The Big Lie: Human Rights vs. “Special Rights”

By Naima Washington

In the October 5, 2012 edition of the Washington Blade (Washington, DC’s gay news weekly) included the article by Rev. Irene Monroe, ‘Will marriage support cost Obama black voters’? Rev. Monroe, located in Boston, points to the growing efforts among some African American ministers to create an anti-Obama campaign: “With one of Obama’s largest and most loyal blocs being African Americans who are also largely Democratic and conservative Christians, the big worry is not that African Americans would overwhelmingly cast a ballot for Mitt Romney; it’s that they might not come out in large numbers …”

Rev. Monroe also notes that Rev. William Owens of the Memphis-based Coalition of African American Pastors has more than 3742 black ministers and their churches behind his anti-Obama campaign, “Owens reportedly told the Association Press that he would lead a national effort to rally black Americans to rethink their overwhelming support of the president over the same-sex issue…” Another active pastor in Baltimore is Rev. Jamal-Harrison who “…formed the Empowerment Network, a national coalition of about 30 denominations working to register African-American parishioners…”, according to Irene Monroe, “Bryant, too, opposes same-sex marriage, and has stated that Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality is ‘at the heart’ of the problem for Black Christians.” In November, voters in Maryland will vote on marriage equality; passage would allow same-sex couples to wed beginning in January 2013.  The NAACP endorsed marriage equality along with some religious leaders who indicated a willingness to perform ceremonies for same-sex couple. Recent television ads opposing marriage equality, however, have claimed that those who support traditional marriage, which they define as one man and one woman, have been ‘punished, threatened, fired, and sued.’ According to the ad, passage of marriage equality will put us all at risk.

We live in a society where not so long ago there was no such crime as the rape of a black woman; there was also no such thing as a white woman being able to legally consent to have sex with a black man. In many cases, it would mean jail for her; in all cases it would mean death for him.  As the US claimed to respect the rights of the individual, nearly every state had laws forbidding interracial marriage; the dissemination of birth control information or devices; and of course, there were laws which criminalized same-sex intimate relationships.  America always prided itself for the freedom enjoyed by its citizens, yet millions of US citizens because of their color, gender, class, etc. have been denied an education, jobs, access to credit, mortgages, insurance, etc. Although Southern state laws subjected blacks to many forms of generational subjugation, blacks living in other states were traditionally discriminated against; one knew just what communities to avoid; which schools, jobs, restaurants, social clubs, amusement parks, and recreational centers were off-limits. Unless they were part of the ‘colored help’, many communities had no people of color living in them as renters or owners, and this pattern has continued into the 21st century. Misogyny, white supremacy, and economic injustice were at the very core of many of the laws which not only defined entire groups of people but ultimately defined how these groups would be allowed and expected to interact with each other.

Newcomers to America, especially those who come from countries where personal safety was always threatened for cultural, political, or religious reason; or where there was limited economic and social mobility, rightfully applaud the freedom they enjoy in the US. Many are often, however, ignorant of just how difficult and dangerous life has been for millions who have been here for the past three centuries. Less than 50 years ago, opponents to blacks who were seeking to crush Jim Crow laws and obtain full citizenship in America were determined to make sure that the rights of African Americans remained permanently restricted. In order to fan the flames of hostility, decades-old lies claiming that gay rights aren’t civil rights; that gays cannot be oppressed because they don’t have to be gay; that a civil rights agenda can only include black and other people of color (as though black and other people of color can’t also be gay). These lies also seek to define gays and subordinate their humanity as well. The struggle for universal human rights has never been the domain of any one group of people. Whenever and wherever there is oppression and injustice, the seeds of the struggle for human rights will always be planted. Against all odds, individuals and groups have always stepped forward to meet the challenge, and it will be a sad time for the human race should people ever cease to engage in struggle.

The Big Lie: Human Rights vs. “Special Rights”
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5 thoughts on “The Big Lie: Human Rights vs. “Special Rights”

  1. 1

    I’ve only caught a few of your posts, and only recently. That will will change. Really fine writing. Huzzah!

    A bit off-topic but,

    Is it just me, or do you also see a liberal “attack mode” emerging in the overall war against authoritarianism? There have always been the fighters on the left, but ironically and sadly, our most prescient enemies are the ‘colorblind’ relativist liberals that demand we show our solidarity by sticking our heads in the sand alongside them. It may just be my recent-ish immersion in social justice issues, a move from passive to active, that gives a sense of shifting winds, however, I tend to wax optimistic. IOW, is my optimism grounded?

  2. F

    I think there are plenty of instances, even where some individuals or groups would not begrudge another individual or group their freedoms and rights, where the privileged (those who can exercise their freedoms and rights) simply do not support the oppressed due to ignorance or fear. Maybe the newcomers in particular. They are relatively safe and don’t want to jeopardize their safety. The sad thing is that there are certainly times where they have a majority over the dedicated haters, and simply standing up could have put the bigots in their place. There are also plenty of people who are oppressed who are also bigoted about another group. And all of these things look very much like behavior from cycles of abuse, whether it is on a social or personal level.

    gays cannot be oppressed because they don’t have to be gay

    I really have serious problems with this double lie. First, being gay isn’t a choice. Second, so what if it were? What about things that are a choice, which are not harming anyone else (you’ll always see idiots claiming that gay marriage or whatever does harm someone somehow – it is never explained though)? Why should anyone be oppressed or denied equal rights because they choose to do something “different”?

    The stupidest thing is that gays or anyone else don’t need and aren’t asking for special rights, they just want to exercise the same rights everyone else has. They may need special (specific) protections, but they wouldn’t if they stopped receiving special oppression. It is the bigoted (especially the religious) who frequently want special rights and authority.

  3. 3

    There seems to be a tactic where the fringe element of marginalized groups presumes to speak on the behalf of the marginalized, it’s effectiveness hinging on that group’s willingness to be lied to. We’ve seen that with the teabaggers, but it seems like there are too many other issues within the PoC community to see this as an effective ‘rally ’round the Romney’ plea. It’s amazing how the authoritarian urge can eclipse calls to basic human dignity.

  4. 5

    “Sigh” Don’t they remember the “special rights” that the Mormons claimed vis-a-vis mixed race marriages? Haven’t they heard how the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa forced marriage apartheid?

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