Tags: civil rights, homophobia, james byrd, justice, matthew shepard, murder, stand your ground, trayvon martin
Guest editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe
The nation is once again divided alone the fault line of race. In a perceived 2013 post-racial society, however, William Faulkner’s prophetic quote “the past is never dead. It’s not even past” of the last century have come back to haunt us in this century.
Faulkner’s quote haunts us because of the recent verdict of the George Zimmerman trial.
The story, as you well know by now, of how George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchmen of a Florida community, was acquitted of all charges—murder and manslaughter—related to Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman’s actions resulted in the fatal shooting of Martin, a 17-year unarmed black teenager. Martin was perceived to be a suspect because he was wearing the signature piece of clothing that some associate with violent young black males—a hoodie. And he was not only wearing it but also “walking while black” in a gated community.
With no one of African descent—male or female—serving on the jury the nation sadly, once again, has shown to be neither colorblind with an all-white jury nor post-racial with one. And the notion that an all-white female jury would render a fairer outcome than an all-white male jury assumes racial bias is gender-specific.
Just as racial bias isn’t gender-specific, it is also not race-specific. Zimmerman is of a mix ethnic descent (mother’s Peruvian, and father’s Jewish) who identifies as Hispanic.
The question, however, many are still asking even after the verdict is whether Zimmerman was motivated by racism because he, too, is a person of color; therefore, was Zimmerman racially profiling Trayvon?
Racial, gender, gender-expression, and the all the other biases float freely through society—landing on all. Just because you’re a person of color or a member of an oppressed group it doesn’t mean you don’t buy into stereotypes and racial and cultural attitudes. These themes inform our judgments and actions toward others as well as your own group. (Case in point: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.)
As a matter-of-fact, the bombardment of stereotypes has proven to have both subtle and unintended consequences toward people of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientation, class and religions, to name just a few. It’s not just regular people who succumb. Geraldo Rivera, a renowned Latino, stated that Trayvon wearing a hoodie was “as much responsible” for his death as Zimmerman’s pistol. Of course, Rivera later recanted.
A young man has become the symbol of the horrific result of such stereotyping, and is fast becoming the symbol for a movement. Just as Matthew Shepard’s death galvanized a nation, Trayvon Martin’s death is doing the same.
In 1998 both James Byrd Jr., and Matthew Shepard were victims of bias-motivated crimes. Byrd, an African American was murdered by three white supremacists who chained him to the back of their pick-up truck at his ankles and dragged along a three mile asphalt road until he was dismembered. Shepard was tortured, tethered to a fence and left to die because he was gay.
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, was passed. The measure expanded the federal hate-crimes law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived race, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation, to just name a few.
With Florida’s Stand Your Ground permitting Zimmerman to walk without charges, the Shepard-Byrd statute not only reminds us of how bias-motivated crimes links gays and blacks together but that it’s the best hope for Trayvon Martin and his family seeking justice.
Rev. 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.
Tags: civil rights movement, equality, jr., justice, marriage equality, martin luther king, same-sex marriage
Guest Editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe
I am proud to count myself among the many people working for social justice today who stand on the shoulders of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Too many people think King’s statements regarding justice are only about race and the African-American community – thus excluding the LGBTQ community.
But King said that, “The revolution for human rights is opening up unhealthy areas in American life and permitting a new and wholesome healing to take place. Eventually the civil rights movement will have contributed infinitely more to the nation than the eradication of racial justice.”
Members of King’s family also embrace his words, extending them to the LGBTQ community.
For example, in 1998, Coretta Scott King addressed the LGBT group Lambda Legal in Chicago. In her speech, she said queer rights and civil rights were the same. “I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King’s dream to make room at the table of brother and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.”
Like her parent’s faith, the King’s eldest daughter’s, Yolanda, faith in the civil rights movement drove her passion for LGBTQ justice. “If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you do not have the same rights as other Americans,” she said at Chicago’s Out & Equal Workplace Summit in 2006. “You cannot marry, … you still face discrimination in the workplace, and in our armed forces. For a nation that prides itself on liberty, justice and equality for all, this is totally unacceptable.”
