey police officer Laurel Hester. She's dying of lung cancer and fighting to see that her pension benefit gets passed on to her partner of five years. This request is repeatedly denied because her partner is a woman. If Laurel had married a man the day before she died, he'd get her pension benefit, but because her partner was a woman, she was to get nothing.

A good example of what Miss Melville says. Discrimination defies logic.

Laurel said that she and Stacie were simple people. They had a house and a couple dogs and all they'd ever asked was to be treated equally. Moving stuff.

llewtrah said...

A few weeks back, an email friend (and occasional real life acquaintance) whom I'll call "X" mentioned that a mutual contact now shunned him because he'd found out X had married another man. This was the first time X had mentioned to me his orientation as he was worried I'd also avoid him. I'd guessed the situation a couple of years back and was totally delighted for them that they'd tied the knot (I was getting teary-eyed and I've promised drinks and cakes all round at the next do). I was just sad that people can still be so hostile that X had to be worried about my reaction :(

ZB said...

Gays, Lesbians and Blacks have rights?

You're shitting me, surely? (There's an obvious gag here ceebs, I expect you to nail it).

They'll be giving them to Geordies next. And women. When will the liberal madness stop? Cockneys with the vote? Brummies not laughed at for having comedy accents? Americans with nuclear weapons and a strategically shaved chimp in a suit in charge of them...?

No, wait. Hold up on the last one...

ZB said...

Discrimination defies logic.

Yes. True. But it's fun. And without it we'd have no jokes.