Should the NAACP Take On Gay Rights Agenda?

Over at Pam’s House Blend, Pam Spaulding took NAACP President Benjamin Jealous to task for his recent comments on CNN about the NAACP not getting involved in gay rights issues. Jealous told CNN’s TJ Holmes that the NAACP doesn’t “take a position on that nationally.”

While she called him progressive in his thinking, she argued that Jealous was “getting the message” that gay rights was a “third-rail” issue by the old guard of the NAACP and not a priority. 

Arguing that the fight for gay rights is civil rights, Spaulding criticized Jealous and the NAACP for their weak-kneed response, but praised Jealous for at least discussing the issue without malice.

More after the jump.

How is marriage itself not a social justice issue? It’s clearly an issue in the black community, given how many out-of-wedlock babies are being born into poverty-stricken situations to single mothers without a father present? Would it not behoove the NAACP national to support marriage equality so that more children can be raised and supported in any loving two-parent homes, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity? There are ways to frame this in better terms for the community without rendering black LGBTs in particular, invisible yet again.

I am glad Ben Jealous spoke out in personal, human terms (though he’s clearly not down with terminology; it’s unclear if his friend is transgender and gay, or he’s conflating something, and refers to our relationships and status as “lifestyle decisions”)

All of this, including the issue of hostility towards LGBTs of color in the white LGBT community which Jealous also raises here, needs to be aired out before the people at that conference. The debate and discussion needs to happen in the context of all the other social justice issues of concern to the black community that affects all of the community, not just straight ones (and the ones pretending in the closet).

Historically the NAACP has focused on Civil Rights, but largely only Civil Rights for minorities and specifically the rights of black people. Some would argue that gay rights is a different mantle that the NAACP shouldn’t have to take on, others could easily point out that “gay” knows no race, that there are black homosexuals, and they too deserve the NAACP’s protection and support. Others would argue we shouldn’t be relying on what some view as an antiquated, out-dated organization like the NAACP anyway. Where do you fall? Should the NAACP be expanding its Civil Rights fight to the gay marriage debate? Or is that an area where they should stay out? Or do you think the NAACP is so irrelevant that it doesn’t matter what they do?

26 thoughts on “Should the NAACP Take On Gay Rights Agenda?

  1. aren’t the purposes and focuses different? there’s not gay version of the NAACP? why get a pediatrician to do a brain transplant?

  2. In watching that CNN story, I saw a crowd full of people who, their sexuality aside, probably hate black people deep down inside. It’s not the most enlightened thing to say, but in the day to day world, most of us know how the black/gay communities respond to each other. It’s very Sharks versus Jets. Would stumping for the gays work for the NAACP? It may give the organization a shot in the arm, media-wise. And Jealous would almost certainly see a flood of new funding heading his way from the G&L community (I would think, but the Dan Savage’s of the world make me unsure). And yet, you can already hear the speeches, already see the article’s, already nod; along with the sermons that would follow soon after the group decided to carry this issue forward. My own father wouldn’t stop vomiting. If the NAACP decides to fight it out for gay marriage, it would be writing its own death certificate.

  3. There are many ills and social injustices in America, more than the NAACP can or should address. I don’t hear anyone complaining that the NAACP doesn’t do enough to fight for religious freedoms.The only reason this story has legs is that white liberals are appalled that the black community is not falling in-line with the liberal platform and supporting gay rights in the overwhelming fashion liberal leadership would hope for. But really, it is cute when liberals find out black people don’t vote the "way they are supposed to" – they just cannot believe it.

  4. I’m torn. I just read the story over at Rod 2.0 and while I personally think Jealous is being strong-armed by the old guard and just trying to save a ship with many leaks and holes in it, I somewhat can understand his logic. Seeing as how there are MANY segments of the NAACP that "individually" run, much like a franchise, there are some segments that aren’t as progressive as the national leadership. Again, seeing as how the ship could possibly be sinking (or by some accounts they’re already coming in on bits and pieces), what is a leader to do in order to maintain the unity of the group.On the other hand, hell, he’s a young guy and he got the position thankfully with the intent to change the damn direction of the organization. Fact of the matter is that a lot of these old guard people are about to DIE. Yeah, I said it. We’re not honoring the legacy of someone and people by not extending human and civil rights to viable community within this country and certainly within our black community. To hear the homophobic statements being made from various "leaders" within the black community is absolutely wretched. My own personal belief is that being lukewarm on a situation does nothing for the benefit of the community. The inability to articulate a message pro or con does nothing for the cause.

  5. Pam apparently doesn’t read What About Our Daughters, if she did she’d know that the NAABM doesn’t even care about black women despite the fact that we’ve been carrying that organization almost from its inception. They handed out leaflets in support of the perpetrators in the Dunbar Village crimes against humanity. Why on earth does she think they’d care about gays?

  6. I believe that gay people should have the right to get married and serve openly in the armed forces.What I don’t believe in is the ‘you black folks should be fighting side by side with us because you understand what it feels like to have to fight for your civil rights’ attitude that the gay leadership seems to have. And the scorn thrown at black folks when we don’t.It is a shame that aren’t treating black people like they treat everyone else; an argument they are using to achieve their rights.