However, I must say, as an African American minister I have learned having pastored churches, and having worked alongside black ministers and their parishioners, that who we shout out and pray to on Sunday as an oppressed people, does not exclude or have any relations to who we damn, discard and demonize; thus being an oppressor to people marginalized and disenfranchised like ourselves. The Black Church is an unabashed and unapologetic oppressor to its LGBTQ community and consequently, a hindrance in progressive movements toward LGBTQ civil rights in this country.
While King would undoubtedly shake his head in disbelief concerning his brethren he would however applaud the stance the NAACP took on marriage equality.
In quelling the tension between black civil right activists and ministers of the 1960’s who still vociferously state that marriage equality for LGBTQ Americans is not a civil right, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., marked the 40th anniversary of “Loving v. Virginia,” that’s when the U. S. Supreme Court in 1967 struck down this country’s anti-miscegenation laws as unconstitutional, by stating the following concerning same-sex marriage: “It is undeniable that the experience of African Americans differs in many important ways from that of gay men and lesbians; among other things, the legacy of slavery and segregation is profound. But differences in historical experiences should not preclude the application of constitutional provisions to gay men and lesbians who are denied the fight to marry the person of their choice.”
But if King was with us today he would be sad with how homophobia continues within the Black Church community, having both a profound impact on the mistreatment of its LGBTQ communities, and its inattentiveness on the AIDS epidemic ravaging the black community.
Religion has become a peculiar institution in the theater of human life. Although its Latin root “religio” means “to bind,” it has served as a legitimate power in binding people’s shared hatred.
But Kings teachings taught me how religion plays a profound role in the work of justice.
A religion that looks at reality from an involved committed stance in light of a faith that does justice sees the face of the damned, the disinherited, the disrespected, and the dispossessed – and that also includes its LGBTQ people.
As a religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against LGBTQ 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.
I miss the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. I miss the sound of his voice, the things he said with his voice. I miss the choir that resounded within him with his voice. In keeping his dream alive we must continue to lift our voices. We must speak our truth to power. And for those of us who live on the margin we must speak out, because OUR survival as LGBTQ worshippers in our faith communities is predicated on our voices being lifted.
Each year, I mark the MLK holiday by reexamining King’s teachings, remembering that my longing for LGBTQ justice is inextricably tied to my work toward religious tolerance in the Black Church.
And this is why I continue to speak up.
Rev. Irene Monroe is a nationally-known writer, speaker, and theologian. She has been profiled in O, Oprah Magazine, and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. (The views expressed in this essay are solely those of the author.)
Tags: barack obama, civil rights movement, justice, martin luther king jr, national mall, non-violence, police brutality, protest movement, racism, segregation, voting rights
Thousands converged on the National Mall in Washington, DC on Sunday October 16th for the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. The dedication will be remembered as a historic event as King is the first African-American to be honored with a statue on the National Mall. The event featured performances by Aretha Franklin and Nikki Giovanni and remarks by Rev. Al Sharpton. (I imagine a lot of pews in Washington, DC were empty that morning…). President Barack Obama delivered the keynote speech; Obama was only 6 years old when King was assassinated.
In thinking about the dedication of the memorial I’m reminded of the passing of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth less than two weeks ago on October 5th. Shuttlesworth was an icon of the civil rights movement, in many ways the opposite temperament of King, but certainly no less effective and absolutely courageous. In the seminal documentary film series Eyes On The Prize, Shuttlesworth is one of my favorite interviews and an incredible witness to history. In describing the need to confront racism and segregation head-on and with force, Shuttlesworth says, “You can’t shame segregation… rattle snakes don’t commit suicide; ball teams don’t strike themselves out – you got to put’em out!” Shuttlesworth survived beatings and bombings; he took the battle against segregation to the streets and to the courts. In 1965, securing the passage of the Voting Rights Act was a major goal of the civil rights movement; in Selma, Alabama, civil rights activists were beaten and tear-gassed by state troopers. The television news coverage of the brutality faced by the non-violent protesters helped shift the national conversation about the civil rights movement.
In 2007, a march was held to commemorate the Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches. As the crowd crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, site of the notorious “Bloody Sunday“, it was then Senator Barack Obama who pushed Shuttlesworth’s wheelchair across the bridge.
President Obama’s remarks at the King dedication: