Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Gay Will Never Be the New Black: What James Baldwin Taught Me About My White Privilege"

But there is a distinct parallel parallel between the two Civil Rights movements, and that fact must not be ignored.  Similarly, as I have written countless times, there is no "Q" when it comes to Gay people.  "Queer" means "abnormal," and LGBT people are definitely not abnormal.  However, absent these facts, the following article is a good one.

"As a white gay man committed to advocacy, I was naturally drawn to [James] Baldwin and eager to hear what he had to say about LGBTQ equality in America. What I discovered, though, was not at all what I was expecting. Baldwin, more than anyone else, taught me that although I am gay, I am white, and that being white always involves persistent privilege that must be recognized and accounted for. Baldwin explains that white LGBTQ men and women feel slighted precisely because they know that had they been straight, they would have been heirs to incomparable privilege. In a 1984 interview with Richard Goldstein, then the editor of the Village Voice, Baldwin said, "I think white gay people feel cheated because they were born, in principle, in a society in which they were supposed to be safe. The anomaly of their sexuality puts them in danger, unexpectedly." He went on to say:
Their reaction seems to me in direct proportion to their sense of feeling cheated of the advantages which accrue to white people in a white society. There's an element, it has always seemed to me, of bewilderment and complaint. Now that may sound very harsh, but the gay world as such is no more prepared to accept black people than anywhere else in society."
[For the full article, see here.]
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As you know, Grandfather, I have some issues with this op-ed. I can certainly agree that, socially speaking, Gay is NOT "the new Black." But I balk at the notion that the Civil Rights struggles of Black and Gay people have no overlap. This response to Tood Clayton's HuffPost op-ed expresses some of my concerns:

"Does "Gay is the new Black" mean that they are identical? Does it mean that they are similar? What exactly does "Gay is the new Black" mean?

And with that, who exactly is equating the two struggles? I have seen many authors show the obvious similarities between these Civil Rights struggles. But no where have I seen anyone equate the two and claim that they are the same. Everyone realizes that the struggles have unique characteristics, but they also have similar characteristics which allow for obvious comparison."

In my opinion, most self-identified "queer" activists could learn a lot from the Civil Rights movement of the '50s and '60s, most of all how to demand respect and present yourself with dignity. For all the wisdom he allegedly took from James Baldwin's writings, Mr. Clayton missed that lesson completely.

Jerry Maneker said...

Until the social presentation of LGBT people is one of respect and dignity, the LGBT civil rights movement will be retarded, despite some incremental progress that has occurred. Best wishes, Jerry.


I was disturbed, Grandfather, at the tone of the recent SCOTUS arguments RE marriage equality. I kept feeling around in them for a sense of citizenship entitlement, and I just couldn't find it. The pro-Gay lawyers were, in my opinion, too timid. I have a sick feeling that the SCOTUS ruling will fall for short of what's needed and "leave Gay marriage to the States." Worse, I think any number of LesBiGay Americans will find such a ruling satisfactory.

genevieve said...

This is why I feel that white LGBT groups missed right after the Stonewall Riot in 1969. They spent the time trying to prove that they were just like straight people. Equality and diversity were literally tossed to the side.

Jerry Maneker said...

Hi Stuff: I don't think that SCOTUS will affirm equality. We can probably expect that DOMA is doomed, and that Prop. 8 will be sent back to the California courts, relegating same-sex marriage to the states. Even the "liberals" are conservatives! Best wishes, Jerry.

Jerry Maneker said...

Hi genevieve: Stonewall was an act to demand and acquire equality, a goal largely begun by the Mattachine Society, Daughters of Bilitis, and Rev. Troy Perry, Founder and Moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches. Even now, one can't celebrate diversity and have any reasonable expectation that SCOTUS will affirm equality. And it's a crying shame!


Grandfather, I have long felt that Stonewall didn't resonate very far outside of East Coast Leftist circles. Certainly in the overall African-American community and south of the Mason/Dixon line, attitudes are still akin to the way they were in the 1950s.

Jerry Maneker said...

Hi Stuff: That's why the findings of SCOTUS on DOMA and on Prop. 8 can be so important in helping to set the tone where equality becomes a reality in the foreseeable future. If SCOTUS does what it did in Plessy v Ferguson, the LGBT Civil Rights movement will be retarded for a very long time. Best wishes, Jerry.