The welcome challenges of marriage equality

July 14, 2015 at 11:02 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , , ,

Screen shot 2013-06-03 at 10.28.38 AM

Guest editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

For some time now, my spouse and I have been bickering over where we should live in our retirement years. She, being a child from the South, and me, being from the North, well, we have our tensions. I have jokingly dubbed them our “Mason-Dixon line feud.” We are not stretching our imaginations much to feel some of the same concerns our enslaved ancestors must have encountered as they considered the free states up North.

My spouse is tied to the weather of the South — a moist, subtropical climate with sultry summers. I like the four seasons of the North, but could live in autumn all year round.

During particularly heated battles, I have questioned if her desire to live in Georgia was worth living in a state that didn’t recognize our marriage. Our marriage would be de facto dissolved.

Our ongoing exhaustive argument gained a new complication (in my mind, at least) with last week’s historic Supreme Court ruling — Obergefell v. Hodge — that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy was once again the swing vote on this tough ruling. Kennedy wrote all recent decisions protecting LGBTQ rights, including the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas — which struck down sodomy laws that targeted gay men; and the 2013 US v. Windsor — recognizing and providing federal benefits to same-sex married couple in states where their marriages were legal. His argument last week was Loving v. Virginia (1967) redux, showing how these two historic struggles for marriage equality are interconnected.

Of course, I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision. It would have been both wrong-hearted and wrong-headed to rule otherwise.

But with victory comes backlash. This change in law will not come easy. A movement is already afoot with a 50-state plan to pass “Religious Freedom Restoration” acts to roll back progress.

As the country battles this issue on a new front, we should hold on to Thomas Jefferson’s words about how change is required for progress:

“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But . . . laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.”

Same-sex marriage is of our times. And it’s democracy at its best.

I understand democracy to be an ongoing process, where people are part of a participatory government working to dismantle all existing discriminatory laws truncating their full participation in society.

But democracy can only begin to work when those relegated to the fringes of society can sample what those in society take for granted as their inalienable rights. The right to marry regardless of a couple’s sexual orientation or gender identity is now one of them. How wonderful to know that a same-sex couple in Mississippi has the same right to marry as someone here in Massachusetts.

Back to the challenge in my home: My spouse is all smiles now with this new ruling. She has been doing what I call “nicey nicey,” which is her way of using charm to wear down my recalcitrant stance on issues.

In celebration of Obergefell v. Hodge we went out for drinks at Legal Sea Foods in Harvard Square. While enjoying the evening summer breeze, my spouse said we could have this experience all year if we moved to a milder climate.

I snapped back and said, “I ain’t moving to Georgia!”

And that’s what marriage equality looks like.

Rev. Irene MonroeRev. Irene Monroe of Cambridge is a syndicated religion columnist and Huffington Post blogger.  Rev. Monroe is also weekly contributor to WGBH’s Boston Public Radio “All Revved Up” segment.

A Road Map Beyond Black History Month

February 20, 2015 at 1:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

bb_flag_1_6_2012Guest editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

Black History Month (which kicked off on Feb. 1) became a national annual observance in 1926. The goal of the month is to honor and celebrate the achievements of African-Americans.

If Dr. Carter Woodson, the Father of Black History, were alive today, he would be proud of the tenacity of the African American community. It speaks volumes about our survival here on this American soil, after centuries of slavery, decades of lynching and years of racial profiling.

However, for decades now, Black History Month has not broached the topic of the socio-political construction of white privilege.

There’s a reason why.

During Black History Month in 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder received scathing criticism for his speech on race. His critics said the tone and tenor of the speech was confrontational and accusatory.

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot,” Holder said, “in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”

Many communities of color contest that white people—straight or LGBTQ—show no real invested interest in engaging in this country’s needed dialogue on race. While many whites have confessed their aversion to such a dialogue, stating that while a cultural defense of “white guilt” plays a role in their reticence, so too does their cultural fear of “black rage” for inadvertently saying the wrong thing.

It’s a polemic that has been avoided because of the politics of political correctness as well as how any discussion on race, no matter who’s stirring the conversation—a rabid racist, the president or Attorney General Eric Holder—invariably inflame our emotions more that inform our faculties.

Ironically, or tragically, the aversion to a conversation about race not only continues to harm people of color, but it also harms whites as well.

In her recent book “Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race” Cambridge author Debby Irving’s wrote the following:

“I can think of no bigger misstep in American history than the invention and perpetuation of the idea of white superiority. It allows white children to believe they are exceptional and entitled while allowing children of color to believe they are inferior and less deserving….Unless adults understand racism, they will, as I did, unknowingly teach it to their children.”

On one hand we have the dominate culture’s continued indelicate dance of white privilege and single-issue platforms which thwart coalition building with communities of color. On the other we have some people of color dismissing the notion that white marginalized and struggling groups (white women, LGBTQ, the poor) may have something to offer communities of color in terms of advice and shared (not same) experiences.

