This Is Not The Progress We Deserve

The LGBT movement has made a strong case that gays are just the same as everyone else, and furthermore, our same love deserves equal rights.

In the meantime, we are watching the clock unwind on racial justice.

The same week the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, they struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, an egregious blow to our work toward justice. In the face of this contradiction, I joined with advocates for equality this weekend to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

I entered the weekend unsure of what message I could carry with confidence on my homemade sign. Sitting on the mall amidst a sea of inspiration, I drew on one side the only thing I could say without question: “Silence Is Not An Option.”

As a white Christian, I cannot stand in silent witness to racial injustice. I am not content to walk safely in our streets, hand in hand with a woman, knowing black boys like Trayvon Martin lack the same security.

I am called to address racism because I am part of the problem.

I grew up in a small Georgia town, but I learned from our shared American culture that people of color should be treated as less than...different. The movies and television of my childhood did not express true diversity. Instead, they were filled with caricatures—embodiments of stereotypes who only existed to support white leads (see also: Miley Cyrus). 

I learned without words to clutch my purse when I pass black and brown men on the street. I learned without words that white people are the norm.

Unchecked, our shared assumptions about normality grow beyond the control of our conscious minds—they morph into systems that oppress, institutions that exclude, and structures that reflect our unnamed prejudices. 

We must go beyond pointing fingers at villians like George Zimmerman and work instead to see the ways we perpetuate a culture of oppression. Then, we must change our actions accordingly.

Addressing internalized prejudice is a monumental, lifelong task—I should know.

As a child, I learned early from my church, my community, and my culture, that homosexuality was wrong, so wrong that it barely deserved mention. For ten years, my thirteen year-old self hid a deep dark secret. For ten years, I lived in denial of my queerness.

I spent my college years wrestling with the God of my childhood as I struggled to comprehend my unnamed difference. Even after I knew intellectually that being gay was ok, it took six more years for me to overcome my internalized homophobia enough to come out—even to myself.

Still today, I fight shadows that whisper I am not good enough, worthy enough, or straight enough to deserve the love of God. Still today, I struggle with anxiety and self-doubt stemming from a lifetime of internalized shame. 

I know the consequences of building walls—hiding from my own queerness did immense damage to my soul

My coming out was a crucial step in my journey toward wholeness.

Wholeness does not ignore difference, which is why I am suspicious of an LGBT movement that is earning equality by convincing society LGBT people are just like everyone else—normal. This mindset opens doors for us without challenging why these walls exist in the first place. 

In a society that meets non-conformity with violence, my white skin and femme appearance grant me the privilege of passing as "normal." As an ally to racial justice, I am compelled to recognize that privilege and ask why the door is open for me but not for my brothers and sisters of color. I am called to address racial prejudice with as much fervor as I address homophobia in our culture.

Christians believe we are each made in the image of God. This divine dignity does not erase difference; instead, we are called to create a beloved community that values the gift of our human diversity—where all people are seen and valued as children of God. Martin Luther King, Jr. described this shared vision during his "I Have A Dream..." speech at the 1963 March on Washington, which we remember today on its 50th anniversary: 

We cannot walk alone. As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back....No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. 

In this spirit, I penned in rainbow letters on the back of my sign: "United For Racial Justice." This message is a promise: as I advocate for LGBT equality, I will strive to make space for people of all sexualities, all colors, and all genders to embody difference without fear of violence.

As a queer Christian, I cannot rest until justice for some gives way to justice for all.

I resist my internalized homophobia for the sake of my queer soul. I resist my internalized racism for the sake of my white soul. I resist both for the sake of our collective wholeness, for our shared future, and for the next generations.

We who believe in freedom shall not rest until it comes...

Comments (5)

Very well said. And this unconscionably "clutching your purse" etc., still happens--right here where I live in rural CT! We observe this as newcomers. Amazing to where there was a high school exchange with a kids from a mostly affluent white public school to the mixed affluence and ethnicities. The white student really thought she was going to be knifed by a "black" person during the day. What?! So much to do on all fronts--and thank you for your candor, honest about the journey!

Alison needs to read the Supreme Court ruling more carefully. Contra the media hype, it did not represent a blow to racial equality, it was a result of PROGRESS and GAINS in racial equality.
Space constrains me, but I emphatically reject linking the gay agenda with civil rights. MLK would surely agree.

Eloquently and powerfully said, Alison! I so appreciate your sharings, which are refreshingly honest and kind, and thus, I believe, quite brave. Thank you for shedding light, and thereby offering others to dare to do the same.

Dear Andy, Can any of us possibly know what MLK would agree or disagree with, as he is not hear to tell us? I'm not sure, yet I hear that you are. However, we may make educated guesses. His late wife, who was highly and long involved in the Civil Rights Movement right alongside of him, was an avid LGBT supporter; now their youngest daughter, Rev. Bernice King has come to agree. And if you read the blog here, taken from an interview with MLK's long-trusted right-hand colleague, Mr. Bayard Rustin, you might find that the "evidence" for which you were not previously looking, points, if not proves, otherwise. Andy, It may appear that it is not space that constrains you, but rather, perhaps something else. God bless you.

Dear Goldalee, notwithstanding the few exceptions you cite, there are legions of civil rights pioneers and black clergy who emphatically reject the gay rights movement's co-opting of the civil rights mantle.
If gay rights comes to be equated with civil rights, then it is easy to where that road leads for the acceptance of other aberrant groups in the future...

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