Why Gay is NOT The New Black

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Recently, the Huffington Post Black Voices section published a provocative piece entitled, “It’s Official: Gay is the New Black.” In it, Writer Monique Ruffin writes about the somewhat tenuous relationship between the gay rights community and the black community, particularly the black church and argues that there are parallels between the fight against racial discrimination and equal rights for the LGBT community under the law. She said, “Gay is the new black, sadly, because many blacks haven’t been willing to embrace their own practices, secrets, fear, and shame about homosexuality. Many blacks have not been able to reconcile their real-life experience with their faith, and until they do this, they are oppressed people who are also practicing the oppression of others.”

While I agree partially with the sentiment of this piece, it does kind of remind me of the scene from The Wiz when Dorothy (played by Diana Ross) and the gang enter the Emerald City to an awaiting spectacle of dancers, who looked like they stepped right out of a 1970s Ebony Magazine’s Fashion Fair spread. The dancers in full regale, boogie around the city to a chorus of “I. Want to Seen. Green. I. Wouldn’t be caught. Dead. Red.” That is until an announcement from the great, powerful and unseen OZ blares over the loud speakers and says, “I thought about it and green is dead and I changed my mind and the color is red.” Then the whole Emerald City suddenly transforms to a dazzling spectacular of red sequin and gardenza as the same dancers two-step around the pavilion, saying, “I wouldn’t be seen green. You got to be dead red…”

In other words, in this presumably “post-racial” era it’s easy for some to assume that racism doesn’t matter as much in comparison to other social issues.  However, despite the rather catchiness of the phrase, gay is not the new black because black is still black.

Of course this isn’t the first time this declaration has been made. As the battle for gay rights issues such as marriage equality have intensified so have the comparisons of the gay rights movement to the Black Civil Rights movement of the 60s. And when Proposition 8 passed in California, gay rights advocates, as well as the mainstream press, were quick to place the blame squarely on the Black community, even as Blacks made up less than 10 percent of total voters. The meme, for whatever reason, caught on, and now the Black community has largely been viewed by the mainstream as homophobic and intolerant.

This is not to suggest that homophobia does not exist in Black community. However I frankly get sick and tired of myself, my friends and my family carrying the weight for something we are not. Perception wise, being gay is no different than being a Republican in the community; some folks may not like it but it damn sure hasn’t stopped Hakeem and his boyfriend, nor Uncle Walt and his “George Bush was a Great Man” political views from coming to the family dinner.

Black folks, like the rest of humanity, are complex beings. This broad brush strokes that we as black folks are more homophobic than the rest of society is a bit deceitful, if not dangerously divisive. Likewise, It’s easy to pick on the black community because it lacks social power and political voice to really fight back than it is to strike out at the real power structures like Congress, State Assemblies and anti-gay, and mostly white, lobbying organizations, and the Church, which are far more influential in deciding who gets married and who doesn’t.

Moreover, I am a little perplexed at how so much attention is given in the press to homophobia in the Black community while ignoring the racial prejudices that have become so normalized in the LGBT and the mainstream community as a whole. While gay advocates and legislatures in New York were likely patting themselves on for their victory in making that state the sixth state to pass a same sex marriage law, there was certainly a deafening silence from many of the same folks about how that state’s biggest city continued its draconian stop-and-frisk practice of rounding up Blacks and Latinos (gay, straight and otherwise) for marijuana arrests.

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