Enemies of the LGBT community have long sought to divide Americans for political gain. In recent years, they’ve worked hard to break up a progressive coalition that has included gay people and the African-American civil rights community. African-American gays and lesbians understandably are sometimes caught in the middle, and that has to be a painful place to be. So what’s to be done?
Our friends and partners at the National Black Justice Coalition are hard at work on this. Their annual Black Church Summit and the upcoming Power of Us conference in Baltimore help people face down the ugly tactics of the hard right. In fact, they’re sponsoring a special Candidate & Campaign Training for people of color by the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute (GLLI) in conjunction with the Power of Us conference. Together, we’ll work to train out candidates and campaign workers who can bring change to their own communities.
But working to heal the divisions of the past—and steel ourselves for future attempts to divide—will take the effort of all of us, and it will take the leadership of committed people who can speak truth to all sides. That’s why today we at GLLI announced the establishment of the Bayard Rustin Award to honor excellence in scholarly research about the participation of the African-American LGBT community in electoral politics. The cash award will go to the best graduate student paper on the topic, and it will be judged and awarded by the National Conference of Black Political Scientists at their annual meeting. The idea is to learn more about how LGBT African-Americans participate in politics, and what barriers exist to running for office.
About 11% of all openly LGBT elected officials in the U.S. are people of color. (That’s far better than the overall picture. Just 2% of all elected officials are people of color.) But African-Americans are underrepresented in that 11%. Working together, we can change that, so let’s begin.
Check out columnist Deb Price's article today on this topic.