Did you know that not all of the gay community thinks Barack Obama is moving too slowly on gay rights? Sure, this website might be ragging on the president, but we certainly don’t speak for everyone! Some gays are still in love with America’s first black chief, and think his pace on furthering equal rights is just fine. And by “some,” writes ESPN The Magazine‘s LZ Granderson, we’re supposed to be referring to the black community.
Granderson’s basic premise: It’s the white gay community who finds fault in Obama’s slowness on gay rights, while black gays — often separated, both ideologically and physically from their white counterparts — disagree, but find their viewpoints go unnoticed and unreported in the media.
He makes a few good points, like how gay pride celebrations often skew largely white, how the effort to fight legislation like Prop 8 is a white-led effort, and how at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual fundraiser in Washington D.C., the only blacks on stage were the entertainment. But his basic premise is flawed: Just because there is self-segregation among the white and black gay communities doesn’t mean you can slap either of them under the “anti-” or “pro-Obama” umbrella.
Black Americans, gay or not, take particular pride in seeing one of their own in the White House. As they should. But all Americans, no matter their skin color, should share in that pride of seeing the diversity that makes up the United States finally represented in the highest levels of office.
And the same holds true for calling out the president on his faltering campaign promises. He did not promise to be a “fierce advocate” to the white gay community, but the entire gay community. We should all be demanding he keep his word, because we are all impacted. So we’re a bit miffed when when Granderson invokes the “gay is not the new black” premise to explain why the black gay community just isn’t as critical of Obama.
So while the white mouthpiece of the gay community shakes an angry finger at intolerance and bigotry in their blogs and on television, blacks and other minorities see the dirty laundry. They see the hypocrisy of publicly rallying in the name of unity but then privately living in segregated pockets. And then there is the history.
The 40th anniversary of Stonewall dominated Gay Pride celebrations around the country, and while that is certainly a significant moment that should be recognized, 40 years is nothing compared with the 400 blood-soaked years black people have been through in this country. There are stories some blacks lived through, stories others were told by their parents and stories that never had a chance to be told.
While those who were at Stonewall talk about the fear of being arrested by police, 40 years ago, blacks talked about the fear of dying at the hands of police and not having their bodies found or murder investigated. The 13th Amendment was signed in 1865, and it wasn’t until 1948 that President Harry S Truman desegregated the military. That’s more than an 80-year gap.
Not to be flip, but Miley Cyrus is older than Bill Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell.” That doesn’t mean that the safety of gay people should be trivialized or that Obama should not be held accountable for the promises he made on the campaign trail. But to call this month’s first-ever White House reception for GLBT leaders “too little too late” is akin to a petulant child throwing a tantrum because he wants to eat his dessert before dinner. This is one of the main reasons why so many blacks bristle at the comparison of the two movements — everybody wants to sing the blues, nobody wants to live them.
He adds: “This lack of perspective is only going to alienate a black community that is still very proud of Obama and is hypersensitive about any criticism of him, especially given he’s been in office barely six months.”
Alas, being “hypersensitive” over a president is not a good enough reason to give the president a pass, even if that’s the demand supposedly being made by the divisive white gay community. When John F. Kennedy became the first Irish Catholic president, the Irish Catholic community celebrated — but they were no more excused by giving him leniency than another demographic.
Barack Obama may be many things — a source of hope and inspiration, a great orator, a fantastic brand — but he is also the man charged with leading this country toward equality. No shade of skin color can change, nor argue with that. And Granderson’s whole “black gays are fine with Obama because white gays won’t invite them to their parties” shtick isn’t just unproductive, but rooted in the type of debilitating logic that only helps impede equality. (Not to mention whites get to claim “half” of Obama, too, for whatever it’s worth.)
Just try the reverse scenario: A white president who dragged his feet on, say, aiding the poor, but the impoverished white community refused to join poor blacks in criticizing the president because he was one of their own. Not only does it not make sense, it helps no one. This “hypersensitivity” excuse, frankly, is crap.