.The January 27 issue of The LA Progressive contains an op-ed by Anthony Asadullah Samad entitled “Outing King: The Hijacking of the Dream (and the Civil Rights Conversation).” Following are excerpts.
The questions of whether “gay rights” is the new civil rights and why society should view nontraditional same-sex marriage as central to the nation’s civil rights agenda have been persistent. Absent a strong moral argument for legalizing same-sex relationships in traditional institutions like marriage, gays have chosen to use the 200-year black equality struggle as the basis for their advocacy, despite the fact that there have been religious, women’s, and immigration movements that have occurred during this same period.
This year, I’ve concluded that this is a strategy to tie the legacy of Dr. King to a culture shift around same-sex marriage that is short on symbols and short on logic. The cooptation of the civil rights movement is in full effect by gays and lesbians looking to rationalize why society should adopt a cultural norm that has been rejected since the beginning of time, the mainstreaming of homosexual practices in the context of family and marriage.
Gay activists have, in fact, correlated their struggle to that of blacks in America and even monikered their struggle as the contemporary equality movement, calling gay “the new black.”
. . . Slavery and segregation were legalized (but unconstitutional) caste systems that called for a total indiscriminate exclusion of African Americans from American society. That is NOT the gay struggle. Sexual orientation is seen by most as a choice, and even if it is not a choice, it is a right of enjoyment by which the government has no role. Who you love and who you co-habitate with is a right of privacy that is not denied gays. There were no signs up that said, “No Gays Allowed.” Or “Straights Only.” Blacks had no “closets” to hide in to mainstream themselves until they decided to marry. There was NO PLACE to hide for blacks.
Two days after the publication of Samad’s op-ed, The LA Progressive printed a response by “MLM,” an African-American gay man. This response, entitled “Martin Luther King Stood Up for What Is Right,” is reprinted in its entirety below.
The author, Samad, seems insulted by the parallels drawn between the gay rights movement and the black civil rights struggle. As an LGBT person, I realize that if I get killed because I’m gay, it’s no different than if I get killed for being black. Either way I’m dead, and the terroristic consequence on other members of my group is just as effective regardless of the murderer’s hateful reasons. That is the first similarity between racism and homophobia. Is racism worse than homophobia? Is/was it harder for blacks than gays? Ask a mom whose gay son was beaten to death how hard it is. More to the point, why should we even have to compare different forms of discrimination and hatred? The death of one mother’s son is one too many, and the institutionalized oppression of any American is against our Constitution, regardless of what your religion tells you about God hating gays. Samad even justifies his opinion by saying that gays can at least HIDE who they are. Jeez.
Another major similarity between oppression of gays and blacks is exemplified by the author’s own words: “While tolerance breeds acceptance of the norm, it doesn’t default to support for modifying core beliefs around cherished institutions.” Well, duh. One of the biggest barriers to racial equality was and still is that our cherished institutions promoted racial inequities. The judge upholding the anti-miscegenation law in the famous court case Loving v. Virginia actually quoted the Bible as justification for preventing marriage between people of different races. Samad says, “The flaw in the gay advocacy is the unreasonable expectation that anyone would go against what they believe, particularly when it is re-enforced by their spiritual belief system.” Good thing King didn’t give up just because racist whites thought God made them superior. Sacred and cherished institutions and beliefs kept black oppressed for far too long. Continuing to deny LGBT citizens equal rights based on archaic, distorted biblical beliefs is just as wrong.
King never advocated for equal rights for homosexuals, and Bayard Rustin, an organizer in King’s organization was held back because of his sexuality. Not surprising, given that even today educated blacks like Samad still want to believe God and the Bible support oppression of gays. Guess what, Samad. No women were in prominent positions in King’s organizations. Gee, maybe that’s because women were oppressed in the same way gays were. Not that we need to compare oppressions now, do we?
If King were alive today would he support gay marriage? I don’t know, but given King’s words and actions, I find it hard to believe that he would be suckered into the kind of thinking that Samad holds so dear. Samad is a heterosexual, religious black man refusing to recognize any similarities between racial injustice and institutionalized oppression of gays, and he is out of line to try to speak for Martin Luther King Jr., implying that King wouldn’t have supported equal rights for all, including LGBTs.
Samad claims that gay rights activists tie King to their cause to legitimize their movement. That’s not true; the gay rights movement is legitimate all on its own. Our US Constitution provides for equality, and every single law that oppresses the gay minority is unjust and unconstitutional. If you don’t like the idea of gay marriage, don’t marry someone gay. But my kids don’t have equal rights to children of straight couples, and that is both wrong and mean spirited. Think about that next time you get the chance to vote on whether or not gays should have marriage equality. When you discriminate against gays, you’re discriminating against their heterosexual children as well. Samad wants to discuss morality, as if his distorted religious beliefs dictate morality for American citizens. How about discussing the morality of oppressing children of LGBT citizens?
Finally, Samad says that blacks are not going to be “guilted or bludgeoned” into support of gay rights. That’s probably true, because religious institutions and beliefs had allowed people to justify oppression or others for centuries. Hurting gays is nothing new. We were tortured by the millions by the Catholic Church, murdered by the Nazis and today straight Americans get to vote away our rights. Straight blacks are not going to feel guilty about oppression gays as long as their religious leaders continue to claim we’re some aberration against God’s plan. The fact is, homosexuality is a natural form of human and animal behavior, and probably evolved as part of mammalian social behavior. Being gay is like having brown eyes; it’s likely based on genetic and/or environmental influences and is found in every advanced mammal species and in every corner of the world (except in Iran, where they’ve killed enough of them to cause the rest to hide in fear for their lives). So who’s doing the bludgeoning, Samad? You think drawing parallels between the gay rights movement and the black civil rights struggle is bludgeoning? Really?
Samad says, “I wish they would stop hijacking King’s dream by an inferred association…” That’s nonsense. King’s dream already includes me, both as an African American and as an LGBT citizen. There is no hijacking going on. King stood for equality, and there are clear parallels between racial injustice and oppression of LGBTs. The only difference today is that men like Samad are still mired in their own homophobic beliefs. Just as racist bigots used the Bible to justify oppression of blacks, Samad is willing to believe that institutionalized oppression of LGBTs is OK.
I don’t care if you believe that whites are better than blacks, or if your religion teaches that the Bible says gays are immoral, you don’t have the right to oppress other citizens. You don’t have the right to deny the benefits of civil marriage to the children of gay citizens. Not in this country. That’s what makes Martin Luther King’s work so powerful – he stood up for what was ethically right, and his demands were in alignment with the Constitution of our great nation: Equal rights for all!
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Same Premise
Why Civil Rights Leader Julian Bond Will Be Marching for Gay Rights
Recognizing the Similarities Between Racism and Heterosexism
The Giant Pink Elephant of Religion-Based Bigotry
Recommended Off-Site Link:
Gay the New Black! Well, Does It Come in My Size? - Black Gay Gossip (April 2, 2009).