Black People White Gays Should Know: Dr. Mignon Moore
In a sobering discussion on KCRW's To The Point about how far-reaching and how quickly the topic of gay marriage has become apart of the country's social fabric, Mignon offered a much needed perspective and context for understanding some of the lingering questions posed by Prop 8 and by the surrounding hubbub after its defeat in the November 2008 election.
To hear her defend same-sex marriage in a conversation with religious leaders, listen here. (Mignon comes in at around 10:00).
In a disarmingly inviting lilt, she answered a question heard frequently -- why do some people in Black communities get so upset when gay rights advocates refer to gay rights as civil rights? She focuses on the historic connection Blacks have with America's Civil Rights Movement and with the sense of ownership around that name.
Nowhere else in American History is that term used except to describe the struggle for equality that happened in the 1950s and 1960s. There's a pride Blacks have in the battles that were fought and won and thus, a sense of ownership that is deep rooted and emotional. There's a concern that the term will be co-opted -- meaning used to describe other movements -- and any connection to equality struggles for Blacks in America will be overshadowed and perhaps even erased.
Her position is that while the issue of gays demanding equal rights may, in a literal sense, be considered a civil rights issue, it feels insensitive that the term would be used by White gays and leading voices in the gay marriage debates without deference (or at the least, reference) to the struggles and victories of that movement. She encourages people to become sensitized to the historic connection to that term and to the culture from which the Movement emerged. I would add that leaders pay close attention to how the Civil Rights movement of the 60's effectively used coalitions of people with multiple interests to assure common goals. That movement was not made up only of African-Americans, just as our movement towards same-sex equality cannot rely upon a small representation of gay identity.
Mignon also offers something I've not heard voiced before in discussions around Black gay involvement in the gay marriage debate. Her idea of how the gay marriage debate moves sexuality from the private to the public sector is interesting. You've heard a million times the idea that Blacks are simply intolerant of same-sex relationships and practices. What Mignon proposes is Blacks have always been accepting of gays within social environments -- families, organizations and of course, in churches. But, that was a private quiet acceptance.
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