The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Justice, Not “Just Us”

I’m a day late on this too, as it made the rounds this weekend, and blogging on the weekends is a bit challenging for me. But I didn’t want to let to much time pass without posting something about Leonard Pitts’ amazing column, “Why Gay Rights Matter.” There are any number of reasons to be impressed with it. First of all, too often when you hear African American men talking about gay issues, they come out sounding like Joey Porter or D.L. Hughley. [Via Jasmyne Cannick.]

As I snuggled into bed and turned on the television to HBO, what do I see, comedian D.L. Hughley comparing the Black civil rights movement to the gay civil rights movement and using the analogy that “taking dick and picking cotton” are two very different struggles.

I was even more disappointed to later learn this was the Comedy Relief benefit show for victims of Hurricane Katrina. I’m sorry, scratch that, I meant the straight victims of Hurricane Katrina, because there couldn’t have been any gay victims, let alone Black gay victims they way Hughley was talking.

… But I guess if there are people that could laugh at Michael Richard’s nigga tirade, and yes, if you listen to the tape closely, people were laughing before they understood it wasn’t part of a punch line, then I shouldn’t be surprised at D.L. Hughley being able to garner laughs at his dick vs. cotton conundrum.

But then Leonard PItts breaks it down.

Actually Pitts “breaks it off” in a anonymous correspondent who emails innuendoes about Pitt’s orientation anytime the columnist writes about gay issues. And, admirably, he does so without declaring his heterosexuality beforehand. But the meat of Pitts’ explanation of why he cares about, let alone writes about, gay issues is simple enough for anyone (even someone as simple as Hughley) to understand.

The most concise answer I can give is cribbed from what a white kid said 40 or so years ago, as white college students were risking their lives to travel South and register black people to vote. Somebody asked why. He said he acted from an understanding that his freedom was bound up with the freedom of every other man.

I know it sounds cornier than Kellogg’s, but that’s pretty much how I feel.

I know also that some folks are touchy about anything seeming to equate the black civil rights movement with the gay one. And no, gay people were not kidnapped from Gay Land and sold into slavery, nor lynched by the thousands. On the other hand, they do know something about housing discrimination, they do know job discrimination, they do know murder for the sin of existence, they do know the denial of civil rights and they do know what it is like to be used as scapegoat and bogeyman by demagogues and political opportunists.

They know enough of what I know that I can’t ignore it. See, I have yet to learn how to segregate my moral concerns. It seems to me if I abhor intolerance, discrimination and hatred when they affect people who look like me, I must also abhor them when they affect people who do not. For that matter, I must abhor them even when they benefit me. Otherwise, what I claim as moral authority is really just self-interest in disguise.

I believe in moral coherence. And Rule No. 1 is, you cannot assert your own humanity, then turn right around and deny someone else

It’s the difference between justice and “just us.” D.L., listen up. Otherwise, if you keep mouthin’ off about gay issues people may start to wonder why you protest so much, and exactly how you came to be known as “D.L.”


  1. I too loved his article.
    And I enjoyed this little bit from you, “Otherwise, if you keep mouthin’ off about gay issues people may start to wonder why you protest so much, and exactly how you came to be known as “D.L.” That was too funny!!!

  2. I wrote Mr. Pitts and thanked him for his article. I feel that is something we need to do when someone writes or reacts in a positive way towards our community. This way they know they are not doing this in a vacuum and it is appreciated and noted. The bigots write to let people know they hate these positive views, so we should let the writers and bigots know that we also read and understand and support these positive views, Thanks.

  3. seems to me that alot of black folks have a problem with acknowledging gay rights because they believe black people own civil rights. we don’t own that. although we experienced and still are going through that struggle, we do not own ‘civil rights’. we get so caught up in our pain that we fail to acknowledge the pain of others. some of us even think that by acknowledging the discrimination faced by gay people, they are some how negating our experience as blacks in america. i say we need to expand our humanity and compassion! dr. king was right when he said, ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!’