  7. I have to agree with uppity, and state that the NAACP should address the marriage equality issue. "Isms" never roam alone, and solidarity under disadvantaged groups makes it difficult to "divide and conquer." And yes, gays are not nearly as disadvantaged as blacks and Hispanics, but disadvantaged is still disadvantaged (and isn’t always economic).Additionally, the NAACP’s national embrace of marriage equality would help reduce misconceptions within the black community about homosexuality. It didn’t help that the Gay Exorcism in Connecticut was a black church trying to cast out "demons." (that ish didn’t help. At. All.). A steady voice like the NAACP will counterbalance people like that who want to "lay hands" on teh gayz instead of giving them the freakin’ right to happiness.

  8. I don’t see how the NAACP can ever hope to effectively address HIV/AIDS in the black community until it’s willing to reach out to the gay and bisexual black men, who usually closeted. Having to hide your sexuality drives you toward self-destructive and erratic behavior. Men "on the DL" are a huge problem (not just for black communities, but any community hostile to gays and lesbians) and while they should be taken to task for cheating on their spouses/girlfriends and engaging in risky behavior (i.e. sex without condoms), the larger community needs to do some soul-searching and find a way for these men to live their lives openly and honestly. Until this difficult but very necessary change occurs, gay and bisexual black men, saddled with low self-esteem and the burden of hiding who they are, will continue to be driven to risky, clandestine sexual behavior and will enter unhappy relationships with women to provide ‘cover’ from suspecting eyes. The whole community suffers as a result.

  9. One more note: A recent study found that gay teens are more likely to have children out of wedlock, another result of attempting to ‘prove’ their heterosexuality, either to others or, in some cases, to themselves. This is just an example of how black lesbians (or black women perceived to be lesbian) pay a price for the homophobia in the community.

  10. I also agree with snobfanforeal I’m not unsympathetic to gay rights, but I’m wary of the ‘the Negro civil rights" meme being co-opted for any and every movement , ala PETA and its Chicken McNuggets =Lynching campaign. The NAACP needs to focus on what its core mission is, update and upgrade its own outlook [Roslyn Holcomb’s point on Dunbar village] and not racialize something that on the face of it, is not about color.

  11. As a lesbian I must say that I’m glad the NAACP is going to sit silent on LGBT rights. I am pretty sure they would not be any real help to the movement as they seem to be absolutely no help to anyone these days. I appreciate the history of the NAACP and have great admiration for what they’ve done in the past but at this point the organization exists only to exist so they can collect corporate money.

  12. snobfanforeal:"In watching that CNN story, I saw a crowd full of people who, their sexuality aside, probably hate black people deep down inside. That is quite an assumption to be making about a group of people. If NAACP really stood for the words those letters are supposed to mean then one would think that they would care in some small part about the struggles of the black GBLT community.

  13. @ ScottThat assumption, admittedly lofty, was qualified by the sentence that followed it. Again, I stand by my point. General interactions between the white, gay, left-leaning activist community and the black community in general—to say nothing of the geriatric wardens of the civil rights era—is super duper flinty. Very Sharks and Jets. I suppose we could act like this question is some post modernist appreciation of the interactions of blacks/gays and, moreover, imagine that a crowd chanting for their perceived ‘civil right’ to marry would be progressive enough in their politics right across the board, no matter the issue. Especially on matters relating to race. But there’s nary a brown person in that crowd my friend…which, from strictly a marketing standpoint, hinders the attempt to make their longing to throw rice at each other on the steps of the local chapel the same as our right to vote. Certainly our niggling homophobia has a bit to do with keeping black American’s from offering such public displays of support. But a lot of us aren’t feeling the comparison between the right to jump the broom and the right to use the same bathroom. Or live in any neighborhood we can afford to. Or not have our children’s school bus battered with stones and/or bottles. Or heck, to even use the same public pool! (I’m looking at you Philly…) This concept that the unwillingness of a state to sanction a personal relationship directly equates with state sanctioned segregation in all its forms is complete nonsense.

  14. snobfanforeal:Given the way the NAACP positioned themselves LGBT issues even before Prop 8 why would the LGBT community be a big fan? So the NAACP should just ignore the legal prohibitions that the black LBGT community lives with every day? I guess the Bayard Rustins of this world are just out of luck.

  15. The NAACP was always a divisive organization to begin with. Their issues with color and women are as old as they are. That said, it’s their party, if they don’t want to get behind gay rights then whatever, but what about rights for black gays? Does the fact that your are gay nullifies your blackness. Good job NAACP, turning your back on the doubly oppressed…

  16. @ Scott:You asked "So the NAACP should just ignore the legal prohibitions that the black LBGT community lives with every day?"Forgive me if I sound a bit crude, but if an organization has to choose between throwing the entirety of its efforts behind improving the educational and professional standing of an entire people, versus narrowing their efforts toward securing the venal ambitions of a very small few, I recommend the first option.Here’s a question. Have conditions for black American’s ‘advanced’ to the point where a viable lobbying arm for social uplift isn’t necessity? Isn’t that question inferred by this proposal?

