Monday, July 27, 2009

Marriage Equality in Black & White...or just White!

Recently I was enroute to my office. While riding the train into the city I pulled my recent copy (August 2009) of The Advocate from my brief case and began reading an article on page 50 entitled “What Gives in Washington?” The article was basically noting the frustration the LGBT community has with the Obama administrations slow movement of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law the defines marriage as being between and a man and woman. The article notes the there is rage in the community when it refers to the president’s progress. To be specific the article says “our rage”. When I read this I wondered what “our” they were refering to. For individuals that are not LGBT it is thought that we are one large group. However, there are several subgroups within the LGBT community. There is the community of color and the white community. When I read articles such as the one noted above the communities of color are not even a consideration.

If we look back to the initial Proposition 8 battle ground it has been successfully documented that while it was initially convenient to blame LGBT people of color, expressly the African American community, for the failure of successfully voting NO to Proposition 8. Based on the initial statistics many white LGBT men and women began blaming black and brown men and women for the passing of Proposition 8. When research was done beyond the statistics it was discovered that the “community” failed to look closely at the all of the communities of color (LGBT and heterosexual) and attempt to educate them on the need to vote NO. Once again, the white LGBT community had taken communities of color for granted. To any LGBT person of color in any city this is nothing new at all. We have always been made to feel unwanted from north Halsted Street (Boystown) in Chicago with the new Center on Halsted to the Castro District in San Francisco.

In the overall landscape of the marriage equality struggle, the communities of color have been all but absent. When I see an LGBT man or woman getting married their partner does not look like me and therefore, there is a since of extreme disconnect because it does not affirm my relationship with my partner who happens to be African American. The white community does not understand that dynamic to the debate of marriage equality nor have many of them tried to ascertain why the issue of marriage equality does not seem to be anywhere on our radar screen.

It would benefit those that in the marriage equality fight to review 2000 census, which states that more than half of the populations of Black same-sex couples in the U.S., are raising children.
· Black female same sex couples are as likely as Black married opposite sex couples to live with a nonbiological (foster or adopted) child (14%) while Black male same-sex couples are slightly less likely than Black married opposite-sex couples to live with a nonbiological child (10% v 13%).
· Black women in same-sex households parent at almost the same rate as Black married opposite-sex couples (61% v 69%), while Black men in same-sex relationships parent at about two-thirds the rate of married opposite-sex couples (46% v 69%)

Black women are discharged from the military under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell at rates far exceeding their representation among service members; although they make up less than one percent of the military, they represent three percent of those discharged.

When it comes to the progress or what is defined as the slow movement of the president’s progress we as African Americans look at it very differently. The LGBT communities of color see the steps that Obama has taken in his short 6 month term in a manner that is less about his progress on LGBT matters but his progress a the President of the United States. It most clearly be understood that the agenda of the LGBT community of color and that of the white LGBT community is different. It has been stated to me that if DADT and DOMA were repealed tomorrow the white community would not be on the battlefield for issues that matter in our community (i.e. HIV/AIDS prevention, joblessness, homeless teens, etc). We have not even tackled the issue of racism within the LGBT community.

It is my hope that the DODT and DOMA are repealed and I will do what I can to see that it happens, however, the advocates that are in the forefront must reach out to people of color for it is important for us all to cross the finish line together.

Monday, July 13, 2009

NAACP 100 Yrs of Equality...or... Is It?

This weekend the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) celebrated its 100th anniversary. This is a very proud distinction for the NAACP has stood on the right side of equality for many years and has been a voice for many who had no one to speak up for them, in doing so they remain a recognizable and stallwarth organization. With the highlight of the 100th anniversary and the climate of the current day the issue of gay rights of which marriage equality is at the forefront. The NAACP’s current president, Ben Jealous has stated in a recent CNN interview that the NAACP does not take an official policy on gay marriage. The organization refuses to take a national stance because as Mr. Jealous noted, it has polarized and broken apart other organizations when that has been done. Or in other words this is such a hot bed issue that it is not worth risking the future of the organization. However, they do plan to continue to fight for the other broader rights that same gender loving (SGL) men and women have to contend with (i.e. hate crimes, discrimination, etc.)

While Julian Bond, NAACP Chair, has come out publically in support of marriage equality he has also stated that this is not an issue that the NAACP would support from a platform basis. I find all of this very interesting and do not discount or shun any advances or hard work that I have benefited from by that of the NAACP as an African American man. However, I feel a little disconnected and disappointed that while the NAACP has publicly stated that marriage equality is a civil right, however, it appears that this is one civil right that is not important enough to stand in public defense of. I say this because while I was born an African American I was also born same gender loving. I do not, like most separate my ethnicity from my emotional orientation.

Mr. Jealous noted that there is a young man that grew up with that he considers his brother that happens is a transgender man. Also noting his difficulty with having to keep who he really is private in various settings and how that should not be the case. It always interests me when someone brings up a reference point of someone that is close to then to make their point of empathy. His statement reminded me of that made by some whites accused of racist attitudes who state “my best friend is black”. While that may be the case it does not cushion you from racist or in this case unequal judgment. My question to Mr. Jealous would be this “How do you explain with conviction and clarity to your “brother” that you can’t advocate for his equality at this time for it is just not politically expedient? Are my rights so much less important than those of my brothers and sisters who are in heterosexual unions?