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The Human Rights Campaign and the LGBTQ movement in general have made great strides in inclusion in recent years, but they still need to do more for people of color, says the first person of color to head HRC.
"LGBTQ people of color have long been marginalized within our community -- and by our organization," Alphonso David, who last month assumed HRC's presidency, wrote in an op-ed published Thursday in USA Today. "They have seen their contributions to our collective history diminished or forgotten, and their needs and priorities sidelined. While we have fought and won important battles on issues including marriage equality, we have historically failed to also engage in consistent and meaningful work to address the impact of racial inequality on LGBTQ people across all aspects of their lives-- including on issues such as voter suppression, health and economic disparities, and violence."
David was born in the U.S. but moved to Liberia with his family when he was a child. The family left Liberia following a coup, and upon returning to the U.S. as a teenager, David encountered both racism and homophobia.
"I know that many LGBTQ people have similar stories, or know someone who does," he wrote. "And that is why there must be space and room for everyone in this movement, including at the Human Rights Campaign."
HRC has made much progress in the past few years, he noted, increasing recruitment of LGBTQ people of color for its staff, working with historically Black colleges and universities, and prioritizing issues that particularly affect people of color, such as voting rights. It also partnered with the NAACP to get out the vote for Doug Jones in the 2017 Alabama special election for U.S. Senate, which ultimately saw Jones, a Democrat, defeat the virulently anti-LGBTQ Republican Roy Moore.
"We've done big, bold things that have expanded rights for all LGBTQ people," David observed. "But we simply cannot achieve full equality while LGBTQ people of color continue to be oppressed. We must lean into our responsibility to advocate for those within our community who are multiply marginalized and shut out by systems and institutions because they are people of color and LGBTQ. We must also address the ways racism shows up in our own community and confront it head-on."
Racial equity and inclusion "must be the core of our work," not a "sliver," he continued. This includes fighting "systems, laws and policies that disproportionately disadvantage LGBTQ people of color" and calling out anyone who promotes racist policies or rhetoric, he said, as well as assuring that the organization's staff, board, and volunteers reflect the diversity of the LGBTQ population. HRC recently adopted a statement of principles on racial equity and inclusion.
"Today, I am sharing these commitments unequivocally and publicly -- in part, to ensure that in the years to come, we will be held accountable, and that our organization put down the marker," he wrote.