Motives Matter

Andrea ShorterAndrea Shorter is “the” Black face of the Right to Marry movement in the Bay Area. She has a long resumé of LGBT activism, is the co-chair of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition and leader of “And Marriage for All.” She’s on the job when it comes to bringing the Gay marriage message to Blacks.

I met Ms. Shorter for the first time last fall at a screening of Debra A. Wilson’s documentary, “Jumping the Broom,” held at SF’s LGBT center. Her group had sponsored the event and Ms. Shorter was host.

Afterwards there was an informal discussion among the ten people present, all Black, something unusual for SF, about Gay marriage

I told Ms. Shorter though I was politically and philosophically opposed to marriage, I supported Gay marriage because the idea pisses off straight people so much.

But beyond that, I felt the right to marry movement had little to do with me and more with White Gays becoming equal to White straight people.

“That doesn’t matter,” Ms. Shorter replied with just a tinge of annoyance in her voice. I got the impression she had heard that argument before.

Still, I was surprised by her response. She didn’t say that it wasn’t true or that she didn’t believe it. Just, “that doesn’t matter.”

Her position, and I’m summing up what I got from her reasoning, was regardless of a White person's motives, the end result, the right to marry, would benefit everyone.

But motive does matter. It matters to me both as an activist and an African American when I feel as if I’m being used and manipulated.

I don’t believe whatever “right” I would gain is worth the loss of my integrity. I would rather forgo that right if the only way to get it is by default, through helping White Lesbians and Gay men become equal with White heterosexuals.

Ms. Shorter has a difficult job ahead of her. The latest L. A. Times poll shows African Americans in California are 54 percent against, versus 37 percent for, Gay marriage.

That’s nearly the opposite of Whites who show 58 percent for Gay marriage versus 27 percent opposed. Hispanics were almost evenly split: 46 percent oppose it and 45 percent support it.

In addition, the rest of the leadership will have to contend with what I think is a growing number of White Lesbians and Gay men from the left who are impatient with this near total focus on marriage at the expense of the issues they care about. (see Smash the State book launch. )

White Power Tripping

It’s a new century with a new president elected on the promise of change. However, in the Gay movement it’s the same White people with the same message to Black Gays: We lead. You follow. Here’s my 21st century response: Fuck That!

By Sidney Brinkley

We shall overcome. We shall overcome. We shall overcome someday…

That stirring and most iconic tune of the Black civil rights movement echoed through the glass and steel canyon of downtown San Francisco but there was hardly a Black person in sight. These were the voices of hundreds of White Lesbians and Gay men on their way to the Martin Luther King memorial to protest the California Supreme Court’s upholding of the ban on Gay marriage.

I do believe deep in my heart we shall overcome someday.

RobinThe following week, a related protest the, “March in the Middle,” took place in Fresno, California and would do San Francisco one better in referencing the Black civil rights movement. There’s a small town about fourteen miles outside of Fresno named “Selma.” It’s known as the “raisin capital” of the country but an otherwise unremarkable place. However, organizer Robin McGehee recognized an opportunity to invoke one of the most famous moments in Black civil rights history, the Selma to Montgomery March by marching from Selma to Fresno prior to the rally.

The 1965 March was one of the low points in Black civil rights history. The pictures still haunt of Blacks being beaten to the ground and set upon by White police officers with German Shepherds. The most the White Gay march risked was sun burn.

In addition to being an insult to what the original March stood for, this totally self-serving act reeked of rank hypocrisy.

Many of the estimated 5,000 participants were from Los Angeles. During protests against the Prop 8 results in November 2008, West Hollywood looked, and sounded, like a Gay chapter of the Klu Klux Klan. Quite a few White Gay men and (some) Lesbians got caught with their sheets down.

Introspection is not its forte and the White Gay movement has rarely looked at, or addressed, its racism. White heterosexuals have spent more time, and made more progress, on the issue than have White Lesbians and Gay men.

The Black Civil Rights Movement is being used to validate their Right to Marry movement when the White Gay movement lacks the moral authority to make any claims to the civil rights movement.


Cleve JonesBarely a week after “Meet in the Middle” the ante would be raised once again as Cleve Jones single-handedly called a Gay March on Washington for October 11. Mr. Jones, a longtime activist, is best known as founder of The Names Project which produced the AIDS quilt, one of the most dynamic and moving symbols of the early years of AIDS.

However, AIDS is no longer at the forefront of the White Gay movement and Mr. Jones was sufficiently bothered by the Prop 8 outcome to jump into the fray. (Ironically, an AIDS component was added to his plans only after other AIDS activists brought it up.) Mr. Jones has added Ms. McGehee to a top position on his team and I don't even want to imagine what she will attempt on a national stage.

LGBT MarchThere’s been all sorts of logistical questions raised about, as well as the wisdom of, the entire action. Mr. Jones says it will be a “grassroots effort.” But it only became a grassroots effort after-the-fact. As for the name, it’s morphed from “Gay March,” to “Meet-on-the Mall,” to the latest, “LGBT Equality March.” “Equality,” both word and symbol, is popular in the White Gay movement, especially so for a particular group of California and DC White Gays, several with substantial six-figure incomes, who are already a lot more equal than many people in this country.

 

Malcolm XWhile the White Gay movement embraces Martin Luther King, I turn towards another hero of that era: Malcolm X. I’m talking Malcolm the firebrand who spoke the brutal truth to, and about, White power. There’s a group of White Gay men and Lesbians sitting atop the Gay movement—in San Francisco, Washington, New York and L.A.—all cut from the same cloth and of like-mind.

Geoff KorsThey include Geoff Kors, executive director of EQCA; Lorri Jean, CEO of the L.A. LGBT Center; Joe Solmonese, executive director of HRC; to name three, who need to be placed on notice.The message is simple: I’m not here to serve the White agenda. The next time White Gays come forward with a plan, any plan, to do anything, I’m asking, “How many Blacks were in the room when these plans were made?”

I don’t mean who was the first Black crony they informed “after” the White people met. I mean how many Black Lesbians and/or Gay men were in the room—or on the conference call—when they made the plans?

If the final answer is “none,” then those same White Lesbians and Gay men should be prepared to execute that plan without Blacks as well. That means no money, no votes and no Black Gays to parade before the cameras to give the patently false impression that this is an inclusive movement.

No more: “This is the agenda. Follow it.”
No more: “We’re having a march. Show up.”

The state of the Black Union is rather perilous at the moment: HIV/ AIDS and other health issues. Social injustice. Entire neighborhoods under siege by drugs and violence. A public education system that is failing Black children at every level. Gaining the “Right to Marry” will change none of that.

The days of allowing “their” issues to suck up our oxygen, take our resources, sap our energy, dictate our focus and ultimately waste our time with their multi-million dollar fiascos, must end. I’m taking care “my” business and let the White Gay movement take care theirs.

And take care of it they will.

I have no doubt they will get their marriage rights eventually, either through the ballot or a favorable court decision. Afterwards, scores of White Lesbians and Gay men will disappear into the status quo, never to be seen or heard from again, as they become full-fledged White Americans.

And as a final act they can co-opt that line from the old Negro spiritual that Dr. King spoke of on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 46 years ago, one that even Black Americans have yet to realize:

Free at Last. Free at last. Thank God almighty I’m free at last.