Dare to Ask: Is it fair to compare civil rights, gay
By Phillip Milano
The Florida Times-Union
Are most folks in the civil rights movement offended by the gay rights
movement? Do they object to our community “piggybacking” on their issues and
history? — Matthew, gay, Charlotte, N.C.
How can the two not be compared? We’ve both experienced oppression daily…
Only an idiot would choose to be gay, given the terrible treatment we face. A
gay person can “hide” their nature as easily as a black person can paint their
body and face white every day. — Damon, 33, gay, Los Angeles
As a straight black woman, I’m offended when homosexuals compare their
struggle to have sex with the same sex to my struggle always being considered
second-class. — A., 44, Jacksonville
Let’s at least agree that white gays kind of get a raw deal on chant choices
at rallies. Just when they’re feeling militant busting out a
“We’re-here-we’re-queer-get-used-to-it,” here come some non-straight African-
Americans throwing in a “We’re-black-we’re-gay-we-ain’t-goin’-away” whenever
they feel like it. Where’s the protest parity, yahmsayin’?
Speaking of protests, the problem is that when the public sees a gay rights
rally, it’s usually almost all whites, and when they see a civil rights rally,
it’s mostly blacks, said E. Patrick Johnson, a Northwestern University professor
who studies race, gender and sexuality issues.
“Some African-Americans say 'our struggle is different from the gay struggle’
because the faces we see in the media regarding gay marriage or 'Don’t Ask Don’t
Tell’ aren’t gay African-Americans,” said Johnson, whose books include “Sweet
Tea: Black Gay Men of the South.” “So people tend to associate being gay with
whiteness, when it’s not the case.”
While there are racist gay rights supporters and homophobic civil rights
backers, the two movements aren’t mutually exclusive, he said.
“We should try to build coalitions across the multiple ways we are oppressed
based on our identities.”
Daring to change things up
Sometimes, it’s just good to turn the page. In this case, a Web page.
In a move sure to shock the world, after today’s column, I’m moving a big
chunk of Dare to Ask over to cyberspace.
We’re getting close to six years with this cross-cultural experiment, and I’m
looking to ratchet up the exchange by pushing for more real-time dialogue. This
will allow me to engage you quicker and let you add your take on provocative
conversations much faster.
In a way, I’m going back to the original essence of my 12-year-old website,
yforum.com, which spawned Dare to Ask. That site, still going strong, is all
about your feedback and comments — no matter how politically incorrect they may
be (just don’t be a hater).
You’ll still see Dare to Ask in print from time to time, but to get instantly
in the middle of the back-and-forth, go to my blog at Jacksonville.com.
Repeatedly. Whenever the spirit moves you.
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Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his