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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Column: Is gay the new black?

The gay rights movement closely resembles that of the civil rights movement years ago.

Martenzie Johnson

March 4, 2014

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

Is gay the new black?

No. Not at all. Not even close.

LGBT people have never and will never be enslaved for over 200 years based off of their sexual orientation. LGBT people will never be subjected to Jim Crow laws and segregation that ravaged the South 100 years after slavery was deemed unconstitutional and immoral. As a whole, LGBT people will never have to deal with systemic racism, like the school-to-prison pipeline, that negatively impacts young black men. The LGBT community could, if it wanted to, turn a blind eye to colorism, which affects black women on a day-to-day basis.

So, again, gay is not the new black. African-Americans are not extinct like the dinosaurs; we are still dealing with over four centuries of oppression, racism and discrimination.

But gay rights are the new civil rights.

Although the American social movement of the mid-20th century is known as the civil rights movement, it does not mean civil rights solely belong to black people. The leader of the non-violent version of the movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., borrowed his ideology from Mahatma Gandhi, whose philosophy of passive resistance led to India’s independence from Great Britain.

King wrote in July 1959 that “while the Montgomery boycott was going on, India’s Gandhi was the guiding light of our technique of non-violent social change.” He added that Gandhi “left India more convinced than ever before that non-violent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”

So while blacks like to think that their fight for freedom through the 1950s and 1960s was unique to them, it wasn’t. Which brings us to the current fight for the LGBT community.

Arizona lawmakers recently passed a bill that would have made it legal for Arizona business owners to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers if it violated their religious beliefs. Although Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill last Wednesday, the bill was able to make it through the state legislature and senate.

Not to be outdone by Arizona, Missouri Sen. Wayne Wallingford filed Senate Bill 916 last Monday which would protect Missouri businesses from legal action if they refuse service to gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs.

When Americans think back on slavery and racial discrimination, we always ask two questions: How? Why?

As much as we like to blame our history on bad people who did bad things, there is actually a more modern reason: religion.

Wake Forest law Professor Michael Kent Curtis wrote in a 2012 law review article that, “Slavery, racial discrimination and segregation, and opposition to women’s rights were all supported by strong religious arguments bolstered by citations to the Bible.” Curtis went on to write that Sen. Robert Byrd cited Genesis 9: 18-27, Genesis 1: 21-25, Leviticus 19:19 and Matthew 20:1-15 during his 14 hour filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Former Mississippi Senator Theodore Bilbo once wrote that “purity of race is a gift of God … And God, in his infinite wisdom, has so ordained it that when man destroys his racial purity, it can never be redeemed,” according to ThinkProgress.org.

Besides the ramifications of legal discrimination against U.S. citizens, the LGBT community faces similar perils of blacks. Gays and lesbians can get married in fewer than one-third of states. Gays and lesbians are bullied and killed based solely on their sexual orientation. Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in the NBA, wears the No. 98 on his jersey to remember Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was tied to a fence post and beaten to death in 1998.

Even Collins, who was integral in back-to-back NBA Finals appearances for the New Jersey Nets in 2002 and 2003 and earned a $25 million contract for his services, has had his skills and purpose questioned based on his sexuality.

Writer J.R. Gamble wrote that Collins is “playing in the NBA today because he is gay and possibly taking jobs away from heterosexual males who … don’t have that extra ‘gay’ trait.” Gamble, whose article focused on Michael Sam and the “attack on heterosexuality in pro sports,” foolishly forgot that Collins was on an NBA roster last season before he even came out.

People like Gamble are no different than the bigots of the last four centuries. When it comes to blacks, there are always questions of their intent, purpose and danger to white people. As many differences as there are between the plights of blacks and the LGBT community, there any many similarities as well.

Until homophobia is no longer acceptable or “politically correct,” like racism, then there will continue be a shade of gray between gays and blacks.

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