Both hands are right. And both hands are wrong. The only way forward it to keep talking about race. But how do we make our way through the current tangle of misguided good intentions and valid suspicions?

My answer: past harms need to be redressed.

For example, the killing of unarmed black males has awakened the movement. “Black Lives Matter” has taken to the streets.

Sadly, civil rights struggles in this country—black, women, and gay—have primarily been understood and demonstrated as tribal and unconnected rather than intersectional and interdependent of each other. But that is a false assumption.

When we look at how we moved forward on the issue of same-sex marriage, LGBTQ activists remember that an African-American woman named Mildred Loving set the precedent for marriage equality. Loving gained notoriety when the U.S. Supreme Court decided in her favor that anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional. Her crime was this country’s once racial and gender obsession—interracial marriage. Married to a white man, Loving and her husband were indicted by a Virginia grand jury in October 1958 for violating the state’s ‘Racial Integrity Act of 1924.’

For many years I taught a college-level course titled “Power and Privilege,” exploring how many of our stereotypes about people whom we perceive as being different invades our lives without much conscious deliberation on our part. Issues of race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, age and ability, among others, were considered, and how such distinctions often lead to an inequitable distribution of political power, social well-being, and the resources available to individual members of society.

On the syllabus I laid out the rules regarding classroom interaction:
1. We will address our colleagues in our classroom by name.
2. We will listen to one another—patiently, carefully—assuming that each one of us is always doing the best that s/he can. We will speak thoughtfully. We will speak in the first person.
3. Although our disagreements may be vigorous, they will not be conducted in a win-lose manner. We will take care that all participants are given the opportunity to engage in the conversation.
4. We will own our assumptions, our conclusions, and their implications. We will be open to another’s intellectual growth and change.
5. We cannot be blamed for misinformation. We have been taught and have absorbed from our U.S. society and culture, but we will be held responsible for repeating misinformation after we have learned otherwise.
6. We each have an obligation to actively combat stereotypes so that we can begin to eradicate the biases which prevent us from envisioning the well being of us all.

As we celebrate Black History Month, 2015, in what is clearly not the post-racial era many had hoped for, I wish as a nation we begin an honest talk about race.

Rev. Irene MonroeRev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. Rev. Monroe can also be heard every Monday on Boston Public Radio, WGBH 89.7. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes – “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies.

Opinions expressed in the guest editorials are solely those of the author.

World AIDS Day and my community’s ongoing struggle

December 10, 2014 at 10:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , ,

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 10.35.45 AM

Guest editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

Dec. 1 was World AIDS Day!

President Obama conveyed hopeful remarks on World AIDS Day at George Washington University (GWU) in D.C. by vowing to continue efforts to combat the disease.

“We’re closer than we’ve ever been to achieving the extraordinary: an AIDS-free generation,” Obama stated to the GWU audience. “But we’ve got to keep fighting, all of us. Governments, businesses, foundations, community groups, and individuals like you.”

In 2012, the United Nations stated that it’s possible to eradicate the disease by 2015 — in part, of course, by preventing new infections.

But, much of the focus was, and still is, on developing countries, and not on hot spots like the nation’s capital, which is one of the hardest hit areas battling the epidemic

In 2006 at the “Women and Response to AIDS” panel at the conference, Sheila Johnson, founder of the Crump-Johnson Foundation in Washington D.C., pointed out that another at-risk population in the African-American community is teenage girls.

Seventeen percent of the U.S. teen population is African American, with 70 percent of black teens testing HIV-positive. One in 10 African-American teenage girls test HIV-positive in the nation’s capital, the highest percentage in the country among this age group.

When asked why such a high percentage test positive, Johnson said, “As long as girls see themselves as glorified sex objects in hip-hop videos, HIV/AIDS will increase within this population.” In 2014 little has changed within this demographic group.

And sadly, with African Americans at younger and younger ages being infected with the AIDS virus, the life expectancy rate of African Americans will decline. Soon we will no longer expect today’s young African-Americans to become the elders of the community.

With the South’s propensity to avoid speaking about uncomfortable subjects unfortunately the South has evolved into one of HIV/AIDS hot spots in the country.

Each year, fewer and fewer public events are being held to bring public attention that the epidemic is still in our midst. This year, PBS’s “Frontline” didn’t run its special “ENDGAME: AIDS in Black America.” To date more than a quarter of African Americans have died of AIDS.

With the latest comprehensive data tracking the virus coming out of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the numbers are staggeringly alarming.

Although African American comprise of now nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population, we tragically account for approximately 44 percent of new HIV infections in 2010. But this data doesn’t reflect the wave of recent African diasporic immigrants of the last decade coming from the Caribbean Islands and the Motherland. This demographic group is overwhelmingly underreported and underserved—for fear of not only deportation but also of homophobic insults and assaults from their communities.

