Do African-Americans Have ‘Special Responsibility’ To Support Equality?

GayblackIn an opinion piece at the New York Daily News today, John McWhorter, author of the provocative book Losing The Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America, argues that though African-Americans’ opinions on gay rights are basically on par with the rest of the nation, they have a greater obligation to stand up for equality.

From that piece, called “Gay Really Is The New Black:”

The percentage of blacks who favor gay marriage is about the same now as the percentage of whites, according to a Pew poll taken during the last election season. “One of the striking results in the 2012 exit polls was the support for legalizing gay marriage among black voters,” that poll noted.

However, rising support isn’t enough — we must keep going. When Michael Richards spouted the N-word on stage, he was shamed by the nation for weeks. It won’t do for Tracy Morgan to get a mere slap on the hand for crowing that he would stab his son if he turned out to be were gay.

As a consequence of its painful heritage, black America has a special responsibility: to be further ahead of the curve than whites on accepting gay people as full citizens.

The Bible cannot be used as an excuse to hold us back. We should remember that racists once also appealed to the Bible to justify segregation, slavery and all manners of hatred. Let’s be progressive for real this time around.

McWhorter goes on to say the real test will come when a closeted black celebrity comes out, someone really A-list. “Wanda Sykes, Don Lemon and rapper Frank Ocean have been noble pioneers — but then again, none are megastars or play romantic parts,” he writes.


  1. says

    i’d simply recommend anyone remember the words of Harvey Milk.

    It’s about the USes.

    when the heat-seeking missiles of hate move to new targets, members of the previously-targeted groups or demographics will occasionally use whatever relief they’ve got to launch attacks on The New Undesirables.

    polish and irish immigrants turning on the chinese, then the japanese. and all against the blacks, and/or the latinos

    all one need to do is look at the racism harboring in gay conservatives, doubled over already with their own learned anti-gay shame, to see what a culture of prejudices can reduce a person to.

    you know who has a “responsibility” to support Equality? everyone with a conscience. being discriminated against for being gay doesn’t stop many gays from parroting racial bigotry. many would argue their bigotry against certain ethnic minorities is a direct reflection of their own refusal to look honestly at their own struggles.

    Coretta Scott King (google her quotes, the woman is a shining light of truth) said it best, in regards to what Prejudice and Bigotry are, and always have been, and will be until we all rise together against it.

    before i was brave enough to read gay/queer literature, i turned to stories of the north american black experience for hope and inspiration; struggles over inequality and prejudice that show paths to freedom.

    i’m not sure that “gay is the new black” as black is still …well… i mean come on. black president or not, Obama’s win brought the bigots and their hate out of the woodwork.

    we aint done yet. the civil rights movement is not over, it is ongoing.

    but anyone who has felt the sting of prejudice and bigotry who then chooses to throw it at another group can congratulate themselves on having learned absolute ZILCH from their claimed struggles.

    just because you got the target off of your back and onto someone else’s doesn’t mean that you’re safe: it means the bully you’re still scared of knows they can control you, and the USes, to keep them weak and disconnected.

  2. ratbastard says

    Black people,like any other human being, have the right to think for themselves, as free independent individual humans, not necessarily in lock-step with group-think.

  3. says

    yet for what it’s worth, i’ll say this:

    any member of a persecuted (even *once* persecuted) minority group who refuses to stand up for those still facing discrimination and prejudice utterly deserves every ounce of bigotry they’ll continue to experience in life.

    gay men who oppose a woman’s right to choose.
    gay men against lesbians, Other Gays, the transgendered/transitioning communities.

    and, yes, members of ethnic minority communities who continue to support oppression against LGBT people, despite the galling reality that our UNITY could end this nonsense.

    and no matter what news stories come up, or which GOProud members make up stories about “being attacked by blacks”, it will not shake my belief that we’re all a part of this together.

    even if a black person (since Black is the subject here) opposed my freedom and liberty and right to live a life free from prejudice, i’d still continue to fight for him/her to not be discriminated against or treated unfairly in society for being black.

    being the bigger person means seeing the bigger picture.

  4. Stefan says

    I find the logic in the article annoying. Since Blacks have a “special responsibility”, does this mean other groups do not? Because last time I checked, the number of people in this country who have not faced discrimination historically or currently is quite small. If you or anyone you know has ever been poor, disabled, sick, old, female, non-WASP, etc. then you know what it’s like to be treated differently, whether by people or private or public institutions, for what you are or what you do. Little Kiwi is right that if you have a conscience and are a human being then you should be for equality. Period. It’s about personal character, not personal characteristics.

