Scroll To Top

Wake Up: Jena 6
Is About All of Us

Wake Up: Jena 6
Is About All of Us


Shame on LGBT people who don't recognize the significance of what happened in Louisiana.

I am proud to state that the National Black Justice Coalition was the first nationwide LGBT organization to speak up in support of the Jena 6. Nearly two months later, the Human Rights Campaign joined NBJC in the fight to right the wrongs of the unfair judicial treatment of six black teenagers. I thank them for their support.

In addition, NBJC along with DC Black Gay Pride, HRC, and several other organizations came together to rally in support of the Jena 6 on September 20. But unfortunately, the Jena 6 experience has been both shocking and hurtful from not only a racial perspective but an LGBT point of view as well. There is a noticeable lack of support from mainstream LGBT organizations and people on this issue. LGBT media didn't even cover Jena 6 until a couple weeks ago, although NBJC pledged its public support earlier this summer.

The facts that there was not an overwhelming onslaught of national, state, and local LGBT organizations joining NBJC and HRC in Washington, D.C., and Louisiana, and that the normally confrontational gay bloggers buried this story, or didn't report it at all, are problematic and point to a much bigger issue. In the fight for civil justice, there is still a deep reluctance to approach issues dealing with the intersections of race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

This is clearly evident in white gay blogger Chris Crain's attack on HRC and its associate director of diversity Donna Payne, a black lesbian, for "inventing a hate crime" in Jena 6.

Jena 6 is important to LGBT people, because as long as one group of people is being held captive by injustice, we all are. In fact, there is no separation of oppression, only a connection of oppression. Many black LGBT people know all too well the effects of institutionalized racism. The Jena 6 incident would have been a perfect opportunity for non-black LGBT people to join in support and unity for righting injustices.

Sadly, this did not happen. Mainstream LGBT organizations are too timid, hesitant, and in some cases unwilling to address issues of race, ethnicity, and culture. It appears that LGBT people in general would rather stick to their own issues than spread their wings of support to other civil rights causes.

This is the very reason LGBT people will continue to stumble their way down the aisle toward marriage equality, ENDA, hate-crimes protections, and other LGBT-specific issues of the day.

The new way forward for the LGBT mainstream is not isolation but collaboration. Following are five goals mainstream queers, gay media, and national, state, and local LGBT organizations must come to realize and embrace before they can begin to move forward in their fight for equality:

1. LGBT people must recognize that the progressive movement is not just the LGBT movement under a different name. There are many other groups of people who are still underrepresented and oppressed today. LGBT organizations must recognize they are not the only groups still fighting to secure their rights through increased visibility and public awareness.

2. LGBT people must recognize and admit that racism is still an energetic demon that possesses most of America. Dismissing this fact will cost LGBT issues the votes of people of color at the polls and in state legislatures. If people of color are to support LGBT rights, LGBT people must get involved in issues that are important to people of color -- i.e., Jena 6, immigration, etc.

3. LGBT people must recognize that social movements do not happen overnight. After 200 years of slavery and 100 years of apartheid, African-Americans were just beginning to shove off the last chains of oppression during the 1960s. Just 38 years after Stonewall, why do LGBT people think they should be anywhere but where they are today -- still struggling for equal rights?

4. LGBT people must drop their coat of arrogance and try on rags of humility for a change. Buoyed by white privilege, many past, current, and future LGBT leaders continue to look, act, and sound the same; they are mostly white men who expect more because of the race entitlement that this country provides them.

One thing people of color have learned in their civil rights struggle is humility. Black, brown, and yellow people have never had institutionalized privilege in this country. As a result, we've learned humility, patience, and a deeper spiritual connection and understanding of mankind. Given my experience working with LGBT organizations for nearly 25 years, humility is not a prized asset among my LGBT peers.

5. LGBT people must find and create their own distinct voice, not steal it from others. Although many parallels can be made between the struggle for LGBT rights and the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, they are still not identical and should not be represented as such. This means that LGBT people must rely not so much on the imagery and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King as on his principles when spreading their own legacy of diversity, tolerance, and understanding.

With any challenge, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is still time for mainstream LGBT people and organizations to understand that diversity means a vibrant spectrum of people and issues, not just gay issues. There is still time for LGBT leaders to support the plight of the Jena 6 and to condemn the unjust actions in this situation. And there is still time to build a bond of unity between LGBT and POC communities. I personally look forward to that day.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories Editors