Readers Respond

November 22, 2009

Why does black community reject civil rights for gays?

This letter is in memory of Jason Mattison Jr., an openly gay, African-American Baltimore high school student who was raped and murdered this month ("Mystery cloaks death of teen who 'had a life ahead of him,'" Nov. 18).

It may be hard for some people to admit that, while racial inequities still exist so obviously in our city and women on average still do not get paid as much as men, the fact is that the current arena of the civil rights struggle in our country is the fight for equal rights for homosexuals.

As a Baltimore City public school teacher, I hear about one homophobic slur an hour. Usually, this homophobia is reserved for gay men rather than lesbians, who are somewhat more accepted. Even intelligent, educated adults I meet will often surprise me with such prejudice, and this is especially true in the black community.

Usually this prejudice is justified by religious convictions, but slave owners used to go to church on Sundays and quote the Bible too. Gay people have always existed, in every culture and country in history, yet we are told their sexual orientation is unnatural and perverted. What is the threat that these people pose to the rest of us that they must be denied their full rights of citizenship? What disqualifies homosexuals from the principles of equality set forth in the Declaration of Independence as inalienable?

Further, the moral superiority that the intolerant award themselves on this issue offends me even more.

You would think that the leaders of the black community, a group that has experienced so much discrimination and prejudice over the course of American history, would be the last to turn around and stigmatize other people, but the opposite is true.

The greatest crime of American slavery was the destruction of African-American families, yet isn't that exactly what is being done to homosexuals in this country? (Pollsters say that the heavy black turnout for President Barack Obama in California also pushed the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriages into law.) People need to realize that, historically, the same organizations that have sought to deny rights to gays have also discriminated against blacks.

As such, my heart goes out to the gay African-American men and boys of Baltimore and the nation. I sincerely hope to see the day when they can feel safe in their own communities and enjoy the full benefits of American life, including the chance to serve in the military and to marry. Or simply feel safe in high school.

By now we all should know that their difference is part of our nation's strength, and the hate that they receive daily is the main measure of our nation's weakness. Truly, we are only as free as the least free among us.

J.B. Salganik, Owings Mills

Black community no more homophobic than any other

I think it is silly and unfair to say that the black community is more "heterosexist" (a term I prefer) than white communities. Blacks are not the major voting bloc in any state, and we do not make up a majority in any state or national legislative body in this country. The legal oppression of gays does not come from the black community - we are 14 percent of the population. I don't know of any ethnic community in America that does not stigmatize gays.

I went to a majority college and have always worked for companies mostly comprised of whites, and anti-gay slurs are common. Let's attack ignorance and leave race out of it. That only serves to further isolate people and set up these separate camps.

By the way, the California referendum could not have passed even if every black person in California voted for it.

Leon J. Henry, Baltimore

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