Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Benjamin Todd Jealous, the NAACP and Gay Rights

Recently, the new head of the NAACP, Benjamin Todd Jealous, sat down with the New York Times to answer a few questions (including the question do you identify as black - child, you just got to read the interview). His answers were short (and I have a feeling that they were deliberately short just by gaging the questions he received) but they were very much to the point.

Of course he received a question about Dr. Louis Gates and his recent arrest. They wanted to know what the organization was doing about the incident. But he also received a question about Prop 8 and the inability of African-Americans to embrace same-sex marriage.

I think his answer was great. His response was, "black voters have been scapegoated - so many pundits blamed the passage of Proposition 8 on them. But it would have passed even if 100 percent of the black voters had voted against it."

I loved this answer. For some reason the passage of Prop 8 seemed to be dropped squarely in the hands of black voters. I just had so many issues with this. But I won't digress. Let's continue with the interview of Jealous.

Why do you think it’s such a divisive issue in the black community?

"If gay rights groups want to change the opinion polls in the black community, they have to invest in it. It’s a long-term conversation. The battle to oppose Prop 8 could have been much better run. They came to the black community late, with the expectation that they were going to get certain results."

So you think gays should mobilize blacks instead of expecting you to?
"That’s exactly right."

The final question seemed almost accusatory. To me the phrasing of the question sounds like a set up. But it was a set up that Jealous didn't fall for. Why would the gay community expect the NAACP to mobilize blacks on gay issues? It's terrific that the organization can be an ally on LGBT issues but I would not expect the NAACP to take the lead in the fight for same-sex marriage. The question to me sounds like its trying to absolve LGBT groups from having to engage black folks in a dialogue about same-gender loving issues.

That may not be the case but thats just what I seemed to get out of this. Anywho, I'm impressed with how Jealous handled the questions he received. I don't know if the answers were abbreviated for the article or if Jealous intentionally gave short answers because he was guarded (but if he was guarded - I can understand why). I'm hoping the allegiance to the fight for gay rights issues that Julian Bond started for the NAACP is continued under the leadership of Jealous. Only tme will tell.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting take on him, and, the one thing that I still don't get is why some in the glbt community seem to have this notion that blacks should equate gay rights with black civil rights? Its not as if blacks are the only one who have suffered under discrimination and, just because they have does not mean they have empathy for others who may be under the thumb now. With little to no outreach by the so called gay leadership, other than lip service, the lack of communication will remain, and, blacks will continue to get the scapegoating and lies that fell on them after Prop 8, which is a hoot since its not as if the black population could have swung the vote anyway with them being outnumbered by all other ethnic groups in Cali other than Native Americans.

And, one last thing, the NAACP is fighting for its own existence and relevance, so, don't look for them to them aligning with anything other than black issues.