Black life in America has historically been defined within the context of a set of uniquely diverse experiences, some beautiful, and some others fucked up incredibly difficult. To that end, the relationship of Blacks to the United States of America is a contentious one, as African slaves and their American descendants became the omnipresent “other” – the “them” to their “us”; the opposite of normal, an impossible-to-pacify minority. Updated for contemporary times, the “other” is now further defined as one who happens not to be male, or culturally white, or straight.
The formal abolition of slavery and subsequent efforts during the first Reconstruction signaled that Americans had a conscience. However, the establishment of American apartheid south of the Mason Dixon line shortly thereafter, coupled with a general policy of no hablo negroes bein lynched with respect to it, clearly signaled that said conscience had holes in it. And was negotiable if circumstances merited it. Still, advances made in the name of equality and respect for person-hood during the Civil Rights Movement further alluded to Americans’ attempts at fulfilling our lofty founding ideals. And thus, political, social, and economic gains made by minority populations thereafter followed an exceptional model.
And so, I suppose what’s most disheartening about discussions of equality are those that happen among minorities within minorities — who often fail to realize that their issues are the same. The Bishop Eddie Long scandal gift-wrapped for us an opportunity to see just how fucked up some of us can be about our conceptions of “rights” — who deserves em’ and who don’t. Bishop Long’s towering influence over Black opposition to gay marriage, in addition to his alleged affinity for Atlanta’s God-fearing Christian boys was just weird — to say nothing of those photos. Those muscle shirts. That hairstyle.
No matter what happens in this case, I hope the truth prevails; the truth, of course, should also bear an asterisk that reads: *dude was still pretty gross, though.
Remember those first few days? It felt like somebody had slapped church-going Black America with a healthy dose of reality. Not the kind that puts the Black church on dirty-old-man par with the Catholic church; the more obvious one — that if the inimitable “Bishop” Eddie Long could be feelin on young mens’ booties, then perhaps Antoine from the church choir might be more than just a little different. And finally, that Antoine’s limp wrists and cherry-flavored lip chap probably indicate that he, like millions of other Americans, is as gay as…well…as gay as Bishop Eddie Long might be.
But that’s the kicker. Bishop Long said he was like David, except that he hadn’t “thowed” no stones back at the effusive accusations of gay inappropriate behavior. Funny as the Bishop’s antics before and during the scandal may have been (in an irreverent anti-gay-gets-called-out-on-some-shady-gay-shit kind of way), the damage to the black psyche about what it is to be gay ain’t funny at all and had already been done.
I know my mother’s homophobia is mostly informed by both how and when she grew up in Alabama, but so, too, is her identity as a Black woman. What’s different in her case is that her community would likely rally to oppose discrimination as long as it was framed in racial terms. But, did Bishop Long and his ilk realize that when they marched in support of a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2004, that they were restricting individuals’ rights to equal treatment? Moreover, did they realize that they had operationalized the MLK approach to equality in order to protect the Jim Crow approach to marriage?
I remember that the 2004 elections swung in Republicans’ favor largely because of social issues — and by that, I mean because of gay issues. You ever heard of Gregory Daniels? If not, you need only know that the brother is a pastor from Chicago who declared in the New York Times in February 2004 that “If the K.K.K. opposes gay marriage, I would ride with them.” Word, Pastor?
I wonder if Bishop Long and Reverend King realized that it took a Supreme Court decision (in 1967, no less) to disavow the notion that Blacks and Whites shouldn’t be miscegenating — mixin’ the races all up. But, to that end, that the ban (although unenforceable) wasn’t removed from the Alabama state constitution until 2000, although nearly 40% of voters thought the document was perfectly fine just the way it was. Similarly, with regard to the ban on the open integration of gay and lesbian soldiers in the United States military, maintaining “group cohesion” was part of the exact same rhetoric which justified a racially segregated armed forces. Seriously, folks don’t see these parallels?
The concept of civil rights and the correlative struggle for equality is not one limited to racial discrimination and/or Black issues. Rather, it is rooted in the notion that an injustice anywhere is indeed a threat to justice everywhere. Thus, allowing folks to vote on whether or not two consenting adults can marry is absurd. And justifying said absurdity by intimating that the “people spoke” is the quintessential insult to injury. Equality isn’t defined differently for different people; that’s part and parcel of being equal. Additionally, the similarities between black and gay equal rights movements are about as obvious as the lengths to which many Black Americans (both liberal and conservative) go to prove them different. Fuck the religious piece; it’s not about that. Black heterosexuals don’t own the conception of civil rights, and the protections they accord.
Lastly, victimization at the hands of a tyrannical majority is dangerous in any regard. Faith and all that is one thing. A personal thing. Which we respect in its various forms. But, let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that pointing the finger at “them” isn’t also pointing the finger at us. Black unemployment being what it is, for instance, includes gay people too, y’know.