As I watched the testimonies for and against the DC Marriage Equality and Religious Freedom act, what troubled me the most were all the brown faces testifying against equality. Most of their arguments were religious-based and included declarations of what "God" wants and what the Bible says. It is baffling that in the face of the immense discrimination that we have suffered as African Americans, there are still people ready to throw stones at another group who is discriminated against.
I'm an urban twenty-something, very likely half the age of the majority of anti-equality testifiers; but I grew up in a world where race was as much a factor as it wasn't. I was called a nigger at the early age of six, and though I knew it was wrong, it didn't stop me from being friends with people from every culture. People in my generation, for the most part, don't view race as starkly as people in my mother's generation do. In our world, discrimination is not about black versus white, it's about oppression versus anti-oppression. Yes, there are cultural disparages, even in the gay movement, but at the end of the day, what separates us is pro-LGBT and Anti-LGBT ideals.
That premise blends the color line drastically. In regards to the DC equality movement, you have people of all cultures advocating for equal rights and people of one predominate culture advocating against it: the African American religious fringe. This is particularly ironic, given that a majority of black congregations have a sizable LGBT population. And besides the obvious Stockholm syndrome of LGBT members of anti-gay churches, the history of Christianity and oppression in the black community should be argument enough for the opposition to take a look at what their argument is really saying.
African Americans didn't come here preaching Christianity. We were brought in chains, we were ripped from our language, our families, our culture, and our spiritual beliefs. Christianity was forced upon us by slave owners as a means to dissipate any potential unity. Fast forward three hundred years or so, Blacks were made to believe they had to straighten their hair, get rid of their slang, and assimilate fully into mainstream culture to be regarded as human. They could not marry someone of a different race, hell up until the 19th century, blacks were only 3/5 of a person. All of these institutions, anti-miscegenation, slavery, and voting rights were supported and prolonged by religious ideologies. Those same ideologies that said in essence, "you are the other; in order to be tolerated, you must be invisible". This is where the civil rights movement and the equal rights movement bear close resemblance.
By refusing to acknowledge LGBT people and relationships, we send a message that LGBT people are somehow the other. Black LGBT people, suffer the impact of marginalization two-fold, dealing with bigotry not only from racial discrimination, but from religious persecution. The same people who withstood fire hoses and beatings, who see what hate crimes and intolerance do to a people, have the audacity to seek to marginalize another group of people in the name of a "lord" that wasn't theirs to begin with. We as a people need to wake up and start acknowledging that the hatred for our gay brothers and sisters is doing nothing but perpetuating the denigration of our culture, killing our women, and holding us back from reaching Martin Luther King Jr's "promise land."
For more information on homophobia in Black churches, please join Metropolitan Network Against Homophobia for a panel discussion. 6:30 PM on Tuesday, November 10th at The Sumner School 1201 17th Street NW Washington, DC Inside Lecture Hall 102. More information can be found here: http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/doc/eve/1446274447.html