  5. Jack M says

    If you have ever been hated and discriminated against for who you fundamentally are, you should be in favor of LGBT rights, period. We look to the black population only because they are a numerically large group with a visible presence.

  6. ratbastard says

    Should black people [and other human beings] be for gay civil rights? Yes, because it’s the right thing. But, a black person shouldn’t be pressured or expected to think a certain way because they’re black. Nobody should. Human beings have their own independent lives, history, and so-on. Group-think only goes so far.

  7. says

    Stefan, well said. One of the things i loved most about Anne Hathaway’s HRC Awards speech from a few years ago was that she refuses to think of herself, and her family, as “great” and “special” and “heroes” for supporting the LGBT Communities. In her words, it just means she’s a “decent human being.”

    Now, not everyone has a conscience. Not everyone has the strength to turn against their actual oppressors and be an adult about things. Some will choose to slink up to the bully, and hate Others in hopes they get tolerated for another day. But in the end, they know deep down what failures they’ve been as members of the human race.

    That’s what fuels their bitterness.

  8. Akrontru says

    Isn’t this comments’ forum moderated? If not, it should be.

    Having just read Littlekiwi’s quite reasonable posts I make it to the bottom (literally and figuratively) and see an hysterical, ad hominem attack on her in which she is addressed as c*nt. WTF. Throw that guy outta here.

  9. William says

    I feel “Gay is the new Jew” is more like it. Gays, like jews, get crap from all races. People are born jewish just like they’re born gay, although both could live a lie and deny it or chose not to practice it. Our enemies want us to either disavow (“it’s a choice”), “practice” in secret or, frankly, they want to exterminate us. And our enemies use religion to justify their actions.

  10. gayalltheway says

    As much as I would love for African-Americans to support the kind of equality that they fought for not that long ago, I am all for freedom of thoughts and speech. So if some African-Americans can’t seem to see the similarities between the struggles of blacks in the civil rights era and LGBTs now, and stand behind us as we have stood behind them, then at the very least they should not be against us. They can be indifferent to the cause but to be against equal treatment and protection for LGBTs is just a terrible way to honor those civil rights champions who fought so hard to achieve equality. There’s a subtle but crucial reason why the movement was referred to as the Civil Rights Movement and not the African-American/Black Movement even though the majority associate the struggles of African-American with the said movement.

  11. Andy says

    If gay people had been instrumental in furthering African American rights in the 1960s, then the obvious answer would be Yes, they do have a special responsibility to help gay people.
    But why should African Americans go out of their way to support gay people, when gay people have never done anything special for them?

  12. says

    thank you for that comment, “Andy”, which perfectly articulates the petty, whiny, decidedly-human yet utterly shameful mindset of way too many selfish near-sighted adults.

    “why should i care about you?”, says the bitter and pitiful creature who will never know love or compassion or empathy.

    your troll-post is funny in that it shows the desperate attempts to ignore logic and reason one must go through in order to hold that particular argument.

    so thanks!

  13. Buckie says

    It’s just oh so easy to make it all a celebrity’s responsibility, isn’t it ?

    Yet, “why should we do anything collective that’s the right thing to do just because we don’t perceive the collective you as having done anything for us” is an extraordinarily BS justification !

  14. says

    “Gay Is The New Black” is a hella offensive title for an article! If you don’t think so, try on a phrase like “Muslim Is The New Gay” and see how you like it. Dude won’t win African-Americans to his cause throwing that kind reckless language around. This tendency among Gay pundits to be racially or sexually provocative just for the sheer Hell of it is really wearing thin. Provocation can be a learning tool, or it can be an unnecessary irritant. Too often, we use it for the latter purpose.

  15. David Hearne says

    Andy – You really need to do some homework. There were gay people involved in and in assistance to the black civil rights movement. But even if there weren’t, what would it say about a group that would only see the call to action if they had gotten assistance in the past?

    James – Blacks don’t have a special responsibility, they have a responsibility and ought to have a special awareness.

    I know that as a gay person, when a law is proposed, I look for the loopholes to see what they are trying to allow in addition to what they say they are prohibiting. It’s like the birth control thing: Yippee that they want to make them over the counter…. oh wait, won’t that mean that prescription coverage won’t pay for them? You have got to watch all the weasels.

  16. Rick says

    Silly to analogize trying to gain acceptance of homosexuality and male intimacy in society, which is essentially a CULTURAL battle…..with the civil rights movement, which was and is something very different.

    If we are successful, the end result will be a society in which men are perfectly free to pursue any kind of social, emotional, and sexual bond with each other without being stigmatized by other men….in short, to liberate ourselves from any kind of dependence on women and to eliminate a culture that has created that artificial dependence by encouraging distance between men instead of closeness.

