African-American rights and LGBT rights aren't the same

The comparison between gay rights and the rights of African-Americans has been made in recent years. Some even say that they are one in the same. That comparison is wildly inaccurate. I believe that the struggle for rights in gay community does mirror the plight of African-Americans to a certain extent. That is where the comparisons end.

Former Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Michael Steele was on MSNBC on Tuesday when he said that he did not appreciate the comparison between laws banning interracial marriage to laws that prevent gay couples from marrying. Steele was engaged in an intense debate about the question with former Lt. Dan Choi, an LGBT activist.

“First off, let’s just be very clear,”  “There are a significant number of African Americans, myself included, who do no appreciate that particular equation. OK? Because when you walk into a room, I don’t know if you are gay or not, but when I walk into a room, you know I’m black. And whatever racial feelings you have about African Americans, about black people, that are something that is visceral, it comes out. I don’t know [you are gay] until later on, maybe you tell me or some other way. So, don’t sit there and make that comparison. Don’t make that analogy.” Steele said.

Choi shot back by posing the following question to Steele: “Since I fought for the entire of America, every state, don’t you believe that my love is just as equal as your love? When I come back from Iraq, I shouldn’t go to one state where my love is inferior to yours and another state where I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to my husband or to my lover?”

I want to thank Lt.Choi for his service to our country. I do believe that all Americans deserve to be treated equally including gay people. But to say that African-Americans rights and gay rights are the same is extremely far-fetched. History can tell you otherwise. Just being out in public can tell you that. The comparison between the rights of interracial couples and gay couples is an argument than can made. But when race is involved the same argument cannot be made.



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  • Evan--
    Let’s be clear. To suggest that gay rights are different than African-American rights is only relevant to those of us who are one or the other. For some of us, we are both/and. While many of us might never know every instance why our identities are being stigmatized, we do know it is happening and that is the reality. We all walk through the world with multiple, intersecting, and interconnected identities some of which are visible or invisible and sometimes only show up in particular contexts. However, that does not indicate a separation of those identities since the stigmatization, marginalization, discrimination still show in me and impact my overall wellness. As a person who is both Black and Gay (and so many more things) the notion of African-American rights and LGBT rights are not mutually exclusive, but intimately tied up in the totality of my existence....
    to read the rest of my response, please find it here.

  • Thanks for reading. The thing that bothers me the most is when people who are gay and not black love to make the comparisons between the two. I'm aware that one of the people in Dr. King 's circle was gay .

  • They are similar but not the same for the glaring reason - gay white men are the same as straight white men until they choose to reveal themselves. They do the black equivalent of "passing" by default. Civil rights and Gay rights overlap a great deal but it's not 100%. Plus, as a black gay male myself, gay culture in the United States is not exactly a United Colors of Benetton ad.

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    I want to respect the spirit in which you wrote this blog entry, which points to how the gay movement, as it is generally centered around middle and upper-middle class, white male identity, often uses comparisons to black history only out of convenience rather than true solidarity. While Choi is not white, he is certainly aligning himself with a certain structure of white supremacy within the gay movement.

    All this being said, I do appreciate Ayotunde4Real's observation that for many, being gay or black is not a choice but a reality. Further, I disagree with your assumption that "when you walk into a room, I don’t know if you are gay or not, but when I walk into a room, you know I’m black." Doesn't this amount to the idea that one can and should hide their sexuality? How is it different from the idea of passing? Also, what if someone is not white and gay - what are they being asked to pass as? And, can it account for the number of hate crimes that are perpetrated on people simply because "they look gay"?

    As you yourself state, the 1960s Civil Rights Movement had gay figures. There was Bayard Rustin and James Baldwin, for example. Their struggles for equality are the reasons why people today who identify in different ways can enjoy the freedoms that they do. The 60s movement was not monolithic in any way and, in fact, can be criticized for not adequately paying attention to the issues women - black or otherwise - faced.

    Yes, there are problems with a wholesale equation of the gay "marriage equality" movement with black historical inequalities. However, it is not because there isn't something the latter can teach the former about equality, it is because by narrowly defining gay rights by marriage alone, it leaves out so much else like racial and trans/gender rights, as well as ongoing racialized class issues.

  • In reply to dn12:

    I did not make that statement. I was quoting Micheal Steele. Thanks for reading

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