According to the CDC in 2010, 1 in 22 African Americans will be diagnosed HIV-positive in their lifetime. And, it’s the leading cause of death among African American women between the ages of 25-34 and African American men between the ages of 35-44. Good news is that HIV infections among African American women only in Massachusetts has decreased for the first time. And this decline in numbers has much to do with the indefatigable outreach by local organizations like AIDs Action Committee while operating each year on a diminishing state funded grant.

According to the Black AIDS Institute’s August 2008 report titled “Left Behind” the number of people living with HIV in Black America exceeds the HIV population in seven of the fifteen focus countries in the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) initiative, an initiative helping to save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world in countries like Haiti, Dominican Republic, India, South Africa, to name a few.

In other words, if black America were its own country, standing on its own like Haiti or Nigeria, black Americans would rate 16th with the epidemic in the world. The epidemic is heavily concentrated in urban enclaves like Detroit, New York, Newark, Washington, D.C and the Deep South.

There are many persistent social and economic factors contributing to the high rates of the epidemic in the African American community—racism, poverty, health care disparity, violence, to name just a few—but the biggest attitudinal factor still contributing to the epidemic and showing no sign of abating is homophobia.

While we know that the epidemic moves along the fault lines of race, class, gender and sexual orientation, and that HIV transmission is tied to specific high-risk behaviors that are not exclusive to any one sexual orientation, homophobia still continues to be one of the major barriers to ending the AIDS epidemic.

Although famous HIV-positive heterosexual African Americans, like tennis great Arthur Ashe, news anchorman Max Robinson, and rapper Eazy-E all died of AIDS, and basketball giant Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who is still living with the virus, highlight the fact that anyone can contract the virus, many still see the epidemic as a “white gay disease,” suggesting being gay or having sex with someone of the same gender puts you immediately at high risk.

But the truth is this: while over 600,000 African Americans are now living with HIV, and as many 30,000 newly infected each year, there is still within the black community at least one in five living with HIV and unaware of their infection; and, they are disproportionately heterosexuals.

While the number of cases across the globe will continue to decline and possibly eradicate the disease as the U.N hopefully predicts, we as African Americans we’ll not protect ourselves from this epidemic as long as we continue to think of HIV/AIDS as a gay disease.

Rev. Irene MonroeRev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. Rev. Monroe can also be heard every Monday on Boston Public Radio, WGBH 89.7. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes – “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies.

Opinions expressed in the guest editorials are solely those of the author.

Black children are beloved and beaten

September 18, 2014 at 5:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , ,

Guest editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

“Beloved and beaten” is a phrase that best depicts how many African-American children—past and present—are disciplined.

It is an authoritative type of African-American parenting discipline style that is painfully revered. Yet, in too many incidents, it continues to be uncritically passed along generationally.

When Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted on allegation of child abuse, he admitted to using the disciplinary methods passed down by his father.

“I have always believed that the way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man,” Peterson said in a statement.

Among those coming to Peterson’s defense was NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. “Whipping—we do that all the time. Every black parent in the South is going to be in jail under those circumstances,” Barkley stated in an interview with Jim Rome on the CBS pregame show The NFL Today.

Comedian D. L. Hughley tweeted his thought, “Who knew that was illegal, cuz my mama would b in jail!”

The “in jail” part Hughley is referring to is the punishment that black parents would likely receive due to the flogging and excessive bodily harm many exact on their children—all in the name of discipline. It’s done without reproach, both legally and culturally.

“I’ve had many welts on my legs,” Barkley recalling his childhood beatings told Rome.

Unfortunately, the tradition of this type of discipline style lives on—unchecked and unexamined.

While black people don’t have a monopoly on beating children, we do have unique reasons for choosing it as a style of discipline.

Using corporal punishment on our black children is rooted in the violent history of American slavery. It was a prophylactic method to protect black slave children from harsher beatings from white slavers by having enslaved adult Africans—parents or authority figures—publicly discipline them.

The “switch” has become an African-American institution—both feared and revered. This savage tool that was once used to break the back of my ancestors sadly finds its marks on too many black children’s’ bodies today.

In a tussle over a toy, Peterson’s 4-year-old pushed his brother off a video game. Peterson reacted by shoveling leaves in his son’s mouth from the “switch” made from the tree branch he used to lash him pants down. His son sustained lacerations and wounds to his ankles, legs, hands, back, buttocks and scrotum, requiring medical attention.

“My goal is always to teach my son right from wrong and that’s what I tried to do that day,” Peterson stated in his defense.

But too little progress has been made in peacefully teaching right from wrong, because teaching positive nonviolent child discipline methods in my culture are a Herculean task to both uproot and replant. The internalized violence many of us are unconsciously passing on to future generations—as a disciplinary method or prophylactic approach—is doing as much harm to our children as the ongoing toll of racism and discrimination they confront.

But like Peterson, some black parents still see physical discipline as their duty, and data supports it revealing that 89 percent of African-Americans use corporal punishment to discipline our children.