  17. Snob…did you post this just ’cause your little reese’s peanut butter cup was featured? Tell the truth.

  18. snobfanforeal:No one is asking the NAACP to change the groups focus, just that they recognize the injustice that the black LGBT community struggles with. How can you call the hopes of the the black LBGT community venal? But maybe you are right, since it took the ACLU and not the NAACP which didn’t help to fight the case of Loving v. Virginia. Conditions for black Americans might have ‘advanced’ more had the NAACP bee doing anything for the past 20 years expect turning itself into a organization of has beens that has been bankrupting itself via mismanagement.

  19. Clearly, black and LGBT are not mutually exclusive. But the question I always come back to is, "What have you done for me lately?" I have to agree with snobfanforeal that the gay community, by and large, doesn’t stand up for people of color and that the face of its movement is very white. It reminds me of the feminist movement: the LGBT activists of color have basically had to splinter off into their own movement. So until that’s corrected, don’t expect the NAACP to jump on the bandwagon. Sorry.

  20. Oops, forgot to add: I realize that the situation I mentioned is probably unfair to those who identify as LGBT and black, but I think the onus, unfortunately, is on them to make activism in the gay community more inclusive if they hope to garner support from the black community at large. Not fair, but that’s how I see it…although I’m sure others will disagree. Hate to make the comparison, but it’s a situation similar to that of black Republicans, in that many black folks view gay=white, just like Republican=white…unless you’re crazy or immoral or both.

  21. Progressive organization. I mean since I was a child I was taught to hold them in the highest esteem. It was because of them that you and I were possible. But starting several years ago when I began to follow Gordon when he took over my eyes were open and I saw a people whom were holding on to past for dear life. I think they have gotten too comfortable in those seats. So much so that it has become a "my way or the highway type of deal". When the needs of the African American community in other areas far out weights the needs of the NAACP for discrimination lawsuit purposes then something has got to give.And this is the point we are at now. If they want to continue in this path "only" then they need to scale back the money being received through various sources so that A new organization or an underfunded existing one one can come in to meet the needs of today’s population.If not then it is high time that there be a cleaning of the house and fully change in authoritative guard.The priority of issues changes every ten years. And if an organization does not change or modernize to meet the needs of the current population then it is akin to a business that doesn’t change with the customer or at least include the new demo. I think is important to remember that the NAACP is called the National Advancement of Colored People (and I know you know this). Not the Legal Advancement of this their of. It is true that the large part of the NAACP has had a history of legal work on behavior of African Americans. No one argues that it should not continue to do that, but it also has to help meet the needs of the African American community at large.And the National Advancement of Colored People includes dealing with the issues of:PovertyDomestic ViolenceEducationandwhatever the issue of the day may be for POC’s.In its current state the NAACP has become a shell of itself and has lost a lot credibility in the African American community at large. As for me I belong to the NAACP. My family belongs to the organization as well. But I have since began to write letters and make my voice heard as to my distrust and dissatisfaction with an organization that continues to selectively decide what is a worthwhile African American cause.On the subject of services it was through the NAACP that I was found to be part of a discrimination lawsuit. They were not the core of the suit but they were at least sourcing out potential plaintiffs.The NAACP receives millions upon millions of dollars 50% of that is going to pay people salaries and other administrative cost. A gross misuse of the funds.There are also numerous organizations and law firms that are out there across the country to help service the needs of the poor and disenfranchised. A vast change for 40 years ago.If they do not change then I think is the end of the NAACP as we so knew it and it is time to give the money to organizations that are willing understand and work toward solving the issues of today.That doesn’t mean that the NAACP hasn’t done a good over the times. But my point is that if they plan to stay around they better get with the times and bridge the gap or they will be out when no one coming up wants to replace the out going members. And Membership continues to dwindle.Relevance of the NAACP hinges on how they change and challenge themselves to meet the needs of the diverse POC population.IF they do so then I am all for them.And if only a small percent benefit form an organization that has the ability to affect millions of lives of POC’s in various ways then why are we continuing to fund it?If at the end of the day most POC’s are getting disenfranchised by the NAACP. Then does it really matter that 1 person was helped?I think though taking into account what has been said here is that the NAACP’s hand will be forced to either make the necessary changes or go into extinction. As it appears they are slow to change I will hold out just a bit longer to see what the President can do.I think with Barack Obama as president and people seeing the number of young POC’s who came out in droves for him the NAACP will have no choice but to come into the present.One way or another something will happen. So they need to hop, skip, and jump into to gay debate.

  22. Scott you are as full of shit as the gay community itself! Please I am officially DONE with groups like the feminuts and gay people trying to co-opt black people into an allegiance or alliance of convience when it’s complete and utter bullshit with a capital B!! If ANYONE doesn’t do shit for gay people of color it’s the community itself which has done everything humanly possible to put a ‘whites only’ face on it’s movement but NOW has the ultimate nerve to call out a organization of color to have it’s back?!! In answer to your question Danielle HELL NO!!

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