    In a very real sense, then, our battle is with ourselves and each other–“gay” is nothing but a construct that is ultimately meaningless since it suggests a hard and fast divide between “gay” and “straight” which is not an accurate description of reality.

    By contrast, “black” and “white” was and is very much a hard and fast divide and remains so in many ways, culturally, socially, and politically–and almost surely always will remain a divide….so issues involving race are more about negotiating the conflicts that arise between different groups of people….in short it is about inter-relations, whereas our issue is about intra-relations.

  17. Derrick from Philly says

    @”FYI – MANY Gays and Lesbians Marched with Blacks for THEIR civil Rights before Gays/lesbians Rights were ever even Imagined!!!!”

    Yes, but we don’t know what percentage of White Gays supported the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and we’ll never know.

    When I first met White Gays in the 1970s they were the ones who hung out in integrated settings, and they were friendly and supportive. I thought all White Gays were like them. My Black Gay friends told me, “Oh, no, Miss Thing”. As the decades went by I found out my friends were right.

    Let’s not start romanticizin’ ourselves away from reality. There were White Gays who supported Dr King and the Movement. And there were those who did not.

  18. Rick says

    @Derrick The mistake you make is that, like most gay men, you define “friendliness” in another gay man as “is he physically attracted to me or not”?

    If you really want to face reality, most gay men are “friendly” to other gay men only if they are physically attracted to them, regardless of race or any other consideration. They tend to be pretty hostile towards other gay men they don’t find physically attractive. Part of this is not “devious”–it is just a practical way of dealing with things–we all know that if you act “friendly” towards another gay guy, he is going to assume that you are attracted to him, so if you don’t want a mis-understanding and a lot of unpleasantness that goes with such mis-understandings, it is better just to be “cold” from the outset so as not to lead the other guy on, At the same time, though, some of the unfriendliness is just a reflection of a gay male culture in which physical attractiveness is everything and the only thing that matters in the social pecking order.

    So how does this all relate to race and “friendliness”? The way it relates is that most white guys simply are not attracted to black guys in general, for whatever reason, so much of the “unfriendliness” you refer to is just a reflection of that, rather than racism, per se.

    But it is easier to just call it “racism” than it is to deal with the hurt the lack of attraction causes, isn’t it?

  19. James says

    David why should black people have special awareness?Why are there different rules for black people?Gay people down have special awareness about anything.What Andy wrote might not sound good but it’s true.

  20. Derrick from Philly says

    “@Derrick The mistake you make is that, like most gay men, you define “friendliness” in another gay man as “is he physically attracted to me or not”?”

    Say what? Oh, no, no, no. I couldn’t even read the rest of your comment before responding to your first sentence.

    Miss Thaing, I was fortunate enough that the first White Gays I meant were members of that “Culture of Effeminacy” you’re always yapping about. I enjoyed their company because of all those so-called stereotypical interest we had in common…you know, like Barbra Streisand.

    During that time I only had sex with the guys off the streets of my neighborho…

    See, you almost got me again. Got me talkin’ about my sex life in ancient times. Something that no sane soul here could be interested in.

    You leave me the alone, Rick.

  21. Derrick from Philly says

    Hey, David Hearn and Disgusted American:

    …think Rick would’ve been a homo for Negroes’ civil rights back then?

    See what I’m talking about?

  22. ratbastard says

    @Lil’ C*UNT,

    Why do you think ‘Irish’ and ‘Polish’ are against Asians [Chinese ,Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and so-on], or ‘Latinos’? That’s a ridiculous thing to say as a base for an argument. And it’s untrue.

    My best friend’s ‘Irish’ [American] father growing up went out of his way to learn and master Spanish language so he could easily communicate and relate better to Spanish speaking people in the neighborhoods where he predominately serviced for UPS. I had and have ‘Latino’ and ‘Asian’ friends and had them growing up in my mixed neighborhood[s]. There was little to no problems as you suggest.

  23. Derrick from Philly says

    Oh, Ratbastard, please. Kiwi’s talking about the HISTORY of immigrants coming to the US (probably elsewhere also) and the treatment they received from those that came before them.

    Bein’ from Bean Town(a major immigrant destination) you knew that.

  24. David Hearne says

    Derrick- Do people have the right to freedom of association? I ask because I suspect that a good deal of what you regard as “racism” falls into the category of association.

  25. melvin says

    “If gay people had been instrumental in furthering African American rights . . .”

    Bayard Rustin comes to mind, among others.

    Oddly though this same argument could be applied to the Mormon church.

