Thursday, February 4, 2010

Is Gay the New Black?

During last Wednesday's State of the Union Address, you might recall the military brass who respectfully yet firmly remained seated when President Obama announced his aim to eradicate the military's controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. If there was ever any doubt before, the moment provided a crystal clear contrast between the Gay Rights Movement and the leadership of the United States Military.

There is a consensus among those of us here at The Urban Politico that Gays and Lesbians should not be treated as second-class citizens, including service in the military as well as the right to marry. We also note the extreme level of irony in the case where people who have never served in the military somehow feel they have the right to tell anybody, let alone Gay people, that they don't have the right to serve in something that they themselves have never signed up for. However we here at U.P. do disagree on one thing. When making the argument for Gay Rights, it has become increasingly popular to compare or, sometimes, to even equate the Gay Struggle with the Black Struggle. Gay is the "New Black," or so the slogan goes. Just as within the Black Community, some of us feel the two struggles are the same, while some of us feel that the two cannot, and should not, be compared. The Urban Politico staff weighs in after the jump.
(*special thanks to The Root for shouting us out on this topic*) 


The Janitor's 2 Cents:
I don't think that the Gay struggle should be compared to Black struggle, but probably not for reasons that you might think. I understand the attraction of wanting to use the Black struggle as an historic example of legal precedent standing for equality. As a lawyer, I get that. However, I don't think that's a smart strategy for Gay rights. In other words, advocates shouldn't say Gays have the right to marry today just because Blacks got the right to marry back in the 60's. One argument should not be dependent upon the other. If that's the case, then, for the sake of argument, if Black's were ever to lose the right to marry, Gays would then also lose the right to marry. Instead, Gays should have the right to marry because if a particular state denies them that right, that state is not following the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. Period. No matter who does or does not have the right to get married in that state. Another reason why it's not good strategy to base the argument for Gay rights on the Black civil rights movement is because the Black community is still largely beholden to the Black church, and I don't have to tell you where the Black church stands on the concept of Gay marriage. (see California's Prop 08) And lastly, when arguing before a court, there are still too many differences between (A) Black people and (B) human sexuality that can be used to distinguish, and therefore, defeat the argument for Gay rights if you try to equate the two. So in other words, I don't think that the Gay struggle should be compared to the Black struggle because it doesn't need to be in order to be victorious.

The Fed's 2 Cents:
Just yesterday Sarah Palin jumped on Rahm Emanuel for his use of the word 'retarded.' She said his use of that word was equivalent to using the 'N' word. While the use of the word 'retarded' is very insulting, and in bad taste, it should NOT be compared to the use of the 'N' word. I say this as an example of how far removed and desensitized we have become to one of the most devastating histories the world has seen. Our history has been demoted to that of a mere insult.

There is NO other race of people in one country that has the history of the Black American. From Slavery to Jim Crow, MILLIONS have fought, bled, and died for MORE than just equal rights, but also for the right for freedom, the right to live, and the right to be seen as a human being. You know the history, it is one that includes being considered only 3/5 a person. It is one that includes the need for a US military escort JUST to go to school. It is one where our country divided, went to war with itself - brother against brother, family against family. Up to and including the Vietnam war, the number of US lives killed in the Civil war surpassed the US lives lost in all other wars combined - not to mention the assassination of the US President. In my opinion, this history should NOT be marginalized and equated to simply a mean thing to say. The use of the 'N' word ISN'T the same, and the Gay Plight isn't the same. It is one thing to fight for the right to marry someone with the same sex. It is a COMPLETELY different thing to be killed for doing so - Heck, many times you didn't even have to marry, just LOOK at a white woman!

HOWEVER

This is not to say the Gay Plight isn't hard, or shouldn't be taken seriously! It absolutely should be. ALL Americans deserve equal rights. PERIOD! There are clear similarities between the old sodomy and anti-miscegenation laws.

Side Note: The SCOTUS heard the Loving case, and many anti-miscegenation cases back in the day. They showed courage to make our country better for everyone. For today's court not to tackle Same-Sex marriage issue, and brush it off as a "States Rights" issue, SCREAMS of the cowardliness that we have holding court today. Alito, Thomas, Scalia, Roberts can go down in history as cowards! This is a CLEAR constitutional issue, and you not hearing it is going against everything our country stands for...(That is JUST my opinion)

The Black struggle laid the foundation and should NOT be limited to JUST black people. Many groups benefited from the shit back people went through - rightfully so. Brown V. Board didn't just allow blacks to go to white schools, it allowed integration! That meant that Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Gay citizens in our country could all go to school together. MLK wasn't fighting for JUST Blacks, he was fighting for EVERYONE to be equal. I definitely feel there are elements that are the same with both fights. The states shouldn't be allowed to tell ANYONE who they can marry regardless of race or sexual preference. Even religiously speaking, I grew up in a home where everyone was a pastor, and I respect their position. But that position should stay IN THE CHURCH and not in the state (or federal) legislature.

In other words, the Gay community should be allowed equal rights BECAUSE of the Black American History, NOT because it is LIKE the Black American History.

Lady Z's 2 Cents:
I don't really have a huge problem with the Gay struggle for equal rights being compared to the long struggle African Americans have gone through. For me, the struggle for equality in the African American community can serve as a guide for Gay Americans as they fight for the same rights we all enjoy (This is an area in which I think we at The UP all agree). While I do understand why some people in the black community do not want the Gay community to "co-opt" the struggle of black people, I do recognize that it is the most relevant part of modern American history for them to draw from.

That said, it is important to point out that one of the main reasons why the movement for Gay rights has not had as much support as it should is because of the large number of African Americans who believe the bible says being Gay is a sin. We could probably argue until we were blue in the face over what the bible does or does not say based on our own individual interpretations, but for me that really shouldn't dictate the fundamental human rights of another person. I'm a Christian, but I am also an American. Like The Fed said above, at one point blacks were considered to be only 3/5s of a human being. Being a Gay American in this country today is not the same as being black for most of 19th and 20th centuries BUT there is some correlation there and I think that instead of getting upset when the two are compared, we should recognize those connections instead of dismissing them.

Right now Gay Americans are being treated as though they are not full human beings. This is not just about the right to marry, being able to see your loved one in a hospital, or being able to serve openly in the military. As Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell wrote eloquently in a piece for The Nation, Gay rights have to do with the right to love another person and by not allowing this union to be recognized by the state you are denying them a very important part of the human experience. She writes:
[A] good marriage must be among the most powerful, life-affirming, emotionally fulfilling experiences available to human beings. I support marriage equality not only because it is unfair, in a legal sense, to deny people the privileges of marriage based on their identity; but also because it also seems immoral to forbid some human beings from opting into this emotional experience.
While I agree with the majority of what was said by The Janitor and The Fed, I do not really get upset when Civil Rights and Gay Rights are connected because I honestly believe that black people should be the first ones in favor of fundamental human rights being afforded to everyone, given our history. I'm sure someone is now going to quote the bible to me.
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