Viewpoint: At the intersection of racism and homophobia

They say every picture tells a story and is worth a thousand words. What they don't say is how pictures can be staged to manipulate, deceive and divide by their back story.
Most people would say they know this. Who hasn't seen the photos of alien babies, UFOs, or implied romantic liaisons on the covers of many publications vying for our attention in the checkout line? But in our struggle for LGBT equality, the message in some photos goes beyond being weird and freaky. These photographs seek to divide Americans, especially LGBT and allies; by dredging up memories and fears of old truths we sometimes do not want to acknowledge or talk about.
This is particularly true in the fight for marriage equality, where images of African-American clergy and congregations who stand against this basic LGBT right have made headlines. These controversial photos have caused heartache within the African American LGBT community and tension within the community at large.
I was reminded of this after receiving e-mails from two friends – one black, one white – regarding a photo of Bishop Harry Jackson of Dallas praying with a heterosexual couple before marrying them as part of a protest against the District of Columbia city council's approval of legislation recognizing same sex marriages performed in other states.
The photo was embedded in an article entitled "Time to Stop the Lies: Countering Bishop Harry Jackson's Gay Marriage Distortions."
I had read the article as part of the continued discussion of religious misinterpretations of marriage and homophobia perpetuated by many so-called religious leaders. The photo was not surprising to me. I knew what the story was, what the message was and the hoped-for reaction. What was surprising is that it worked. The photo, you see, showed a black minister praying with a white couple with two African-American men standing as witnesses.
It's a good propaganda picture for the far, fanatical right – Christians, both black and white, believe marriage is between a man and a woman. It supported their self-proclaimed righteousness showing here "deep in the heart of Texas" black and white Christians could come together against a evils of the gay community and same-sex marriage.
A couple of days later, I receive the e-mails. One e-mail found the two witnesses disturbing, describing them – although never described in the article as bodyguards but still hefty African-American men in black overcoats and sunglasses – as goons.
The second e-mail took exception to the "goon" comment saying, "How does he know that the two black guys (the goons) aren't their friends? Now if there were two white guys standing with shades on … would they still be goons?"
The back story of divide and conquer – more powerful than Christian unity against LGBT efforts. Even in the most progressive group of LGBTA, whether black or white, there are remnants of racism that we just don't want to talk about; perceptions that still remain based on systemic racism built up throughout the history of America. Perceptions that, until addressed, will continue to be stumbling blocks in our march for equality.
Two black men in sunglasses standing behind a couple getting married could be friends. They could, in fact, be bodyguards – defined by Webster as a person or group escorting and protecting another. When we add a sinister quality by throwing in derogatory language like goon (defined as a stupid person; a hired ruffian), we feed into the back story.
This is not saying we must be politically correct at all times. As my grandmother would say, "Sometimes you have to call a spade, a spade." I'm saying we must keep our eye on the prize – equality for all Americans regardless of race, creed, color, sexual orientation or gender identity.
This is not a black or white problem. It is a fundamental problem of equality that has kept this country from fulfilling the promise of America. The important story of this picture is that those who would deny the LGBT community, immigrants and other minorities full equality have found unity in fear and hatred and will use every trick in the book to maintain the status quo.
We have our own biases and misconceptions, but as an LGBT community, we must be better than this. Let's face our demons and have frank, honest discussions on underlying fears and beliefs that keep us from being one cohesive community. Then we can come together to fight the real enemy – hatred, racism and homophobia.

Topics: Opinions

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