Here are five strong but simple reasons why “…there is a difference” between the issues surrounding the civil rights movement and those surrounding the fight for certain LGBTQ rights.
Historical accuracy puts us in a position to present intelligent claims instead of being a passionate person that everyone ignores because of their ignorance. Nevertheless, when pop culture starts to set trends of ignorance, you get claims like Michael Gross’s–“gay is the new black.”
And you get Macklemore rhyming:
Gay is synonymous with the lesser/ it’s the same hate that’s caused wars/ from Religion, gender, to skin color, the complexion of your pigment/ The same fight that led people to walk outs and sit ins/It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference.
And it all sounds great, vogue, for-the-people–until you look at the historical realities behind the claims.
Fredrick Douglass in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, paints a clear picture of the plights faced by African American slaves as he writes:
It is a common custom…to part children from their mothers at a very early age. Frequently, before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it, and hired out on some farm a considerable distance off…For what this separation is done, I do not know, unless it be to hinder the development of the child’s affection toward its mother and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child. This is the inevitable result (pg. 17).
Those who would fight in the Civil Rights movement would fight against the effects of these societal malpractices. The legacies of these broken families had forged the DNA for how African-Americans were viewed then and during the civil rights movement.
And even when the emancipation proclamation happened in 1863, yes slaves were constitutionally free, but they weren’t institutionally, culturally, or lawfully free–far from being seen as people deserving equality.
So to be frank, there has never been a time in our society–never will be–where homosexual men/women from birth will know of the horrors of being separated from their mothers and the generational degradation it perpetuates in one’s identity. You could write 95 reasons why it’s historically insulting to the legacy and current identity of African Americans to call “gay the new black” and consider Macklemore’s lyrics remotely true.
Nevertheless, for the sake of this article, here are five strong but simple reasons why “…there is a difference” between the issues surrounding the civil rights movement and those surrounding the fight for certain LGBTQ rights. Here’s why the two don’t even belong in the same discussion:
You have never seen–and won’t see–“heterosexual only” and “gay only” water fountains, diners, buses, schools, in light of 75 years of oppressive Jim Crow laws.
Homosexual men/women will never see a society that makes it a point–IN EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE–to remind them that they’re lesser in creation and not deserving of life’s joys. The homosexual man/woman has never seen this day and never will.
You have not–and won’t–see homosexuals snatched away from their families at birth for the purpose of division and dehumanization.
Some may think this is unfair because it deals with something that happened pre-civil rights, but historians agree that this was the root of all that was combatted during the Civil Rights era. Society has never been set up to divide and conquer the homosexual from birth.
Homosexual men/women have never endured a slave trade for generations and witnessed their ancestors dying by the numbers during a “Middle Passage” and being sold for raw goods.
The Middle Passage is part of the African American legacy as it brought Africans to America–as property. Many died during the Middle Passage; and those that made it, with strong communal ties, were sold for raw material. They were seen not as a person but as valuable property at best–their value being determined by the trader, auctioneer, and families with the highest bid. Homosexual men/women in their struggle of “inequality” will never know of a day, month, year or decades that define them or their culture in this way.
Homosexuals have never been–or will be considered–non-citizens by laws of the United States that rob them of inalienable rights.
Dread Scott sued the federal courts for his freedom but lost 7-2 due to the fact that he, nor any other person of African ancestry, could claim citizenship in the United States. Homosexuals will never know a day where they are not considered citizens of the United States.
Homosexuals will never face a societal norm that allows–and even promotes–them to be beaten because they are seen as property and treated like cattle with scripture as a basis for justification.
Frederick Douglass writes on these common atrocities:
I have seen him tie up a lame young woman, and whip her with a heavy cowskin upon her naked shoulders, causing the warm red blood to drip; and, in justification of the bloody deed, he would quote this passage of Scripture–“He that knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes (pg. 57).”
Homosexuals will never know of such an existence.
In closing, historical, anthropological, and philosophical honesty should lead us to see that–contrary to Macklemore and Michael Gross’s assessment–“gay will never be the new black and there’s a stark difference”.
Though perceived hypocrisy and inequality has affected homosexual men/women and Africans–and continues to–their effects on homosexuals will never compare to their effects on African-Americans. The displacement of African lives to American soil had one purpose—economic progression through slavery.
To compare the struggle of homosexual men/women to that of African Americans is more than offensive. It’s wiping out 300 years of historical fortitude that saw a people fight to maintain the identity-legacy that was stolen from them on day one.
[UPDATE: Sho Baraka follows up with the author Adam Thomason in a Forth District Untamed interview. Hear more of Adam's thoughts and reasons for writing "5 Reasons Gay is Not the New Black" here.]
Adam Thomason is the CEO/co-founder of Collision Records an indie Hip-hop label. He led the branding and team that saw their first four retail albums debut on billboard. Adam has his undergrad in Fashion Design and is pursuing his Doctorate in Education.
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