Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What The Prop 8 Decision Means for US

What the Prop 8 Ruling Means for US

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yesterday was a big disappointment and setback for the state of California and the US. By upholding proposition 8, CA Supreme Court declared to the nation that if you have enough money, and can lie to/scare enough people, you can take away someone's rights by simple majority. The CA government stood behind bigots and fear-mongers in upholding a law that stripped rights from an entire group of people who, before Nov. 4th, had them. I have no doubts that there will be uproar in the gay community & in the communities of our allies. The anger, however, is only the beginning.

This presents an opportunity for education, framing and organizing in solidarity. This is where DC, especially, comes in. Instead of spending the next few months waxing and brooding over yesterday’s decision, we should take this opportunity, this slap backwards, to mobilize; we must ask ourselves, "What can we learn?"

Social movements and struggles have historically, and for the most part, been fueled by an expressed indignation. People, who collectively decide to stand against oppression, have a unifying rallying call directly related to the principal fight. This indignation, however, is also the reason most social movements end up dissipating. The way a social movement is framed will determine whether it is one of lasting tenacity or is a short explosion where the flames quickly die out.

One of the protestors decreed last night, “We must stay angry”. It is the fuel which ignites our passions. This ruling has granted us an opportunity to ask ourselves some tough questions, re-evaluate our framing and move forward to a certain success.

Firstly, we must confront some of the flaws in the foundation of our movement. The gay rights movement has been historically associated as a “White Man’s Movement.” This needs to change first and foremost. Those minorities who are out and active in the community need to reach out to their peers, friends and families, share their stories and ask for their support. LGBT minorities need to come out! Of course with minorities, coming out is a sensitive and sometimes dangerous step. The responsibility falls on the LBGT community to provide support and safe space for those on the threshold.

We must also continue to be inclusive in other areas; we are not a separate entity of the transgender community so we must make their fight our own. The movement must be restructured to include people from all races, age groups, classes and genders. We are making some strides with that here in DC. Michael Crawford, president of DC for Marriage and a Black man, has gone to great lengths in the community and made great progress. I applaud Mr. Crawford on his hard work and look forward to the progress we, in the DC community, can make in the future.

We must educate ourselves in the process of educating others. There have been several, well-framed, social movements in the past. We must study them, modify them and adapt their strategies and tactics for our own. We must consult other seasoned social activists on how we can improve. We must also recognize that we can not be narcissistic in our approach. Marriage is just a small part of a much bigger struggle for equal rights; we must strive to be humanitarian first, activist second. The Black Panther Party, before it’s destruction by the Hoover era FBI, fed more children in ten weeks than the government did in ten months. They stood for equal rights for all, not just blacks. In fact, they have a specific clause which proclaims a zero-tolerance stance on discrimination against homosexuals. We could learn a lot from movements like this, we need only pick up a book.

This goes without saying, but we all must master the web 2.0 tools and resources. Yesterday, word about the DuPont protest lit up local “tweeter’s” homepages, Facebook/MySpace profiles and blogs; I believe it was a big reason why there were over 400 people present on a rainy night. We must utilize these tools to aid us in achieving the ultimate social guise, solidarity.

This practice of solidarity will promote unwavering success in the face of great adversity. The movement itself flourishes only because it involves the human condition. The right for our love to be equally acknowledged under the law is not just a talking point, it’s our American dream. We have to humble ourselves in the face of opposition; if we continue to polarize and separate ourselves from our enemies, we will be no more or less separatist than they are. Remember, although our journey will work out in history as a step forward in social progress, both sides hold firm the belief that they fight for righteousness sake. If we cannot agree with our opponents on the right to marry, perhaps we can join forces on something we do agree on.

For example, we can stand together with the Christian right to combat poverty, another pressing issue in the world, especially with the economic downturn. And although they are against “us” as a people, perhaps coming together with them to tackle a universal problem will allow them to see the true faces of the movement, to associate an actual life with what’s at stake, and perhaps change their minds. All this made possible while also doing a good deed.

We must continue to hold flame under our representatives. This country voted in a “left-of-center” congress and they deserve to reap the rewards. They are not in office to shore up their vote for a new term, cater to corporate lobbyists, or impress an interested “investor”. They sit in the halls of congress to make laws based on the will of the people and the people want serious democratic changes. It is not President Obama’s job to hold them accountable, it is our job.

In closing, let us take this set back as rather an opportunity to move forward. Equality will win in the end; it is up to us how soon that end will be. Let us be smarter, stronger, vigilant, and level headed, together. We have the power to shape our own destinies; we need only join enough hands to shape the mold.

In Solidarity,

Jamelle Thomas

P.S. Here is a list of all of my tweets from last night; enjoy!

INDC: Michael Crawford from DC for marriage & the president of EQ Maryland are here already.

INDC: Crowd is at 250 Thalia was just on fox B roll lol

INDC: DuPont is packed! & I'm short so the amount of ppl escapes me

INDC: Willow from Join the Impact speaking about Nov protests. Equal rights now!

INDC: Willow "Our community is strongest when we stand together"

INDC: it's great to see religious & clergy members here tonight!

INDC: Willow “There are over a hundred organized events across the country”

INDC: Dana Beyer, president of EQ MD speaking now.

INDC: Beyer: "it is now our responsibility to make pres. Obama & Dems (pass equal rights)!"

INDC: Lativa, pres of National Org Women, DC, "We have to be for ALL women"

INDC: Lativa "We are not going to be silent, and we are not going to be moderate"

INDC: Rev.Laurie McPherson speaking now.

INDC: McPherson "To my brothers & sisters in the cloth who are against [equal rights], you do not speak for me & you do not speak for God"

INDC: McPherson "If any clergy member tells you you're not a child of God, their collar isn't worth the twenty-five cents they paid for it"

INDC: Phil Mendelson, DC Council member, speaking now

INDC: Mendelson "we're going to keep the momentum going"

INDC: Rev. Cheeks speaking

INDC: Cheeks "Next Tuesday, there will be clergy members coming to dc in support of same-gender marriage"

INDC: Cheeks "They need to understand, we're not going away! If we cook the food, we're sitting @ the table"

INDC: Marta Every, straight ally, local leader of courage campaign, speaking now

INDC: Every "go to, watch the video Fidelity”.

INDC: Michael Crawford for DC for Marriage about to speak.

INDC: Crawford "National Organizations from every part of the country have come out in unprecedented numbers"

INDC: Crawford "When they come at us with lies, we will come at them with openness & honesty"

INDC: Leslie, no political affiliation, speaking now

INDC: Leslie "No matter how many names the Christian 'Wrong' call us, we have what they'll never have, social progress"

INDC: Leslie "we rally because we are here to say Equal Rights Now!"

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