Blacks and Gays: The Unexpected Divide

By Gallagher, John | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), December 9, 1997 | Go to article overview

Blacks and Gays: The Unexpected Divide


Gallagher, John, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


A right-wing radio host railing against the Walt Disney Co. for being pro-gay. Alveda King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s niece, describing gay rights as an affront to the civil rights movement. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan preaching against the gay "lifestyle." Gospel singers Angie and Debbie Winans setting their condemnation of homosexuality to music.

Under most circumstances none of these antigay tirades, or others like them, would make headlines. But because in each instance the critics are African-American, the incidents suddenly seem more astonishing. The underlying message behind such attacks -- that gays are unfairly comparing their struggle for civil rights with that of blacks -- creates an impression of competing minority groups. It is, say some black gay men and lesbians, a false impression. "It shouldn't surprise people," says playwright Brian Freeman, who is on tour performing Civil Sex. The play, inspired by Bayard Rustin, a gay black man credited with organizing the 1963 civil rights march in Washington, D.C., speaks to the black gay experience. "There are a whole gang of black conservatives out there," he says. As for Alveda King, he adds, "She's the LaToya Jackson of the King family."

Some African-Americans say comparing the black and gay civil rights struggles somehow taints or belittles the black struggle. But Mark Johnson, communications director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, believes blacks should feel honored if gays want to pattern their movement after the 1960s civil rights movement. "[The black] community has written the book," says Johnson, who is black. "Why wouldn't that get to be a textbook for others? For people to say `This is ours; it's demeaning our struggle to adapt it' is a little shortsighted. What's really being said there, whether they're saying it or not, is a tribute to the black community. It's more a fraternal issue than a fractious issue."

Still, the attacks play on a recurrent fear among some minorities. "On some level we really do believe that equality and justice are matters of choices," says Phill Wilson, founder of the National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum. "We don't believe it's possible for all of us to be treated fairly. What black people see is if gays and lesbians use the language of the civil rights movement to fight for their civil lights at the same time that our civil rights are being eroded, there is a connection between one group ascending and the other being attacked. That's a myth."

There's also a religious component to some of the antipathy, one example of which are the Winanses, who made a publicity splash with their song "Not Natural." Among the forums the sisters have won for themselves have been two appearances on the Black Entertainment Television cable network. Keith Boykin, executive director of the National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum, criticized the network for giving the sisters "not one but two televised opportunities to spew out their bigotry." Boykin appeared on one of the BET shows as a counterpoint to the sisters' argument.

Conservative activist Alveda King would not have attracted much attention if it weren't for her uncle. In the past several months, King has been making appearances around the country condemning gay rights. While she said during a Seattle appearance in September that she was not representing her uncle, she added, "I am very familiar with how he felt about the Bible and the standards of the Bible, and he upheld those." Gay people, Alveda King said, lack the "innate and immutable" characteristics of racial minorities.

Talk-show host Alan Keyes, failed Republican presidential candidate in 1996, regularly attacks gay rights. In a June program about the Southern Baptists' Disney boycott, Keyes put the company "squarely in the camp of those who are tearing down the moral fabric of this country, culminating in their hoopla over the coming-out episode of Ellen `Degenerate. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Blacks and Gays: The Unexpected Divide
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.