I’ve had this conversation with several friends of mine who are civil rights activists. The differences of opinion regarding the gay/black comparisons are as stark as, well, black and white. Despite the intense opposition from the black church culture, gay rights and gay marriage are indeed the civil rights battle of today.
Because I’m not black, this kind of conversation is always awkward — but it shouldn’t be. Truth is truth, no matter who says it, or the color of their skin. As luck would have it, though, I’m not the only person who makes the daring connection between the civil rights struggle and today’s gay rights push. Monique Ruffin, a Huffington Post blogger, has said very succinctly what should have been said long ago — by a great many more people than are willing to say it:
The civil rights issue of our time is gay marriage, and the key players in our country’s most significant civil rights movement are on the wrong side of it. The black church has taken on a new role: oppressor.
I didn’t say it. But damned if I don’t agree with it. I consider the story told by local activist Terry McMoore about how his entire family treated his brother with complete disdain because he was gay. “He eventually died of AIDS,” McMoore said. “Alone. So very alone.” He wondered if his brother would have survived and even thrived if he wasn’t discarded.
He’s got a point.
Sadly, I have friends who will say horrific things like “It’s good that the black community will stand up for biblical values” or some other lame tripe. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There’s nothing “biblical” about treating gays like shit or denying them their right to marry because you think it’s sin. There’s nothing “biblical” about oppressing another group of people just because you don’t think they’re not manly enough for you or they’re too much like a man. It’s revolting.
Consider the all-too-vocal hate preaching by Eddie Long and the recent scandal that involved at least four strapping young men. They all say that they had sexual relations with him and sued accordingly. Long declared from the pulpit of his Atlanta megachurch that he would fight it as a “David fights Goliath.” Alas, he eventually settled out of court. As such, it becomes obvious that “living on the down low” is all too often the way many black gay men feel they must live their lives.
Ruffin addresses head-on the “black isn’t a choice (but being gay is)” defense head-on:
Today, I am still shocked by the response of some of my black Christian friends to the plight of gay people in our nation. “I just don’t agree that gay people can compare their struggles to ours,” they bemoan. This is followed by the list of injustices blacks have experienced: the middle passage, slavery, lynching, rapes, and deaths. “Gay people haven’t suffered nearly as much as blacks,” they say. “Being black is not a choice,” they add. “As if being gay is,” I respond.
She quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” line, which is an absolute truth. We are in a time where gays are being threatened at every level — overtly — with clear attempts to restore sodomy laws (despite being struck down in 2003 with Lawrence v. Texas), and several countries in Africa working to criminalize gay relationships of any sort.
Historically, gays have been swept aside with laws that either criminalized various forms of sex, or bars were raided with people arrested just for holding hands, leaving LGBT people the only option of living in the shadows with a propensity for high-risk behavior. It’s the devil that society created, that society must now undo with laws that provide equality and fairness for all.
Gay is the new black. And some Christian blacks must be willing to look into their hearts and find the seeds of fear that would have them deny the humanity of another in the name of God (just the way it was done to them not that long ago). Let’s ask ourselves: do we fear gays or fear being gay?
I’ll answer that question: We fear being gay. Even those of us who ARE gay pass through the struggle — of the fear of being gay. We don’t want to be the outcast, the sex-behind-the-bushes fiend, or the drag queen with the raspy voice who lip syncs to “It’s Raining Men.” We fear that we’ll be pushed out of our families, kicked out of our churches, or discarded from society because of who we’re attracted to.
Even with all of this struggle, most of us who are gay eventually will accept our orientation as a part of our life that is neither insignificant nor definitive, and that we live as whole people. I’ll end with one final, thought-provoking quote from Ruffin’s piece:
Our freedom will not truly be granted until we can pass it forward. Gay is the new black, sadly, because many blacks haven’t been willing to embrace their own practices, secrets, fear, and shame about homosexuality. Many blacks have not been able to reconcile their real-life experience with their faith, and until they do this, they are oppressed people who are also practicing the oppression of others.
Read Ruffin’s full article at HuffingtonPost.