by Adande, Guest Columnist
Welcome the introduction of a divide that transcends the color line. Heterosexuals will be the new “house negro,” the favored slave unaware of his puppeteer, pitted against the others. Black Gays, reduced to “fields negro” status, will struggle to gain favor amongst their glorified counterparts and reek of contempt. In my youthful naivety, I was under the impression that victims of oppression would be all for emancipation, but I forget, on occasion, that you can not be delivered from something you are unaware is holding you captive. If technology didn’t remind me it was 2005 I might think I was stuck in 1865 (sometime before June 18th). The 19th century Willie Lynch method has been modernized to recreate dissention in the Black community based on sexual orientation. Are we as Black Americans still so enthralled with the European bred westernization of society that we perpetuate our own cycle of subjugation? Or have some of us assimilated into a culture where conservatism and political funding substantiates the marginalization of our own community?
In 2004 the Abe Lincoln Black Republican Caucus (ALBRC), in Dallas, TX, made some controversial decisions. Now, I could begin by stating the obvious irony implied by the very name of the organization, but since that is just the tip I will simply note that it’s members are Black Gay Republicans. If the very fact that this group has chosen to align itself with Abraham Lincoln doesn’t appall you, then perhaps the fact that they endorsed President George W. Bush for re-election will. During that intense election year, they openly gave unwavering support for a President that does not affirm either their Blackness or their sexual orientation. This act was only surmounted by their release of a DVD entitled "The Emancipation of the Homosexual-The End of The Gay Rights Movement."
The hypocrisy of the ALBRC is a bit complex to unfold and even more perplexing to grasp. On one hand, they acknowledge that the HIV/AIDS crisis in America is one of the leading issues facing Black Americans and further that there should be changes in the dispersion of federal funding to reflect that reality. Since over 50% of new HIV/AIDS cases in America are Black Americans (primarily heterosexual), there should be more monetary assistance offered to organizations that concentrate their efforts in our community; yet a majority of federal funds are still allotted to Gay and Lesbian organizations with HIV/ AIDS outreach in the gay community and not necessarily the Black gay community. The argument for greater assistance in areas with the greatest need is not difficult to agree with. However, the ALBRC openly opposes Gay Marriage and the Gay Rights Movement. Feeling that GLBT (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender) organizations are unjustly comparing the Civil Rights era of the 1960’s to the modern day Gay Rights agenda, the ALBRC separates American civility along racial lines. While this may not seem to be contradictory, they subsequently seek to deny funding to any organization that may have HIV/AIDS relief programs if they are also involved with the Gay Rights Movement.
In general the ALBRC believes that gay rights advocacy groups have only aligned themselves with HIV/AIDS support systems in order to further their imposition of gay rights specifically marriage on the American society. Because of this belief, they propose that no organization that supports gay marriage, or with members who might be associated with separate groups that solicit support for the legalization of gay marriage, should receive funding for HIV/AIDS relief. Even though the platform for the ALBRC is multi-faceted, they wish to deny financial support to organizations whose missions are not unilateral or in complete compliance with theirs. If the Black community is in such dire need for HIV/AIDS outreach then any organization lending support should be appreciated irregardless of their other program functions. Furthermore, it is shocking how the ALBRC chooses to recognize racial biases in gay rights advocacy groups while turning the other cheek to the heterosexism that is blatant and overt within the political party they are associated with. Tapping into the Black vote during an election is just as much an ulterior motive by the Republican Party as the imposition of gay marriage that the ALBRC accuses gay advocacy groups of.
The issue of same sex marriages is being used by Christian Conservatives and the Republican Party to divide our community and foster a political party realignment. As the GLBT rights continue to gain national and international attention, Black religious communities aggressively deny the acceptance of Black homosexuals in an effort to avoid normalizing members of the community whose lifestyle has historically been deemed taboo. The Black community at large continues to see the gay rights movement as a white issue, even in the wake of the “down low crisis,” and high profile accounts of “outings” in our community such as Robert Traynham (Republican), Jonathan Plummer (former husband of author Terry McMillian) and speculations of several others. By aligning themselves with the conservatism of this country our clergy is leading us directly into a fire. The African American clergy is willingly being treated as pawns.
