Monday, November 12, 2007

Jena 6’s black leadership splits queer community

The Jena 6 case - in which Southern white law enforcement in Jena, La., unabashedly doled out biased treatment against six African-American high school students - harkens backs to this country’s era of Jim Crow. And it is a no-brainer as to why there was a mass protest.

What boggles my mind, however, is the protest from many in our queer community toward the LGBTQ individuals and organizations that showed up in solidarity.

For example, Chris Crain, the former editor of the Washington Blade and the man behind the popular blog and syndicated column “Citizen Crain,” balked at HRC’s president, Joe Solmonese, for appearing at the rally.

“Why pick this case? It doesn’t involve discrimination of the type suffered historically by gay Americans. I would agree completely that there is racial discrimination in this country, and that the criminal justice system suffers from prosecutorial abuse, biased jury verdicts and lopsided sentences based on race,” Crain wrote. “But … why pick the Jena 6, … a case of six bullies who beat, kicked and stomped a defenseless teen unconscious in a schoolyard, as the one for the GLBT movement to take a stand?”

When your identity, like mine, is the intersection of these two marginalized groups, the question is moot. Crain’s question is similar to the mindset of Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King, who said gays never had to sit in the back of the bus.

Alexander Robinson of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the only national African-American LGBTQ organization in the country, showed his solidarity in a statement: “Earlier this summer, NBJC joined the NAACP in its effort to right the wrongs against the Jena 6. We cannot allow the injustice in Jena, La., or anywhere else in the country to go unnoticed or unchallenged and we need your support to do it!!”Crain’s question, however, cannot be summarily dismissed, because it is an important one. But his question should be hurled at the Goliaths leading the Jena 6 protest and not at the Davids who followed African-American leadership.

For a different reason than Crain’s, I too, ask a question: “Why a rally in support of these six black boys but not the seven black lesbians who defended themselves against an anti-gay attack and were charged with beating and stabbing a white filmmaker? The filmmaker instigated the violence by threatening them and actually trying to choke one of them in the Greenwich Village in August 2006?” More HERE

1 comment:

Francis L. Holland Blog said...

In my opinion, it's not that it was inappropriate for white gays to appear here, at a Jena march, but rather that it is inappropriate for them to FAIL to appear everywhere else where their support would be appropriate. And so we find it shocking to suddenly see white gays anywhere supporting Black issues.

Now, I know that there is considerable anti-gay sentiment everywhere, and so not everyone feels as I do, and some people would object to gays' presence no matter where they decided to start showing support for Blacks' concerns.

I agree with Jesse Jackson that it's a stretch in a number of ways to say that discrimination against gays is "just like" discrimination against Blacks and that the fight against this discrimination is equal. White gays can and regularly do choose to go unnoticed among other whites, taking advantage of all of the benefits of white privilege.

For many white gays, when they are perceived as gays it is because they opt to be, not because nature compels them to be. Meanwhile, Black could not opt not to be perceived as Black even if our lives depended upon it, as they often do.

The case of Senator Larry Craig is a good example. In spite of being gay, he is able to be elected to the US Congress, and take advantage of all of the prerogatives of the straight majority, if he desperately pretends to be straight. That is not and never has been an option for Blacks.

So, white gays actually offend and belittle Blacks and make it harder for us to identify with them when they insist that their struggle is fundamentally like ours. And they don't care that that argument offends us, which makes them more like whites than like Blacks.