If you’re looking for parental guidance from African-American ministers—young and old —on this issue, more of them than not are likely to recite the hackneyed phrase “spare the rod, spoil the child,” and have you read the biblical injunction stated in Proverbs 13:24: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”

Let’s not forget the 2012 child abuse incident with Atlanta mega church minister Creflo Dollar. When his 15-year-old daughter called 911 because he choked and slapped her, Rev. Dollar was only detained in jail for a few hours. He had to be released because the local NAACP was outraged releasing the following statement:

“The parents are in a dilemma whether to forgo disciplining their children or to leave it up to law enforcement. Should we be apathetic, lax or indifferent and let the courts send our unruly children to jail or should we as parents do our duty and appropriately discipline our children?”

There’s the racist belief that our children should be beaten as a disciplinary method—and our style easily feeds right into it. For example, the 2002 Journal of Clinical Child Psychology issue unabashedly reported that the authoritative style black parents use on their children was more effective.

Black parents have an uphill battle disciplining our children. Our children confront a myriad of obstacles before them: a higher school drop-out rate, teen pregnancies, gang violence, juvenile detention, being racially profiled, and killed by police, to name a few.

Parenting is hard, and trying to figure out what is the appropriate punishment gains nothing with the force of violence. And just because it was done back in the day from slavery to our childhood, it doesn’t mean it ought to be revered, but rather cease and desist immediately.

In 2010 First Lady Michelle Obama learned that lesson when she admitted to spanking her then 4-year old Malia—the same age as Peterson’s son—but she came away changed.

“I did it one or two times and just found it to be completely ineffective because it was less about teaching a lesson and more about my own [feelings]. Malia was younger, probably 4.”

The challenge to our community is break free from a shackle of our past, corporal punishment, to find a peaceful, and more effective, way to discipline our children.

Rev. Irene MonroeRev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes – “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.
 Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As a religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because homophobia is both a hatred of the “other ” and it’s usually acted upon ‘in the name of religion,” by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”

More Than One…

August 14, 2014 at 10:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Guest editorial by Rev. Willie Bodrick II, M.Div

The debate continues over Governor Patrick’s announcement that Massachusetts would temporarily aid in the humanitarian emergency to shelter refugee children at our country’s southern borders. This came weeks after celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at the Museum of African American History, and the timing of such events prompted me to ponder about the upcoming elections in September.

From campaign ads to community meetings and parades, we have come closer to intimately getting to know each candidate one by one and name by name. There are some candidates that are new to political sphere and then there are others that are seeking political tenure. Despite all the political excitement there is still something strange about the 2014 elections in Massachusetts.

If you take a look at the candidates seeking statewide office at the highest level, one thing becomes clear: there are hardly any minorities on either party’s ticket. Cambridge City Councillor and Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Leland Cheung, remains the only person of color on this year’s ballot running for any statewide office.

In a state that just eight years ago stunned the nation by electing Massachusetts’ first African American governor, Deval Patrick, frankly this is an embarrassment. The United States is becoming more diverse year by year, yet there is still a severe underrepresentation of people of color throughout all levels of government. Let 2014 be a wake up call for anyone looking to advance minority rights in the future. Unless we work together, we will not be able to achieve equality and opportunity for everyone regardless their gender, race, creed, sexuality, or religion.

When Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, one year before the Civil Rights Act was passed, he hoped for a nation in which his children were not “judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” In that very same speech Dr. King also critiqued injustice and brought into question whether America’s living was reflective of her language. As a progressive beacon in this country, we too must keep in mind that our reality must reflect our rhetoric as we engage the state of race relations both in Massachusetts and nationwide, particularly regarding the lack of minority representation in government.

Some may argue that Councillor Cheung, who is the son of immigrant parents, does not qualify for the “person of color” tag because Asian Americans in this country have been repeatedly cast as the “Model Minority.” However, I would suggest that you have fallen into the racial trap that mediates the same particular stereotypes that insinuate that everyone who looks Hispanic is here illegally, everyone who’s Muslim is connected to terrorism, everyone who is Black is thuggish or ghetto, and that every Woman is emotional. These problematic frameworks operate as means to maintain and commodify racial division for power and profit. The sad reality is that Asians Americans often struggle with the same levels of poverty experienced by other minority groups, and they too are victims of marginalization, prejudice, vulnerability, and falsehoods.

Yes, there is still interminiority prejudice that is tied to a gloomy history of oppression and conflict that has created crude competition rather than cooperative coalition. Although we should never naïvely forgo such realities, we must overcome these hostile histories and begin enacting meaningful dialogue that will engage all minorities to get involved in governance. For example, the last mayoral race in Boston featured multiple minority candidates that could not find a way to build sustainable cooperative political alliances amongst minorities to address the mutual issues that many of our communities face. We may not have the same history, but this is the United States of America, the land of immigrants. Whether by choice or by force, we come from all corners of the globe and we need minority mutuality as we move America forward.

When I first spoke with Councillor Cheung, I was so impressed with our dialogue about the racial dynamics of this upcoming election that it was necessary to video and make accessible to our community at-large via You Tube. Just as we did with Deval Patrick, our minority communities should see 2014 as an opportunity to make Massachusetts a better, and more inclusive place, with hopes that America will one day be more than a land with space for only one.

