Friday, February 02, 2007

Universal Discrimination

Admittedly, I haven't posted much of anything substantive of late, I've been mired down with my own sh*t (as a line in the musical Rent goes) and haven't felt the needed inspiration to be, well... inspirational. I'll write more about that later.

I found an article that I want to share with you now. As anyone who is gay or lesbian can attest, one of the loudest counter-arguments we hear is the disdain and frustration some white and some black folk have when anyone in the LGBT community dares to associate their discrimination with that of the experience of the African-American/African community.

You may have heard or read where I have equated the two communities. And I have. I have done it to remind us that discrimination has been experienced by many people in many generations. Just when you think we've "moved beyond that", a simple example or correlation demonstrating that it's happening again is, often times, very appropriate.

To give you an example, several years ago I was manning a LGBT information table at a UCC State Conference in New York. That was the year the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns, NY Metro Chapter (in which I was the founding president, ..ahem..) had proposed to the Metro Association to declare itself Open and Affirming, a statement that would let everyone know that in the Metro Association, no one would be condemned for their sexual orientation, whether in politics, in the ordination process, or other arrangements. As you might imagine, such a resolution was a big deal and their was much discussion. The proposed resolution eventually passed. But before the resolution passed, there was some mighty tense moments in conversation.

Anyways, back to the table I was manning. I was approached by an African American pastor who verbally confronted me and dared to ask, who the (heck) did I think I was!? and, "Can you dare to even slightly suggest that the plight of the African American can even be slightly compared to you gays?!" And I said, "Well, yeah, actually it can and does." I should have thought of more witty things to say... but those witty things didn't come to my mind until 15 minutes after the man walked away. Grrr...!! I hate it when that happens.

The thing is, in many States, you can be fired from your job, based solely on the realization or information that you're gay. You can be kicked out of your apartment, if the landlord finds out. In the state I am from (Oklahoma), those laws weren't even challenged until the one is Texas was struck down when the police broke into an apartment of two lovers to discover them sleeping together (and they were subsequently arrested for it). Fortunately, those two particular gay men had balls and, with the ACLU, challenged Texas' sodomy laws and won! (If you are unfamiliar with that story, go here.)

But here's my point: We really can compare the two--even if slavery was (and is) a more hideous crime. Stealing people from their lands and making them slaves for two hundred years is immoral, sinful, and evil. And the continued racism that exists today (because of that old slavery) is immoral, sinful, and evil. And discrimination that exists today, whether based on gender, disability, economic situation, or sexual orientation is immoral, sinful, and evil. No one person has the sole monopoly on discrimination and no one people are entitled to confront the systems of injustice. In fact, as Christians we are all entitled and empowered to do so, regardless of ones race, gender, religion, economic situation, or sexual orientation. As Jesus went about dismantling the systems of discrimination (remember the non-Jewish women he associated with?) and calling to the minds of everyone that in God's eyes, we're all equal. The Apostle Paul even reminded his readers that neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, we're all equal in God's eyes. Sure, Paul didn't get the whole gay thing- but he did lay the foundation that in God's eyes, we don't judge each other by the color of one's skin but by the content of one's character. Whether such a view is expressed by Paul or Dr. King, there are some truths that are eternal and thereby God-centered. Emancipation and anti-discrimination are other such eternal and universal truths.

And I am not the only one to think so. So did Coretta Scott King, the late wife of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And according to her, both she and Dr. King were just as adamant in the 1960s (and later after Dr. King was assassinated) that LGBT persons not be disparaged as African-Americans were and are. Standing with such icons of human equality, we can all learn the lessons that discrimination isn't just a color issue, it's a universal one.


sjcaruthers said...

I worked with persons who held that wearing a mini-skirt was asking to be sexually active and hence rape was not possible. I never bought that line of logic, nor have I ever bought the line of logic that slavery or wrongs to gays was ever part of the law of this land. Slavery was outside the law of this land, before the so called Civil War and after the so-called 13th Amendment. What I have trouble with is, why few of the blacks or gays, do not use the law of this land, the Declaration of Independence for their bases of treatment. As a joint, non-severable, co-equal owner (by ONE'S choice of adoption- unless ONE IS very, very old) you are one of many of the owner's and maker's with Unalienable Rights from the true Creator of the law of this land. PS: Regardless of what the hired help says, or your child says, OR THE 5'0-CLOCK NEWS, I know of no Creator who has put the hired help, kids, or the farm animals over the makers.


Bo said...

Sieg,you make several great points- and to speak to it, the African Americans have used the Declaration and the Constitution to win their freedom from discrimination (cf: The Civil Rights Act). And LGBT have used it, many states have overturned their sodomy laws when gay folk challenged the laws of the land by using the Declaration and Constitution as a foundation for our arguments for equal treatment under the law.

What makes this process ongoing for African Americans and gay folk is that old prejudice is holding on by its teeth and won't let go. As a result, at least for gay folk anyway, is that new laws are being enacted to work around the Constitution and Declaration. And, fear is being used a tool to accomplish it. And 'what if' scenarios are being discussed as a basis for continued discrimination (e.g., if we allow gays to marry, then next people will want to marry animals, et al.)

African Americans know all about the power of fear--the White Power uses it to control and ensure that black folks are "tolerated" (as opposed to affirmed and equaled). Through toleration, the powers ensure that they still have the final authority and say so in matters of law and acceptance.

What LGBT folk will soon realize, after laws are put in place to promise our equality, is that "tolerance" will be there to stand in for discrimination; and then we'll need to learn from the African Americans how to confront it.