In case you haven't noticed, there is a new generation in evidence at the traditional insitutional icon of civil rights, the NAACP. NAACP President Benjamin Jealous embodies the shift: he grew up in an interracial, middle-class, left-of-center, northern California family and became a Rhodes Scholar. He's open about his openly gay brother. Jealous brings with him an inclination toward involvement in a range of progressive issues, including but not limited to lgbt rights. He's also clear that the lgbt community needs to be a more constant ally on racial issues.
A milestone in this change came during the recent annual conference, with the first-ever NAACP town hall discussion of lgbt rights. The program framed the event as
“OUR COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY: WHY WE MUST OVERCOME HOMOPHOBIA”
Building upon the ground breaking work of the NAACP LGBT Taskforce, this workshop will provide an in-depth analysis on social issues and policies that disproportionately affect the LGBT Black community, this public forum will examine the complex layers of homophobia within the Black community and new ideas on the important role of Black straight allies, civil rights organizations, families, churches and colleges to eradicate stigma, violence and discrimination of Black gay people. Like most Blackpeople, Black LGBT people share a common history and continued struggle to eradicate racism, yet their identities, talents and leadership are diminished because of homophobia. Through film, engaged dialogue and featured presentations from academics, activists, clergy and policy makers this informative and provocative forum will examine the signifi cant contributions of Black gay leaders within the Civil Rights movement, the role of Black straight allies in addressing homophobia and how we can collectively overcome LGBT discrimination.
Julian Bond, who led the event, stated the NAACP LGBT Task Force was formed in 2009 with the National Black Justice Coalition, and described the NAACP’s three-point mission to increase acceptance of black LGBT people in the African American community:
- strengthen the NAACP’s knowledge of LGBT issues and policies,
- build alliances with LGBT organizations, and
- advance awareness of LGBT issues as they relate to the programs and interests of the NAACP.
He also addressed several areas where conflict exists between the LGBT and the African American communities.
We know that black lesbians, black gay men, black bisexual people and black transgender people suffer a level of discrimination and harassment far beyond the level felt by straight black women and men.
If you disagree, or if your Bible tells you that gay people ought not be married in your church, don’t tell them they can’t be married at City Hall. Marriage is a civil rite as well as a civil right, and we can’t allow religious bigotry to close the door to justice for anyone….
For some people, comparisons between the African American Civil Rights movement and the movement for gay and lesbian rights seems to diminish the long, black historical struggle with all it’s suffering, sacrifices and endless toil. People of color, however, ought to be flattered that our Movement has provided so much inspiration for others, that it has been so widely imitated, and that our tactics, heroes, heroines and methods, even our songs, have been appropriated as models for others….
People of color carry the badge of who we are on our faces. But we are far from the only people suffering from discrimination…. They deserve the laws, protections and civil rights, too.
[More coverage here]