 

Rev Willie Bodrick IIRev. Willie Bodrick, II is a 2010 graduate of Georgetown University and a 2014 Master of Divinity graduate of Harvard Divinity School. He is an ordained minister in the Baptist tradition and finds interest in Political Activism, Community Organizing, and Social Entrepreneurship. He is currently the Youth and Young Adult Pastor at the Historic Twelfth Baptist Church and a resident of Roxbury.   Twitter: @willbeamer

Que(e)rying Michael Sam’s Timing to Come Out

February 19, 2014 at 11:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , ,

A guest editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

Michael Sam

When NBA center Jason Collins came out last year, it was the moment the professional sports world had been waiting for —a gay athlete currently playing in a major league who comes out publicly.

And what many may not have known is that the professional sports world had also hoped it would be an African American male.

What the African American community and the professional sports world of football and basketball (which is comprised of a brotherhood of predominantly men of African descent) desperately needed was an openly gay male professional athlete. One who would bravely dispel the myth that there are no queer athletes in those sports, while assisting the NFL and NBA leagues in their attempts to denounce homophobic epithets, bullying and discrimination.

With Jason Collins, the NBA got their Great Black Hope.

And if Collins had any worry of what his coming out moment would do to him career-wise he didn’t say. He was 34 and had been in the sport since 2001 when he came out last year. His was a seemingly easy and accepting public coming out moment. Except for one point, Collins has not been signed by an NBA team.

Whether this is due to his age and status as a player, or his sexual orientation, or both, is unknown. At any rate, he came out and his playing days ended.

Michael Allan Sam, Jr has come out, and  the NFL has their Great Black Hope.

On the surface, the public support of Sam by the league is overwhelmingly positive.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said, “We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”

In April 2013, Commissioner Roger Goodell sent the NFL’s sexual orientation anti-discrimination and harassment policy to all club presidents, coaches and general managers who made it available to all players and staff.”

But for Sam, the 24 year old defensive end, awaiting the NFL draft in May, his coming out will be the true litmus test if the league is indeed open and accepting of its gay players.

While NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has publicly taken a tough stance in stamping out homophobia in the league, stating “not just tolerance, but acceptance” of its gay players, it’s, however, coaches, general managers and the testosterone-infused locker room culture espousing a different tune.

Behind closed doors, turned-off mics, unnamed personnel, and anonymous quotes the homophobic murmurings of the NFL have come out publicly.

Immediately commenting on Sam’s announcement, an NFL assistant coach flat out stated, “that football is still a man’s-man game.”

Another assistant coach fallaciously explained how gay players are a distraction and disruption to the dynamics of team cohesion and locker room morale. This argument is eerily reminiscent of the military’s racial discrimination of African Americans and its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy (DADT).”

He was quoted anonymously, of course, stating the following:
“There are guys in locker rooms that maturity-wise cannot handle it or deal with the thought of that…. There’s nothing more sensitive than the heartbeat of the locker room. If you knowingly bring someone in there with that sexual orientation, how are the other guys going to deal with it? It’s going to be a big distraction. That’s the reality. It shouldn’t be, but it will be.”

The privacy rationale implied in this quote is similar to what the military once upheld. And it’s another argument that advocates for the banning of LGBT athletes. With the military before DADT was repealed this argument stated that all service members have the right to maintain at least partial control over the exposure of their bodies and intimate bodily functions. In other words, heterosexual men deserve the right to control who sees their naked bodies.

According to the privacy rationale argument, the “homosexual gaze” in same sex nudity does more than disrupt unit cohesion. It supposedly predatory nature expresses sexual yearning and desire for unwilling subjects that not only violate the civil rights of heterosexuals, but also cause untoward psychological and emotional trauma.

The hyper-masculine posturing of these NFL players with their ritualized repudiation of LGBTQ people and denigration of women allows these homophobic athletes to feel safe in the locker room by maintaining the myth that all the guys gathered on their teams are heterosexual, and sexual attraction among them just does not exist.

Also, this myth allows homophobic athletic men to enjoy the homo-social setting of the male locker room that creates male-bonding—and the physical and emotional intimacy that goes on among them displayed as slaps on the buttocks (check out comedians Key and Peele skit “slap ass’), hugging, and kissing on the cheeks in a homoerotic context―while such behavior outside of the locker would be easily labeled as gay.

While it is believed that the “homosexual gaze” would be the root cause for the disruption of the team cohesion, it is actually the macho hyper-masculine male heterosexual culture embedded in this locker room milieu.

LGBTQ athletes, like Sam, must constantly monitor how they are being perceived by teammates, coaches, endorsers and the media in order to avoid suspicion. They are expected to maintain a public silence and decorum so that their identity does not tarnish the rest of the team.

Already, rumors have it that Sam has gone down in the draft. Questions afloat if he can play situational pass rusher, or outside linebacker. Or, if Sam is the NFL’s requisite size to play defensive end.