  26. David Hearne says

    James –

    “David why should black people have special awareness?”

    Because they have a great deal of experience in being discriminated against.

    “Why are there different rules for black people?”

    There aren’t. Having expertise in a subject causes awareness. That’s not a different set of rules, as I implied all decent people have an obligation to support equal rights under the law. Blacks, have a special awareness of the impact of not having those rights.

    “Gay people down have special awareness about anything.”

    I think we do. I think that gay men in particular have a special awareness, a radar if you will, of being sized up as prey in the workplace, on the street, in school, or anywhere else we are outnumbered.

  27. GregV says

    @Charles: Anyone who truly deeply understands or has understood racism (MLK and Coretta Scott King, Desmund Tutu, Mandela, Bayard Rustin, et al) certainly does understand that it is not inherently more special or less harmful than any other form of hatred or sense of superiority over others such as homophobia and sexism.
    The reverse is also true.
    There are people in any given group in the world whose concern over discrimination is about nothing more than selfishly getting more for themselves at the expense of others, but they are not bright people like the ones I named, and they do not have any more than a superficial understanding.

  28. johnny says

    Ah, Rick, such myopia. Nothing about women in your statements about this subject, just men. Almost like women don’t exist unless you are screeching about how we’re their toys.

    If it wasn’t so sad, it would be humorous.

  29. Sean says

    The vast majority of black people that I encounter are so ignorant when it comes to gay issues and are incredibly prejudiced. Not only that, many have no problem being outspoken about hating gays. It’s encouraged in hip hop culture and isn’t going away anytime soon.

  30. Frank says

    @David Hearne. Bulding on your your point about the right to freedom of association, and applying it to straight people, I guess that a lot of what gay people call “homophobia” falls into the category of association as well.

  31. andrew says

    I can’t wait to hear what Art Smith. Scott Johansen, Klein, Greg Cali, 2Dads, Dynex, Genuine Corel, YogabGaba, Artie, Good Carver, et al have to say on this topic. Do you think that they will be coming out tonight Little Kiwi???

  32. James says

    @SEAN That says more about your limited experience with black people than anything else.
    @Rick Not all black gay men are snow queens chasing after white guys.I would just like to be a gay event and not be ask why am I there because there really not any of “my kind ” here.

  33. Chitown Kev says

    Lawd a mercy.

    FTR, I would say that they have a responsibility just like anyone else but the the minority/minority relationship (pick the minority on both sides of the slash) have acted more like “crabs in a barrel” than bosom political buddies and the historical and anthropological record shows that.

    I will say this, some straight black people are the best and most outspoken advocates for gay equality that the gays can have.

  34. JJ says

    I’ll put it plainly. I used to fervently care about the plight of victims of racism. Later on, I had to deal with homophobia, largely from African American peers. After that, I gave much less of a damn what they had to deal with.

  35. Ain't it Funny says

    paraphrasing slightly what was just said…I used to fervently believe that the plight of gays and African Americans were the same. Then I began facing racism from many white gays (and not sexual rejection, plain ol’ racism). Now, I really don’t care whether African Americans support the gay movement or not and in truth, can see why they don’t. Gays want it both ways, the “cover” of minority status, and at the same time the freedom to be racist.

  36. says

    There’s a correlation between homophobia and racism, and the point needs to be made to the black community that Conservative groups like NOM are manipulating them in the most racist manners. With letters to prove it!!

  37. says

    I’d argue, compared to straight people, or most other demographics that come to mind, gay people (yes, mostly gay white people) have been MORE sympathetic and supportive of the black community and less racist. I say this as a biracial gay man. There’s racism in EVERY group of folks (muslims, middle easterns, asians, whites, heterosexuals) every grouping. But based on my personal experience, gay people are more compassionate toward everyone’s struggles and resent discrimination of all kinds.

  38. NY Kid says

    I’m gay, white and completely have empathy for what black people endured and would absolutely be out in the streets with them hand in hand fighting for their rights. Of course, I wasn’t born then. But my 60 year old gay uncle was around in the late 60s and did attend marches and protests and showed his support.

    I truly believe where there’s discrimination in one segment of the population, the other segments are not safe nor are they free.

  39. T.t says

    Aint it funny-
    In another thread, you boldly state you’d support a candidate who is against gay rights and gay mariage. Are you really qualified to comment on here?

