Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why do African-American homophobes ignore Bayard Rustin?

Another day goes by and another ignorant black preacher sets himself up as the arbiter of just what the civil rights movement was all about. This time, it was in Iowa:

Speaking before a conservative-minded crowd of around 400 on the west steps of the Capitol, Rev. Keith Ratliff criticized gay rights activists for equating their struggle with the civil rights movement of 50 years ago.

“For the few victories that the gay community is claiming,” Ratliff said, “they have won it mostly based on the hijacking of them trying to parallel themselves on the backs of the civil rights movement, here in America.”

He said their is “no parallel” of what an “insult” it was for them to compare themselves with the civil rights movement.

Ratliff, of the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines, said not being able to marry a person of the same gender was no where near what it’s like to be denied service in a restaurant or hotel for the color of their skin.

“For those that spiritually see the big picture, this issue is a battle ground as we said and not a playground,” Ratliff said.

Every time I hear an African-American leader make such statement, I always wish I could ask that leader about this man, Bayard Rustin:

Bayard Rustin was an African-American openly gay aide of Martin Luther King, Jr. He organized the 1963 March on Washington. If it weren't for him, that march would NOT have been a success.

Yet throughout all of this, Rustin was never given an acknowledgment or credit BECAUSE he was openly gay. In a history of a movement fighting for basic dignity and humanity, you have a key fighter who was "buked, scorned, and overlooked" simply because of his sexual orientation.

Common sense would propel one to say that this proves the kindred spirit held by both the lgbt and African-American movements for equality and dignity. How many African-Americans were overlooked because of their color? How many were kicked aside and treated badly because of the color of their skin?

Someone please tell me the difference between disrespecting someone based on racial prejudice and doing the same thing based on homophobia. Is the feeling of being treated less than a man or a woman any different when it's done to you based on sexual orientation rather than race?

It just goes to show how clueless folks like Mr. Ratliff are and how they have transformed the greatness of the civil rights movement into a mockery by placing themselves as the spokespeople and the arbiters of just what it was all about.

What can African-Americans who try to disassociate African-American equality from lgbt equality say about Rustin?

"Bayard was fighting for African-American rights, not gay rights."

Well that's like saying  "Coretta Scott King, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Rosa Parks were fighting for African-American rights, not women's rights."

The civil rights movement was not solely about African-American civil rights. It was about rights in general, most specifically the right to be treated like a decent human being in spite of differences. In the grand scheme of things, it's no different than the Solidarity Movement in Poland, the Women's Right Movement worldwide, or yes, the LGBT Rights Movement worldwide.

The desire for dignity and self-determination is universal. It crosses all genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations.

No amount of fancy speeches will change that. And no amount of individuals gaining their reputations from exploiting the blood, sweat, and toil of those who sacrificed themselves long ago will ever change that either.

And on that last note, Mr. Ratliff, I am talking about you.

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Brad said...

They ignore him much for the same reasons they ignore Corretta Scott King's support of LGBT civil rights. If they ignore it they hope to think it just wasn't so. It allows many to live in denial, much like those who chose to look the other way when African Americans or any other people of color are persecuted.

AmethJera said...

Thank you for making this important post. What a pity that those surrounding MLK chose to hypocritically deny this man recognition for the struggle he was making in both areas of race and gender-thereby ignoring who he truly was. Once again, history has been rewritten by those in charge to suit their agenda.

Monte said...

A bigger question would be is why do the general GLBTQ community ignore him and give such praise to Harvey Milk with, movies, a special day and a stamp??