Should no team sign him on, the NFL is sending the message that no time is the right time to be out in this sport.

Rev. Irene MonroeRev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes – “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.
Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As a religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because homophobia is both a hatred of the “other ” and it’s usually acted upon ‘in the name of religion,” by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”

Black Pride: Distinct and Emblematic

June 3, 2013 at 9:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Screen shot 2013-06-03 at 10.28.38 AM

Guest Editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

Black Pride reaffirms our identity. And it dances to a different beat.

What started out in Washington D.C. in 1990 as the only Black Gay Pride event in the country has grown to over 35 gatherings nationwide. Each year celebrations start in April and continue to October. Over 300,000 LGBTQ people of African descent rev up for a weekend of social and cultural events celebrating their queer uniqueness. In 2007 alone over 350,000 attended Black Gay Pride events throughout the U.S. The largest events are held in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Atlanta, and smaller Black Pride events (like Boston’s) provide an important sense of identity
and cultural heritage.

Sunday gospel brunches, Saturday night Poetry slams, Friday evening fashion shows, bid whist tournaments, house parties, the smell of soul food and Caribbean cuisine, and the beautiful display of African art and clothing are just a few of the cultural markers that make Black Pride distinct from the dominant queer culture.

Just like in the mainstream of American society, cultural acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ communities of color in larger Pride events is hard to come by. Many can experience social exclusion and invisibility in the big events. Segments of our population will attend separate Black, Asian, and Latino Gay Pride events in search of the unity that is the hallmark of Pride.

The themes and focus of Black, Asian, and Latino Pride events are different from the larger Pride events. Prides of communities of color focus on issues not solely pertaining to the LGBTQ community, but rather on social, economic, and health issues impacting their entire community. The growing distance between our larger and white LGBTQ community and these LGBTQ communities of color is shown by how, for an example, a health issue like HIV/AIDS that was once an entire LGBTQ community problem is now predominately a challenge for communities of color.

Also, with advances such as hate crime laws, the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the legalization of same-sex marriage in many states, and with homophobia viewed as a national concern, the LGBTQ movement has come a long way since the first Pride marches four plus decades ago.

Many note the perceived distance the LGBTQ community has traveled in such a short historic time—from a disenfranchised group on the fringe of America’s mainstream to a community now on the verge of equality. But not all members of our community have crossed the finish line. Some are waving the cautionary finger that within our community to note that not all are equal. Pride events can be public displays of those disparities.

Mainstream Prides have themes focused on marriage equality for the larger community where Prides organized by and for LGBTQ people of African descent have focused not only on HIV/AIDS but also unemployment, housing, gang violence, and LGBTQ youth homelessness. After decades of Pride events where many LGBTQ people of African descent asked to be included and weren’t, Boston Black Pride was born. Boston Black Pride this year will neither be a formal gathering of folks nor will there be a display of scheduled festivities. But it will groove on as it always has for the community, with more individual and impromptu events.

By 1999 Black Pride events have grown into the International Federation of Black Prides, Inc. (IFBP). The IFBP is a coalition of twenty-nine Black Pride organizations across the country. It formed to promote an African diasporic multicultural and multinational network of LGBTQ/ Same Gender Loving Pride events and community based organizations dedicated to building solidarity, health, and wellness and promoting unity throughout our communities.

Also in understanding the need to network and build coalitions beyond its immediate communities, IFBP created the formation of the Black/Brown Coalition. Black Pride is an invitation for community.
Like the larger Pride events that go on during the month of June throughout the country, Black Pride need not be viewed as either a political statement or a senseless non-stop orgy of drinking, drugging and sex. Such an “either-or” viewpoint creates a dichotomy, which lessens our understanding of the integral connection of political action and celebratory acts of songs and dance for our fight for our civil rights.

While Pride events are still fraught with divisions,they, nonetheless, bind us to a common struggle for LGBTQ equality. Black Pride contributes to that struggle for equality, demonstrating an African diasporic aspect of joy and celebration that symbolizes not only our uniqueness, but it also affirms our commonality as an expression of LGBTQ life in America.

Happy Pride!

Rev. Irene MonroeRev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes – “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.
Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As a religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because homophobia is both a hatred of the “other ” and it’s usually acted upon ‘in the name of religion,” by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”

The views expressed are those of the author.

An Open Letter to Boston’s Black Leadership

April 10, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Dear Leaders:

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s decision to not seek re-election presents a profoundly unique and opportunistic occasion for the city’s black community. Not since the mayoral candidacy of Mel King in 1983 has the black community been strategically positioned to substantively sway the policy direction of the city.

Because Boston’s black community—which includes African-Americans, and blacks from the Caribbean and Africa–is burdened by disproportionate suffering, misery and social dislocation it has the most to gain in the election outcome for mayor.