Many trusted Black religious leaders are joining white religious and political conservatives in using their influence to further destruct the possibility of any legal rights for the GLBT community as a whole. These affiliations, with financial ties to the Republican Party, have yielded documents intended to rearrange the priorities of the Black community. The “Black Contract with America on Moral Values,” sponsored by Reverend Lou Sheldon and the Traditional Values Coalition, and the “Mayflower Compact for Black America” presented by the Mayflower Compact Coalition and led by Frederick Douglas IV are two such documents. And while the Black Contract’s Six Point Program does outline some much needed reforms for Black America, under the topic of marriage, the main focus is prohibiting same-sex marriages. I fail to understand how anyone can view the legalization of benefits for same sex partners as the primary destructive factor against our families when divorce rates and Black single family households continue to rise in number. When concerned with civil rights, Black Americans have historically referred to the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote: “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Yet this new breed of Black American Conservatism is quite hypocritical. Having already fought for a system of equality and justice for every one in America along racial lines, some of us now condone discrimination along the lines of sexual orientation as if race is the only way to claim civility. By their own dogma, it should not matter what the distinguishing factor is.
Perhaps our Black Religious Leaders do not see, or do not care, that they are sacrificing members of the community in hopes that the politics of Black Americans will be given more attention in the long run. By jumping on the “defense of marriage” bandwagon, these new Black Conservatives are also supporting groups that are pushing abstinence only education for our public schools, laws against a woman’s right to choose, anti- affirmative action plans, opposition to universal health care, equal housing and several other important issues that plague the Black community as a whole. These are the issues that already comprise the Republican/ Conservative platform, yet our so-called leaders act as if gay rights are such a threat to the Black Community that collectively we should forfeit so many other rights currently afforded the American public. A Chicago minister even went so far as to say that he would “ride with the KKK” if they opposed gay marriage. How can my Black brothers and sisters ignore the fact that their “ride or die” attitude subjugates members of their own racial class thereby contributing to their own subordination?
While, my sexuality does not, has not and will never supercede my Blackness; neither does it negate it. The black community does not historically turn our backs on members in our community that commit crimes, adultery, abuse spouses, drink, do drugs, have children out of wed lock or participate in a variety of other indiscretions. In fact we pray for them, rally around them, request legal protection for inmates, create programs for monetary assistance for abused wives and single mothers, maintain alcoholic’s anonymous programs, therapy for sex offenders, drug rehab centers and whatever else. When all else fails we accept the person as best we can and move on. Legal protection is not a right afforded to only white Americans, only male Americans, only Heterosexual Americans. But as Black Same Gender Loving (SGL) individuals we have to rally behind the cause to be recognized. In church, amongst our families, with our colleagues, in our organizations, we must build bridges towards cultural acknowledgement. We can no longer afford to be seen and not heard. We must challenge our Black brothers and sister to open their eyes to the additional discrimination that we face within the Black GLBT community. Teach our breeding counterparts that communication breeds acceptance. WE must focus on developing allied relationships based on compassion and racial solidarity. We must remind them that we are their sons, daughters, sisters, uncles, mothers, and cousins, friends, past lovers, sorors, and bruhs. We are in your churches, singing in the choir, sitting on the usher board, and planning the revivals. We teach your children, diagnose your illnesses, bleach your teeth, make your travel arrangements, sew your clothes, clean your house, do your nails, fix your cars, and make sure your son doesn’t go to jail. We fought for freedom, women’s rights and civil rights just like them. We must remind them that we have always been in the same community existing, living, and loving each other. Most importantly we must declare our need for them. We can not afford to be silent anymore. We must remind them that we are family. And family makes sure that all are taken care of.
Editor’s Note: Adande, now 24, resides in Nashville, TN. She is currently a senior Sociology major at Middle Tennessee State University with minors in English and Africana Studies. Her post graduate plans include obtaining a PhD. in Gender or Women’s Cultural Studies. She intends to bridge her passion for Africana Studies, Women’s Studies and Queer studies in her research and writing. Professionally, Adande aspires to teach on the collegiate level. Believing college students possess the greatest source of unbridled intellect, she insists the constant flow of creative energy will keep her mind open as she focuses on becoming an accomplished essayist and novelist.