One of my friends posted a YouTube video on his Facebook wall, and I thought it was interesting enough to listen to the entire 11:34 piece (woah, attention span…where did you come from? You usually take off once I sit down at the interwebs).
The author of the video is speaking in response to the rallying cry “Gay is the new black”, and specifically to this article published in the Huffington Post at the end of December.
Monique Ruffin’s Huffpo article is an interesting piece on how the “Black Church” is supporting oppression of gays. She calls out black Christians who would deny civil rights to gay people. She is also wondering how some black people in general would bemoan the phrase “Gay is the new black”, and asks them to see the similarities between the black struggle and the gay struggle, not just the differences between the two.
For me, the sufferings of a person or a group of people at the hands of other humans are frightening and heartbreaking. Instinctually, I feel that if any group can be oppressed, then I can be oppressed. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made this very point when he said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This is why I’m always flabbergasted when I see some black Christians fighting against the civil rights of gays. We know firsthand the impact and dehumanization of discrimination.
Melvin too calls for blacks and gays to see the similarities of their struggles, but he lists 5 reasons why gay is not the new black.
1.You can’t compare oppressions. If I understand Melvin’s point, he’s calling out those who oversimplify the fight for civil rights undertaken by blacks and by gays and lumping them together in the phrase “Gay is the new black.” Like Ruffin, he asks us to avoid trying to say that one is more of a struggle than the other, but urges us to recognize that each had and has its unique challenges and battles; they are not the same. I liked this section:
Who the hell cares? Who the hell cares? Inequality and oppression are evil, regardless of the form they take. By comparing your oppression to someone else’s, you’re trivializing that person’s struggle and creating a hierarchy, which prevents you from seeing how the two struggles are related and building alliances.
2. Black is still black. “We can’t just hone in on homophobia and ignore other systems of inequality.” Here he describes how the struggle for black equality is not over, and those who lobby for gay rights under the banner of “black rights were then, gay rights are now” are blind to the the ongoing battles still being waged for black rights.
3. _____ is the new black. I found this argument to be very similar to number two. Again, Melvin is pointing out that discrimination comes from all corners, and chastises people who are so proud to support gay or black rights and forget the Latina, the person with a disability, the woman, the muslim. The take away from this is we can’t just focus on homophobia and forget the other injustices being fought.
When I hear someone say that gay is the new black, and that gay rights are the new civil rights issue of our time, it makes me think they’re pretty ignorant. It makes me think, you know, that person just doesn’t really give a damn about people of color, women, people with disabilities, transgender people, or any other group facing discrimination these days.
4. Gay is not the new anything. Here Melvin gives props to the gay community. Gay is not new, gay oppression is not new, the gay struggle is not new. Gay people have been fighting their fight for over a century. He’s saying gays don’t need to tie onto the black struggle to get their message across because the gay community has been holding its own.
5. So, transgender is the new gay – not. This is a different presentation of 2 and 3: There are other marginalized groups out there, not just the gay community. He is specifically speaking about the transgender community here. Melvin makes an argument that the GLB community has for the most part largely ignored issues facing transgendered people.
In closing, Melvin tells us that we can’t compare gay oppression and the black oppression, but we can learn from the movements of both groups and the ways they have each organized.
So, is gay the new black?
In Ruffin’s Huffpo article she is using the phrase “Gay is the new black” to hit black Christians who discriminate against gays over the head. She is not breaking down the phrase to ask if it is a perfect metaphor, she is using it to remind black Christians that gays are being discriminated against, as they were once were (not in the same way, but nevertheless, they both have been are being oppressed). Melvin is more concerned with the actual metaphor and is asking us to stop using it.
Every activist group needs a battle cry, but is this the right one for the GLBT community? Does it simplify and trivialize other types of discrimination?
It is a frustrating situation; when it comes to civil rights, why is there any other distinction that “human”?