In Their Own Words: Black Leaders Weigh in on Gay Rights
1 year ago
Sharpton, Rangel and others go on the record with Loop21
Note: This piece was originally published August 23, 2010
A little less than a year ago, I wrote a piece about what I felt supporters of LGBT rights could be doing more effectively to generate more enthusiastic support among black Americans. Some of my suggestions were controversial (as many of you let me know) and perhaps easier said than done, like asking LGBT groups to attack specific policies but to lay off attacks on organized religion.
But some of them were, frankly, no-brainers; so much so that I can't believe I felt the need to write them down in the first place. Among them, not attacking black Americans for things that are legitimately not our fault (such as, the defeat of gay marriage in Maine where there are practically zero black people. And I'm not exaggerating. According to the census it is one of the whitest states in the union, yet I've had to explain that on more than one occasion to those convinced black voters were responsible for nixing same-sex marriage in the state.)
But another suggestion was simply encouraging LGBT groups to reach out to high-profile black Americans who do support equal rights for gays and lesbians and utilize them as messengers more effectively to reach the larger community.
[ALSO READ: Obama to Break Silence on Gay Marriage?]
Some of you may recall that Prop. 8 emerged as a source of tension between some members of the LGBT community and the black community, for reasons that were proven to be not entirely founded or fair. So with Prop. 8's recent return to the national spotlight (not to mention yesterday's report regarding the disproportionate number of minorities penalized by "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"), I decided to follow-up with some of the leaders I referenced in my piece last year to ask them to share their thoughts on what they think can be done to help eradicate homophobia in the black community and elsewhere, and some of the most effective methods for winning over more supporters for LGBT rights.
Their thoughts, some obtained via phone, others via e-mail, are shared below.
On homophobia in the black community:
Rev. Al Sharpton, Founder, National Action Network:
I think it is wrong... You cannot fight for civil rights for some and not civil rights for all. I think it's a problem, and I think it's a contradiction to the spirit of those of us who have suffered bias and prejudice. [On the black community receiving criticism for the passage of Prop 8] I think that we got a lot of unfair blame for that, but at the same time... we need to be more vocal about people having the right to do things we may have religious disagreements with.