Consider the alarming realities confronting black Boston:

·      A 2012 Boston Foundation report states that the highest concentration of children in poverty across the state live in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan

·      According to a 2011 Urban League of Massachusetts State of Black Boston Report, black unemployment rates are the highest of any groups in Boston and black median household income ($33,420) is $30,000 lower than that of the white median household income ($63,980).  A persistent racial gap between blacks and whites in terms of median income remains regardless of the type of family structure or the education attained by blacks.

·      The same report states that black home-ownership remains relatively low when compared to white home-ownership, and the black community has experienced a very high number and concentration of foreclosures. Almost two-thirds (63.1 percent) of all black homeowners pay more than 30 percent of their household income for mortgage costs.

·      Boston police records report that while the Boston homicide rate has dropped during the Menino administration (as it has across the nation, notably in New York City), the victims of murder in the city’s streets are overwhelming poor and black.

Two distinct leadership approaches must immediately emerge from within the black community in order to respond to the multiple crises confronted by poor and vulnerable citizens of the city who happen to be black.

First, Boston’s black leadership class–including elected and appointed officials, activists, clergy, non-profit directors, policy advocates, business leaders and its media–must publicly articulate the unfortunate suffering transpiring in its communities.  These leaders must feel compelled to summon the moral and political courage necessary to inject into the mayor’s race meaningful discussion, debate and dialogue about the persistent racial disparity that exist in the city.  Ironically, many black leaders in Boston are acutely aware of existing racial inequality because they live in proximity to it.  Yet, in the three decades since King’s run for mayor, black leadership has failed to proffer comprehensive and ameliorating policy responses that effectively alleviate structural and race-based disparity.

Second, Boston’s black leadership must quickly formulate consensus about policy priorities for the next mayor.  These policies must be pragmatic, specific and ready to be implemented at the outset of the next mayor’s first term.  These policies ought to also be associated with a commitment from the next mayor that their administration reflect the diversity of the city, including blacks, Asians and Latinos.

Infant mortality, neighborhood segregation and uneven educational attainment remain as monumental impediments that prevent blacks from competing on an even playing field in Boston.  Black leaders can offer solutions to these problems through planning, coordination and consensus.  They must also engage mayoral candidates to take sober assessment of the many challenges confronting black people in Boston and urge them to pledge their commitment to these issues upon being elected.

Menino, the so-called urban mechanic, presided masterfully over a city that grew and prospered during his tenure.  In demonstrably clear ways, Boston has emerged as a world-class city because of Menino’s tireless efforts.

Unfortunately, the residue of racism persists.  Against this backdrop, black leadership must responsibly act in the interest of closing the painful gap that exist between blacks and whites in Boston.  If they fail to capture the unique opportunities that the present mayoral election provides, significant numbers of black families and individuals will continue to suffer on the margins and in the shadows of the city.

Sincerely,
Kevin C. Peterson
Director, New Democracy Coalition
Democracy Activist

Kevin Peterson

Kevin C. Peterson is founder and director of the New Democracy Coalition, an organization focused on civic literacy and electoral justice, based at the College for Public and Community Service at the University of Massachusetts Boston.  The views expressed are those of the author.

Was Marco McMillian killed because he was black or gay?

March 7, 2013 at 11:05 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Guest Editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

Marco McMillian

Marco McMillian was a trailblazer, and the pride of the Mississippi Delta.

Just in his twenties Ebony magazine in 2004 hailed him as on the nation’s 30 leaders under the age of 30. And in his thirties the Mississippi Business Journal hailed him as one of the “Top 40 Leaders under 40.”

But at age 34 McMillian’s life was mysteriously cut short.

As an openly gay African American candidate running for the mayoral seat in Clarkdale, Mississippi, McMillian was quietly signaling that neither his race nor his sexual orientation would abort his aspirations. On McMillian’s campaign Facebook page is a photo of him posing with President Obama. His campaign motto: “Moving Clarksdale forward.”

If there were anyplace to challenge the intolerant conventions of Mississippi, Clarksdale, the Delta’s gem—known as “a place where openness and hospitality transcend all barriers and visitors are embraced as family” and the birthplace of the blues—would be that place.

Police discovered McMillian’s body near a levee just a 15-minute drive outside of Clarksdale. Mississippi’s unforgettable sordid history of lynching immediately rose up when his family reported that Marco’s body was beaten, dragged and “set afire.” And the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till came roaring back, reminding me of Mississippi’s native son William Faulkner who wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Till was a 14-year of African American child from Chicago who was visiting relatives down in the Mississippi Delta. He was brutally murdered and tortured for allegedly flirting with a white woman. When his body was discovered it was reported that Till was severely beaten, nude, shot in the right ear, had an eye gouged out from its socket, and a cotton gin fan tied around his neck with a barbed wire before his body was dumped into Tallahatchie River.

While thoughts of racial hatred first erupted as the probable motive for McMillian’s murder, they were quickly erased when McMillian’s assailant, Lawrence Reed, 22, an African American male was found and apprehended in McMillian’s wrecked SUV.

