By Anonymous (not verified) on March 19, 2010

The gay rights movement needs to strengthen its ties with the black community. To do so, it should be wary of claiming that marriage equality is the civil rights issue of the 21st century.

Such a claim is a big turnoff, according to a new study from the Arcus Foundation.

It’s supremely tempting to liken the struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights to the civil rights movement. The comparison lends moral authority and historical legitimacy.

But this approach isn’t working.

Subscribe to The Progressive

According to the Arcus study, many black people see the term “civil rights” as referring to a specific political movement, which peaked from the 1950s to the early 1970s. To them, another movement’s adoption of the term dilutes the power and uniqueness of their struggle.

Moreover, that struggle remains unfinished. Black communities continue to fight voter disenfranchisement, predatory lending, bias in the criminal justice system and labor discrimination.

There are plenty of openings, however, to strengthen the connection between black and LGBT people.

Hundreds of thousands of people belong to both communities. And people of color are adversely affected by homophobic laws, often more so than whites.

For instance, in 2004, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute exposed the fact that black women are disproportionately discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

What’s more, most blacks support the goal of equal rights for LGBT people.

The Arcus study notes that a majority of black people surveyed overwhelmingly support protection for the LGBT community from hate crimes, job discrimination and housing discrimination. To the extent that they show less support for gay marriage than on other issues, black people seem influenced by their religious beliefs, just as whites are.

And the lingo of a “new civil rights movement” gets in the way.

Let’s dispense with that, and focus on how to advance the goals of both groups.

First, both the LGBT and the racial justice movement need to shed more light on the racial impact of homophobia. The double prejudice adversely affects many people in both communities.

Second, the movements need to work reciprocally. If LGBT leaders want more support from the black community on marriage equality, the gay rights movement should include demands for systemic changes that blacks and other people of color identify, including on issues of affirmative action, voting rights and the criminal justice system.

Third, supporters in both movements need to drive resources toward LGBT organizations of color so their vital work can reach more people.

By working together, the black and LGBT communities can generate the kind of broad social movement that can expand equal rights for all of us.

Rinku Sen is president and executive director of Applied Research Center, a decades-old think tank on racial justice, and publisher of ColorLines, the national newsmagazine on race and politics. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org. The Progressive Media Project receives funding from the Arcus Foundation.

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

More

By Harvey Wasserman

 

The most hopeful, diverse, photogenic, energizing and often hilarious...

Capitalism is the enemy, and the ideology of growth and dominion over the Earth.

 

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham recently joined many of his Republican colleagues, declaring that...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project

Newsletter

Get Breaking News and Alerts!