How hungry for equality are we really?
I have to admit that before the ENDA debacle of 2007/2008 I was complacent. That was the year that the Democratic House Leadership cut gender identity from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) — A lot of us transgender folk woke up from our complacency then.
Later in 2008, much of the rest of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community awoke from complacency when Proposition 8 passed. We watched a majority of Californians voted to take away the civil right of marriage equality that the courts had awarded LGBT community only months before. Here in California, marriage equality was voted away in the same election in which my home state voted to elect a President who stated he would be the LGBT community’s “fierce advocate.”
We, as the LGBT community, participated in electing the largest Democratic Party majorities in the House and Senate we’ve seen in decades. With an alleged “fierce advocate” in the White House of the same political party, the only piece of LGBT specific legislation that’s passed has been one regarding hate crimes. This Congress and White House can’t even seem to pass into law a full repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) when four out of five Americans support it.
The gAyTM is closed because the Democratic Party has not lived up to expectations on LGBT equality legislation. We have a plan of what we’re not going to continue doing — we’re not going continue to function as the Democratic Party’s gAyTM. From what we don’t do to what we will do…What is the plan for what we are going to do?
Well, we should start take lessons from other civil rights movements…from other civil rights movements’ leaders.
You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
~Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” (16 April 1963)
We too in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community have been bogged down in an fruitless monologue regarding our equal rights instead of fruitful dialog. The Democratic Party have failed us because neither the Democrats or the Republicans approach us, or our efforts towards full equality, with a true sense of crisis. We, as a broad and diverse LGBT community, aren’t creating the tension necessary to effect a crisis over our civil rights.
Going beyond closing our handbags and wallets, we need to go forward into the arena of personal sacrifice. We need to start thinking in terms of civil disobedience and direct actions. Unless we’re willing to begin a regimen of civil disobedience and direct actions, we are not going to create the tension that creates crisis about our community members’ lack of freedom, equality, and justice.
From Cesar Chavez:
It is possible to become discouraged about the injustice we see everywhere. But God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. He gives us the gift of life and allows us to choose the way we will use our limited time on earth. It is an awesome opportunity.
We are confident. We have ourselves. We know how to sacrifice. We know how to work. We know how to combat the forces that oppose us. But even more than that, we are true believers in the whole idea of justice. Justice is so much on our side, that that is going to see us through.
Cesar Chavez’s voice also tells us:
People who have lost their hunger for justice are not ultimately powerful. They are like sick people who have lost their appetite for what is truly nourishing.
So I ask again…How hungry for equality are we really?
I grow hungrier each passing day.