Did Reed murder McMillian or did he just steal his car? Or might there be another tale here, one of a “down low” tryst gone awry?

Being openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) is no easy feat for African Americans, even in 2013 with a LGBTQ-friendly president like Obama having your back. Being from the South just complicates the matter. For McMillian, his family might also be one of the complications in ascertaining the truth behind his death.

Case in point—it is unfathomable to McMillian’s family to think that the motive for his murder was his sexual orientation. His mother, Patricia McMillian, told CNN that only family and friends knew of her son’s sexual orientation. “He did not announce in public that he was gay,” she said, adding, “I don’t think he was attacked because he was gay.” McMillian’s sexual orientation, however,was an open secret.

According to state investigators, little is known about Reed or how, if at all, he knew McMillian. To the McMillian family Reed is an enigma. McMillian’s mother stated she never knew him, and McMillian’s stepfather, Amos Unger, speaking for the family, told CNN that “We never heard of him.”

Although the family states that the cause of McMillian’s death was because he was “beaten, dragged and burned” the Coahoma County Medical Examiner Scotty Meredith stated otherwise.

But just as McMillian’s family might be one of the complications in ascertaining the truth behind his death so too might be the state that’s investigating the case.

In Mississippi LGBTQ couples cannot marry and they cannot jointly adopt. There is no hate crime bill protecting a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The state does not address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In other words, an assault on a LGBTQ Mississippian might very well be ignored as a personal matter.

Meredith told CNN the following about his findings:

“There were signs of an altercation but that didn’t kill him…Beating is not the cause of death. He was beaten, but not badly. This was not a targeted attack. This was more of a personal dispute.”

According to the Associated Press, The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute, which supports gay and lesbian candidates for political office, tweeted, “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Marco McMillian, one of the 1st viable openly #LGBT candidates in Mississippi.”

And according to Denis Dison, VP of Communications of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, in a HuffPo Live interview there are “approximately 600 openly LGBTQ elected officials at every level of U.S. government, with about 80 openly elected officials in the entire South.”

Had McMillian won his mayoral challenge he would have been Mississippi’s first—the pride not only of the Mississippi Delta, but also of the entire state.

 

Rev. Irene MonroeRev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes – “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.
Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As a religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because homophobia is both a hatred of the “other ” and it’s usually acted upon ‘in the name of religion,” by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”

The views expressed are those of the author.

Friday News & Notes: November 2, 2012

November 2, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Editor: Valerie Linson

M. Gertrude Godvin School, Walnut Avenue, Roxbury, MA circa 19th century. The building is currently the home of the National Center of Afro American Artists.
(City of Boston Archives, via Flickr)

 

The Cleveland Uppercut, Lil Reese and camera phone savagery
Akiba Solomon, Colorlines.com, October 29, 2012
In my neck of the online woods, two violent camera phone videos have been making the rounds and sparking disturbing reactions about if and when it’s OK for a man to strike a black woman.

The first video, popularly known as “The Uppercut,” shows a Cleveland bus driver later identified as Artis Hughes, 59, arguing with passenger Shi’dea Lane, 25, for several stops. Witnesses claim that Lane struck and spit on Hughes, provoking the 22-year employee to punch the woman in her face and physically throw her off the bus. When an unseen passenger screams, “That’s a female,” Hughes retorts, “I don’t care! She want to be a man? I’ma treat you like a man.” Hughes has been suspended and charged with assault.
Read more…

National Civil Rights Museum to open balcony where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot
Agence France Presse, November 2, 2012

The motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee where US civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 is being opened to the public, a spokeswoman said Friday.

It is the first time that visitors to the erstwhile Lorraine Motel, now the National Civil Rights Museum, will be able to stand on the very spot outside Room 306 where King was gunned down by sniper James Earl Ray.
Read more…

The African American debate on voting rights
Jamila Aisha Brown, Guardian.uk.com, September 25, 2012

Not voting in the age of Obama has become almost a taboo subject among African Americans. After record black voter turnout helped elect the nation’s first black president in 2008, the decision not to vote is regarded by many as an affront to the ancestors who died and activists who bled to exercise this right.

They are not worth the color if they don’t vote. They oughta give us their color back. Their African-American credentials should be snatched if they don’t vote,” proclaimed an impassioned Representative Emanuel Cleaver (Democrat, Missouri) in his address to the 42nd annual legislative conference of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation before the “voting rights and new age discrimination” panel.
Read more…

Small Wonders: Winning images from Nikon’s 2012 Small World Photo Micrography Competition
Washington Post, November 2, 2012
Read more…

Yes, you can criticize Obama and not be racist
Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post, October 31, 2012
I’ve long argued that Obama’s most ardent supporters should not ascribe racial motives to the president’s critics when none exist. Doing so undermines their argument and the ability to call out real racism — explicit and implicit — when it happens. And at the height of the tea party movement, I made a point of separating those who had genuine concerns about the direction of the country and its mounting debt from the right-wing extremists who latched onto the conservative movement.
Read more…

 

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: