Marla R. Stevens

Race to the bottom loses all around...

Filed By Marla R. Stevens | January 09, 2006 4:36 AM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Politics, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex

Jocelyn-Tandy Torkwase Adande's been fussing about the new LGBT-inclusive Indianapolis Human Rights Ordinance, saying, "Passage of the ordinance was a mistake. To compare the plight of homosexuals to that of African Americans is an insult to my race."

Sounds like she needs to listen to African American gay people who can tell her that nobody's saying it's the same -- after all, how many parents of black people refuse to accept their children's phone calls because their kids are black? How many throw their underaged kids out on the streets to fend for themselves because they're black?How many of their brothers shoot at them through their car windows because they're black? I'd ask if she knew which group suffers the highest number of hate crimes and which group has the highest incidence per capita of hate crimes. I'd want to know if she knows which group's people can be put in prison in America for telling their government the truth that they're married to the one consenting adult they love? Which group were kings and queens in their own lands while the other group was being burned in the fires of the Inquisition by the Roman Catholic church? No, I wouldn't say it's the same at all.

But then I'd ask to which group the ideological and organizational genius* behind Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s non-violent movement and 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom belonged.

What most of the African American gay people I know would tell her is that oppression is oppression, that it typically flows from the same source, and that it doesn't much matter whether it happens to them because they're black or they're gay -- that it hurts into the bones either way.

What I'd tell her is that that's true but that she might look for commonality in practical terms to the poison to the soul that is passing and the history of people trying to move away from that to the honesty and spiritual wholeness that comes with being who they really are.

Jocelyn is trying to engage both groups in a race to the bottom instead of recognizing that oppression takes many forms against many people and that sometimes the same remedies work for more than one group of the oppressed.

She's playing to people who would keep us all down by reframing antidiscrimination laws as privileges -- which wierdly defines being discriminated against as being in a privileged state of affairs -- instead of acknowledging that they're remedies for something bad that simply try to get oppressed people on an equal playing field and stop them from being kicked off it again.

She's not doing herself or her people any favors. In fact, in trying to deny others just remedies for hurtful things, she's only hurting herself and hers in the bargain. Makes me wonder if she really counts all the hers as hers after all and what it's going to take for her -- and all of us -- to realize that us is them is us in an active enough way to finally end the pain.

* Bayard Rustin: "There are very few liberal Christians today who would dare say anything other than blacks are our brothers and they should be treated so, but they will make all kinds of hideous distinctions when it comes to our gay brothers. . . . There are great numbers of people who will accept all kinds of people: blacks, Hispanics, and Jews, but who won't accept fags. That is what makes the homosexual central to the whole political apparatus as to how far we can go in human rights."

About Bayard Rustin: "He shaped Martin Luther King Jr., brought Ghandi's teachings to the American Civil Rights movement and organized the historic 1963 March on Washington. But as an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era, Bayard Rustin was silenced, beaten, imprisoned and frozen out of important leadership positions-even as he fought for peace, racial equality and economic justice." -- excerpt from Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin

For more about Bayard Rustin, see Remember...Bayard Rustin (1912-1987) and Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin

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Thank you Marla for wise words. I have never understood why some in the black community are so threatened by gay rights. It makes me wonder if they're scared that if gays are given equal protection, the black community might lose what they have gained. Equal protection under the law is not a privilege - it is a "right" and we are all entitled to it. This whole thing just saddens me.

Marla Stevens | January 11, 2006 3:08 AM

Yes, equal rights under the law is not a zero-sum game. If anything, valuing it by working to extend it to all makes it stronger for everyone.

It's only people who want more of their fair share of the pie -- people like the religious political extremists -- who pit groups still struggling to achieve that against each other by defining it as a privilege instead of a right.