  40. Siox says

    It’s always amusing to me when some black gay folks think gay rights and equality don’t apply to them, and gay rights failing is really “sticking it to em’ white gays” … It fascinates me that they see gay rights as strictly benefitting gay white men (not millions of gay asians, latinos, middle easterners, or themselves) and in a deep rooted desire to get back at white gays, they adopt an indifferent approach to combating homophobia and promoting gay rights.
    I mean, when you say “I can see why black people don’t support gay rights and might be homophobic” you do realize that not resolving some of that homophobia hurts you first, right? Black people are no more homophobic than others, but black homophobia directly comes in contact with black LGBT more than any other LGBT, so I would think you’d be more engaged to challenge it, and not use it as a justification to get back at those ‘evil white gays’

  41. Patrick Reece says

    Why can’t everyone just be for everyone else’s fair and equal treatment in society and under the law?

    Did the sentence about not perfectly sum all this up without all the filter from previous posts? It’s a really basic concept.

  42. JoyRideStan says

    The point hardly being made in these discussions is the fact that NOM and it’s ilk are actively racist with memos out there of them clearly stating they want to USE thr black community as props. I may be white, but I can comfortably say that NOM and it’s groups do not have the black community in their best interest, and are far more aligned with racist groups like the tea party.

  43. BearNFurry says

    To the poster who said “why should African Americans stand up for gay rights? What have gays done for African Americans” there are so many flaws in your statement, but let’s tackle the most basic. First, you assume gay automatically equates to white an not the many other backgrounds gay encompasses. Secondly, as others have noted, gays have stood up for civil rights in the past, but let’s just imagine none ever did to entertain you; you still realize at the core of being a humane human being is to help not just those who benefit you, but help for the sake of helping. For the sake of equality. For the sake of it being the right thing to do?

  44. Carlos says

    James, you have a chip on your shoulder the size of a monument. You’ve already decided gay means caucasian. Caucasians are bad. African Americans not supporting anything gay means caucasians lose. You are the exact reason progress can’t be made in areas in both groups and frankly, it’s people like you who just take up space on our planet.

  45. Lionsseatfertune says

    A more rational argument is: it’s one thing for the African American community to be indifferent on LGBT equality… But to be campaigning against is is an entirely different issue, and it would be an issue, given it’s irony. All movements are different, but at their core they stand for the same. Fairness and justice for all. If your idea of justice is conditional and limited strictly to your kind, then you have zero grasp of the true definition of the word. Period.

  46. J. jordan says

    The Churches role in the black community is heavy and thick. I know because I’m black, and openly gay and know whats up. But i think we as black gays need to be the educators and step up and teach our AA community about who we are. We can’t let the pastors at our churches be telling black folk who gays are. They’ll twist and spin us for their gain. And if straight black folk only hear gay is evil, gay is evil, gay is evil all their lives, how you gonna expect them to not buy into that mess? Thats why its our job to come out and then start the dialogue within our own community. I see it happening and I did the same and I’m proud to know it makes a real difference.

  47. Michelle says

    I’ve heard some black people often say “this is SKIN not SIN” or “I didn’t choose to be black. You chose to be gay” and I just think that misses the whole point. The point should be that no group of people should tell others who they are and why they are who they are. So long as those people pose no harm, why block their place in society and happiness? We should strive for a society where we embrace all forms of diversity and not just some. That is the ultimate form of humanity to me.

  48. Justin says

    Let’s just be honest here and say it brought bigots out of the closet. Where people could see where all the hate came from initially. As gay man taking care of my lover who happens to be an amputee. We live in Tulsa, Oklahoma in a 1 bedroom Apartment together. A year ago he had to have one of his legs amputated due to blood clots. Ever since our neighbors learned we where a gay couple they go behind our back to let every new resident that moves in know that we are gay and they don’t like us here. We lost a friend because his neighbors kept asking him stupid questions like “are you all sleeping together now”, “are you a gay enabler”, and “are you one of them now”? We understand why he don’t come around to say hi anymore but he was honest and said he couldn’t handle there harassment anymore.

  49. Justin says

    We have many neighbors here who come around only to sponge off us. They rarely ever offer to return what they have used or taken. This is destroying our dreams of getting out of this hell hole. The sad thing about Tulsa is that it is separated. Most all the poor have been shoved to the north side of town. They say that’s where all the black people are. Although I’ve seen too many Employers use the N word in casual speech. The Black community is angry and I don’t blame them. There are some white people living on the north side but the wealthy here treat the poor like an infectious disease in this backward thinking state. The mentally ill have been shoved into the housing projects, and people are hateful toward anyone that doesn’t think the same way they do. I’ve experienced people attempting to correct me when I quote something that came out of a book as factual knowledge. I would have thought anyone would want to learn something they don’t know. Instead they talk about something they don’t know and make believe as they go along. Because they feel it makes them feel important I’ve been told.

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