By: Jasmyne A. Cannick (QueerToday.com Contributor)
Let's get straight to it. What the hell were Obama's people thinking when they invited a white openly gay minister to open for his South Carolina gospel concert with Donnie McClurkin?
Is he trying to lose the race? That's all I want to know.
It was bad enough that Obama's people invited and announced a gospel concert tour through South Carolina with openly homophobic singers Mary Mary and the ex-gay Donnie McClurkin, which sparked accusations of Obama running a homophobic campaign. But keepin' hope alive, I tried to make the best of it hoping that the protests would be used as a teachable moment for Obama and his campaign advisers. No such luck. First we get the standard statement, that I will point out was posted in the LGBT section of his website in the beginning and not the website's general newsroom, as if to say that this is for the gays only and we want to keep this under wraps. But to add injury to insult, Obama's campaign announces that he invited an openly gay minister to open the gospel concert. Initially I thought he'd gotten with someone in the Black same-gender loving community, perhaps a minister from UnityFellowshipChurch, or some other minister that was of African descent. Instead we get Rev. Andy Sidden, a white South Carolina pastor. Then, just in case the knife wasn't in deep enough Obama speaks with the Human Rights Campaign's president Joe Solmonese about it.
Where are the Black gay civil rights groups and am I the only one that sees this as problematic?
Now see this is the BS I keep talking about.
First of all, let's address the issue of having a white gay pastor at a campaign event that's geared towards religious African-Americans. Here we have a perfect opportunity for African-Americans to internally address the issue of homophobia with an African-American presidential candidate and instead of inviting a Black openly gay pastor, they invite a white man. Um, are we trying to see a repeat of 2004? Because if that's the goal, we sure are headed down the right track. And in the end, in my opinion it's Black gays who have the most to lose from this happening as there's already a general consensus that gay is synonymous with white. All this will do is further that notion and drive it home undoing all of the work that Black lesbians and gays have done over the past decade within their communities.
Oh and please save your energy and mine too from having to press delete. I already know that what I am saying is harsh. Harsh not racist. Harsh but true. It's already been established that using white gay folks to explain to Blacks have the gay civil rights movement is the same as the 60's Civil Right Movement doesn't work. In fact, it's an automatic turn off for most Blacks, including this Black lesbian. With a sensitive issue like this, it's important that Blacks talk to Blacks. Our community needs to see us and hear from us and no one but us. And if we sit up here and allow this to go down, we have no one but ourselves to blame for our invisibility.
It's not personal against Rev. Sidden, I am sure he's a great person. It is personal however with HRC who knows better but can't ever seem to pass up the chance to make the national news, no matter whose community gets dumped on in the process. But oh I forgot, we've come such a long way.
In a statement, HRC thanked Obama for including Sidden but said that they were disappointed McClurkin will remain part of the program.
Please note that they were not disappointed that an openly Black minister wasn't chosen or that there Black gays were not a part of the conversation and that it was important for African-Americans to hear from their same-gender loving daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, mothers, and fathers. No, they were disappointed that McClurkin was still a part of the program.
And I quote:
"There is no gospel in Donnie McClurkin's message for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and their allies," Solmonese said. "That's a message that certainly doesn't belong on any presidential candidate's stage."
But what about the message in using a white openly gay pastor at a Black event to convince Blacks that homophobia is wrong? What kind of message is that going to send?
So now I am wondering who or what constitutes as an ally? Is an ally an ally when it's beneficial to them and them alone? Is an ally and ally when there are no media around? Is an ally an ally when they have millions in the bank and are still going after the same pots of money as their lesser-funded "people of color" counterparts? Tell me, are we allies then? Because an ally would have bowed out gracefully and encouraged, oh I don't know, maybe an African-American gay civil rights organization to take the lead. And if that organization for whatever reason failed to step to the plate, instead of trying speaking for people that you know nothing about, could that ally at the very least taken the time to point out that an important part of the equation is missing---us. Maybe something similar to the strategy adopted when our allies went running down to Jena, Louisiana to show their support for Blacks. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall them trying to upstage or drown out the voices of Reverend's Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.
But no, Black gays get [insert four letter expletive here] from both sides, no pun intended.
Whether you believe it or not, having to talk about this in the manner that I have is not something that I get a kick out of doing. In fact, I try to ignore as much of this I can. However, since it's either going to be left up to HRC or Rev. Sidden to be the voice of Black gays regarding this slap in the face, kick in ass, jab in the gut, and knife in the back, I was compelled to give my two cents. I'll be damned if I don't feel it necessary to point out the hypocrisy from organizations that claim to be our allies while being recognized, credited with, and referred to for representing the majority of the gay community.
Now back to my man Obama, who over the past week has made it increasingly difficult for me as an African-American to overlook a horrendous mistake that was only made worse with the announcement of the invitation of Rev. Sidden.
Look, I can put up with a lot. I can put up with you hiring people who don't look like me or you who are then sent into our communities to "rally us." It's hard, but I can deal with it. Even when those people come into our communities and use our leaders to stage events and that bring us out, and then at the same time turn around and try to undermine our strategies. I mean after all, there's no written law that says you have to be from the community and at least identify with the community you are trying to cajole. But it does help, that's all I'm saying.
I can even rationalize how a homophobic gospel artist could get booked for a campaign event, especially if there's no one around to say anything differently. No one, like maybe openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender Blacks. Although, there's still no guarantee that even if there had been someone that raised a flag about the concert that his or her opinion would have been taken seriously. Just keeping it real.
Organizations like HRC help to pave the way for decisions like having Rev. Sidden at an African-American gospel concert. Decisions like inviting Rev. Sidden, a white openly gay pastor to address a mostly African-American audience further push the idea among Blacks that gay is white. The belief that whites are trying to push gay issues onto Blacks further divides the African-American community from their same-gender loving counterparts who continue to remain invisible. All of this while racial incidents involving whites and Blacks are occurring from coast to coast causing many Blacks to question whether or not there's a coordinated plan in action for their reentry in slavery. Couple that with a heavily divided Black constituency on issues of morality during a pivotal Presidential election and we stand a higher chance of repeating the past, which resulted in the current regime.
The behavior of certain organizations is almost expected. It isn't the first time and won't be the last. But where does all of this leave Black gays? What are we supposed to do? You keep pushing us against wall and I know we let you slide before, but this one can't be overlooked. We deserve better. Nix Sidden and invite an openly gay Black pastor. Then let's sit down and talk about this so it doesn't happen again. Anything less, and it's a wrap.