Michael Crawford

Surprise: Some Black People Don't Hate the Gays

Filed By Michael Crawford | October 02, 2007 7:45 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: gay rights, LGBT, lgbt rights, people of color, race

I am beginning to wonder if Chris Crain, former editor of the Washington Blade, has been spending time discussing Black Americans with Fox Noise commentator Bill O'Reilly over chicken wings at Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem.

Just as O'Reilly seemed to be surprised that Black people go to restaurants and eat dinner just like everybody else, Crain is now expressing surprise that African-American leaders including Princeton University professors Cornel West and Melissa Harris-Lacewell and NAACP board chairman Julian Bond have voiced support for the federal hate crimes bill. And, of course, Crain sees something fishy about the whole thing:

Well said, though I can't help but notice the curious timing for this groundswell of vocal support for the hate crimes bill. Two factors could explain the trend.The more neutral would be that the bill was up for a vote this week in the U.S. Senate. Of course, the prospect that it would come up for a Senate vote has been around since at least July. The other is the decision by the Human Rights Campaign, the bill's strongest backer, to take its own vocal stance last week at the controversial Jena 6 rallies in Washington, D.C., and Jena, La.I'd like to believe the timing is because of the Senate vote this week, but I can't help but wonder… What do you think? Was this scratch-your-back politics at work?

Now, the reality is that African-American leaders have been vocal supporters of LGBT equality for years including people like Bond and Coretta Scott King who have spoken out in favor of marriage equality and members of the Congressional Black Caucus who have been almost unanimous in their support of the hate crimes bill and ENDA. And there have been ad campaigns and online videos of Black allies challenging our homophobic culture. Its just that now their words are penetrating the snow white fog that seems to envelope Crain.

White LGBT people love to throw out the notion that the Black community is more anti-gay than the more enlightened white people while conveniently forgetting that the Catholic Church is led by whites, Fred Phelps is white, the Republican leadership is white, Concerned Women of America, Focus on the Family and the American Family Association are all led by whites and that many of the thugs who attack and beat LGBT people are white.

I don't deny that there are Black people who are anti-gay in their beliefs and quite vocal about it. I just find it more than a little frustrating when white LGBT people are surprised that some key Black leaders are not only not homophobic, but speak out loudly in favor of LGBT civil rights.

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beergoggles | October 2, 2007 9:08 AM

Even if it is scratch your back politics, what's wrong with it?

We needed to expand our base of allies, and when our gay organizations do so, they get criticized for it by the very same people who criticize them if they don't publicize their outreach to other allied communities. Crain does bring up good points sometimes, but other times like this, you just need to tune him out since he's just rambling to hear himself speak.

Jen Jorczak Jen Jorczak | October 2, 2007 12:39 PM

I agree with Michael that there's homophobia on both sides of the color line, and I agree with BG that it doesn't matter if the recent supportive comments from black leaders are due to LGBT support of the Jena 6. Part of coalition building is recognizing where your potential partners are coming from, and part is sometimes making the first move yourself.

We're all in this together.

I have to admit, Michael, that I tend to think of African-Americans as more homophobic than white folks. Maybe it's the whole DL thing, or the black ministers railing about homosexuality so much, but I guess I've tended to gloss over the fact that most of the homophobic ministers are white. Thanks for opening my eyes.