Let me forewarn you, this might hurt . As thousands of protesters descended upon the small town of Jena, Louisiana in support of the Jena 6, many of whom were African-American ministers, students, activists, or just ordinary people who felt compelled to stand up against the racial injustice that has plagued Jena and our country . There was a surprising ally present marching with the multitude, displaying their signature yellow and blue logo, and even taking to the microphone to verbally express their support of what many people believe is just a "black issue".
Joe Solmonese, president of The Human Rights Campaign said they were there "because this injustice cannot stand". "We are here because we know about bigotry. We know about hate. We know the pain in high school of standing apart. Of being taunted. Of standing up, only too often, to be shut down. I am here -- we are here -- because you have stood with us. Because all of us know that one injustice against any of us is an injustice against all of us.
I've been very critical of HRC in the past because as a black gay man the issues that directly affect my community are often ignored by this powerful white gay organization. Proving that separatism and racism also exists in the gay community as I will illustrate a bit further shortly. But on September 20, 2007 HRC chose to stand with the African-American community and The Jena 6 despite the backlash they were sure to receive from their ardent supporters for aligning themselves with a non LGBT issue, or should I say just a non-white issue.
No matter where you stand on this issue, whether it's in support of the district attorney's decision to charge the Jena 6 with attempted murder or the public outcry to have the boys released you would have to be in complete denial or simply a racist not to acknowledge the unfair and racially biased treatment of the Jena 6. I applaud HRC for not limiting the scope of it's organization to mainstream white gay causes, by acknowleding that they should represent black gays and lesbians not only who are victims of homophobia and workplace discrimination but racism as well. However, some within the HRC ranks are not pleased with Solmoneses' presence at the rally and they are not biting their tongue.
Blogger and Washington Blade editor Chris Crain had this to say, "I understand the politics of why HRC became involved in the campaign to "Free the Jena 6." African-American and other civil rights leaders have been very supportive on the issues we say are important to us, and now HRC is being supportive on the issues they say are important to them. It's scratch-your-back and no doubt for some based on a genuinely felt bond among civil rights groups.
Still, why pick this case? It doesn't involve discrimination of the type suffered historically by gay Americans. I would agree completely that there is racial discrimination in this country, and that the criminal justice system suffers from prosecutorial abuse, biased jury verdicts and lopsided sentences based on race.
But if these injustices are as common as Joe and I both believe they are, then why pick the "Jena 6"? Why pick a case of six bullies who beat, kicked and stomped a defenseless teen unconscious in a schoolyard -- as the one for the GLBT movement to take a stand?
The thoughts of Chris Crain exemplifies the white privilege many gays in the mainstream community still benefit from despite knowing all too well the dark side of discrimination and inequality based on their sexual orientation. Chris was right when he said the Jena 6 kicked and stomped the white student. I don't condone violence of any kind, but I've only been out of school for 10 years and during my time students who fought were written up, given detention, or even suspended but they were never locked up and charged with attempted murder, especially when the victim was well enough to attend a party the very same night.
Chris' dismissal of the racial overtones of this case and his description of The Jena 6 as "macho bullies" and "them" or "they" clearly displays his lack of compasssion and understanding for any injustice that doesn't resemble the Matthew Shepard story. Sad, but unfortunately for blacks and black gays and lesbians this is our America, we are still fighting for a place at the table.
While Joe Solmonese and HRC have a lot of catching up to do in terms of including black LGBT folks and truly showing a commitment to diversity within the HRC ranks, yesterday was definitely a step in the right direction.
But I do have to ask where were all of the Bishops from the hundreds of mega-churches all over the country? TD Jakes, Bishop Eddie Long, Bishop Paul Morton, Bishop Charles E. Blake, Creflo (Give Me A) Dollar? (*sounds of crickets*)