From Killing the Buddha comes this essay by the Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou is the Senior Minister of Lemuel Haynes Congregational Church (UCC) in South Jamaica Queens, New York:
Those who declare “Gay is the New Black” have outraged intellectuals, religious leaders, and politicians inside the black community. They have outraged, for instance, Rev. Irene Monroe, who identifies three cardinal sins of whiteness plaguing the gay-marriage movement: 1) exploiting black suffering and experiences to legitimate its own; 2) rallying against heterosexist oppression while remaining silent on its own white-skin privilege; 3) appropriating the content of the black civil rights movement but discarding the historical context. Rev. Monroe is right. If there is to be a black-and-gay coalition, it will have to listen to her.
But it will also have to remember Bayard Rustin. Rustin, an openly gay black man, helped introduce Gandhian nonviolence to the African-American civil rights movement. His pacifism landed him in jail for refusing to participate in World War II. He was part of the first Freedom Rides in 1947, helped to found the Congress for Racial Equality, and was National Field Secretary for the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Rustin was among the most famous advocates of Gandhian nonviolence in the 1930s and 1940s, and the Mahatma once summoned him to a conference in India. Beginning with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, he served as key adviser to Martin Luther King, Jr., giving him the chance to train Dr. King in the philosophy of nonviolence as a way of life.
Bayard Rustin’s authority to speak on the convergence of gay rights and civil rights is indisputable. He helped build the civil rights movement and suffered for being a gay man at the same time. Rustin’s 1986 speech, “The New Niggers Are Gays” insists on the connection between gay rights and civil rights.
Today, blacks are no longer the litmus paper or the barometer of social change. Blacks are in every segment of society and there are laws that help to protect them from racial discrimination. The new “niggers” are gays. … It is in this sense that gay people are the new barometer for social change. … The question of social change should be framed with the most vulnerable group in mind: gay people.
To say that gays are the new niggers is not to say that black oppression has disappeared. The claim that black folks are fully enfranchised and free is simply not true. Stark racial and economic disparities continue to exist in the United States, regardless of who is in the White House.