Today is a most auspicious day, for it marks the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights March (organized by Bayard Rustin) in Washington, DC. This is a reflection of how far the United States has come regarding civil rights and how far we have yet to go.
Something quite remarkable happened during this 50th Anniversary celebration. One of my heroes, Julian Bond, the chairman emeritus of the NAACP, stated quite clearly that:
We are returning amidst a newly reinvigorated fight for civil rights that has grown rapidly to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.
After all, LGBT rights are civil rights.
No parallel between movements is exact. But like race, our sexuality and gender identity aren’t preferences. They are immutable, unchangeable – and the constitution protects us all against discrimination based on immutable differences.
Upon reading this quote, I must confess that Bond’s words made me weep. I wish we had more voices like his and like that of Rep. John Lewis. While Bond’s words and actions are representative of a great move forward, we still have so far to go around issues of racial equity and full equality for the LGBT community, not to mention the horrible inequities faced by those that share several identities, such as LGBT folks of color.
Sadly, even as we have such strong expressions of solidarity, we have too many examples of the prevalence of discrimination and racism. The story of 25 African Americans being denied service in a South Carolina restaurant just because their peaceful gathering made one person feel threatened is a tragic reminder that racism is still blantant, aggressive, capricious, and very much alive in 2013.
Shall we also look at immigration and how the United States treats Latino/a Americans? In 2010, Arizona passed SB1070, which demands that all brown colored people be able to supply legal documentation of their citizenship, something white folk do not have to do. In its always progressive mode (note the irony here) Alabama adopted the same law in 2011 — yes, Alabama where 48% of all African American men are not able to cast a vote. Coincidence? I think not.
Let us now move to LGBT rights and Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate, Ken (I can only think about gay sex) Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli has proposed to overturn Lawrence v. Texas. Yes that’s right, he wants to make homosexuality illegal. I do wonder if Cuccinelli and Putin have been exchanging love letters.
Call to action: my hope is that each of takes a moment to engage fellow human being in a discussion around race, gender, power, privilege, and civil rights, including civil rights for the LGBT community. Let all of the targeted populations in the United States stand in solidarity with one another. We who believe in Freedom cannot rest.