Learning From The History Of The Civil Rights Movement

  • metta

    Posts: 38623

    Jul 22, 2009 7:11 PM GMT
    This is an excellent article. I would highly recommend going to the actual story than just reading the quotes below.


    Observations from Turkey Hollow on the LGBT Civil Rights Movement: Part Two: Learning from History.


    The most important lesson is that people with clearly defined values and principles are the best agents of change. Those who are willing to negotiate or compromise beyond those values and principles often find that they merely face more demands for them to compromise again. Individuals who know 'the line in the sand' and refuse to compromise are often instigators of great change. The tough part in looking back is knowing what is 'practical' and what is sheer stubbornness.

    What the history of movements has taught us is that there is clearly no 'one way' or 'one person' that will enable the change. Even the most successful progressives have had deep failures and serious periods of doubt. In the end, sheer courage in the face of great opposition won the day.

    The easiest place for us to look into the past is the epic struggle by African-Americans for their freedom. For two centuries, they threw off the yoke of slavery, fought separate but equal, overturned "Jim Crow" laws, won important battles in the 1960's and ended up today with an African-American President. Let's be clear that we do not view our journey as identical to that movement. None of us have had the physical horrors of slavery nor the brutality of a Klan-driven oppression. However, the greatest compliment that can be paid to that heroic struggle for freedom is for it to inspire the oppressed around the world - to honor it by seeking wisdom, knowledge and strength from it.

    In creating strategy, Martin Luther King, Jr often consulted the history of Gandhi or the great struggles for labor and women's rights that came before. He found strength, courage and wisdom from those movements.


    Even the historic March on Washington in 1963 was filled with dissent that threatened its success. We have this image today of a mass gathering of black and white capped by Dr King's "I Have A Dream" speech. It was what we used to call back then a real "We Shall Overcome" moment. However, it almost didn't take place. National African-American leaders thought the march was a risky gamble - a waste of time and resources that distracted from legislative and legal priorities. Some were appalled that King refused to dump Bayard Rustin as the key organizer because he was a homosexual.

    We only have to look to the LGBT community which has lost so much of it history to families burning papers so no one would know their son or sister was gay. Or losing a generation of our history makers and story tellers to HIV/AIDS. When I reflect on all the people I know who died of AIDS and the systematic destruction of all traces of their LGBT journey by relatives I still get chills.


    First of all, there is room for all of us and our ways of creating change. Every person is urgently needed and the only crime would be to not to participate in some manner.

    No one has ownership of 'truth' or 'righteousness' and we must not only accept differences in approaches and strategy, but coordinate them and embrace each other in the fight for our freedom.

    That freedom can not come without risk taking, being bold and daring to be courageous.

    Washington's legislative/legal approach is an effective strategy - but only one part of a broader plan. Without a powerful and self-starting grassroots movement the change via legislation and the courts could take years. Never will an empowered and vigorous grassroots movement delay the long term progress in Washington.

    Indeed, it is not only right but essential to embrace the civil rights movements of the past with all their diversity of tactics - but we must adjust them to the technology and needs of today and our own unique struggle.

    We must know ourselves. Who are we and what is our history? Look at the impact of the movie "Milk" on countless millions. There is an urgency to know we are a proud tribe that comes out of a noble history. That knowledge can only make us stronger, feel a part of a greater movement and overcome a history of taught low self-esteem. The arts have an especially crucial role to play with a need of art, literature, plays, films and other creative expressions to celebrate our history and culture!

    The community should not wast
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    Jul 22, 2009 10:35 PM GMT
    The article is great. I consider David to be a true leader. How I wish I had his courage.
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    Jul 22, 2009 10:55 PM GMT
    Ironically, our number one enemy is money. We have higher levels of education than non-gay people. We have, on average, much higher levels of disposable income, post-graduate education, materials, time off, better job prospects, nicer homes, and the ability to live in communities that non-gay people would only qualify for if they were considered 'ultra rich'. It's hard to garner much sympathy for gay people when we are seen constantly as very, very affluent (whether this is the case or not, the point is that WE buy into this bullshit by trying to look the part rather than just being ourselves).

    Every single forum that attracts gay men always ends up in fights that contain things like 'you don't speak for my experience' or 'you're a (whatever putdown)' or some insult that shows what little regard we have for other gay people. This is not how other minority group got through any civil rights struggle. I think because the majority of us are, again, more affluent and used to getting what we want, we don't see ourselves as oppressed people so we go and oppress each other. With money, you can afford to buy your way out of just about anything. When it comes to being gay, you simply don't go to any gay events, and do everything online. That's why our community has lost about 20 years worth of activism because many young men are no longer coming out - why should they? Beating off to pictures of straight guys online is so much easier than dealing with the truth and hard work of being gay in real life. The mental health of these men over the next 30 years should be interesting to document if they do not take their own lives within this time frame. The thing is that gay men DO NOT TRUST other gay men at all. I've tried telling other guys - you can have your photo up on this or other sites and be proud - because it's mostly other gay guys who are here, so who cares? It implies that the people we trust the LEAST are each other - what does that say about our potential to have relationships or even friendships with other gay men that will have any substance or longevity? We are still a very anonymous, don't-ever-speak-to-me-again and don't-you-dare-acknowledge-me-on-the-streets people. Even after AIDS. Even after gay marriage has been legalized in six states. It changed nothing because the people who needed to see what this meant are unreachable. They don't care because they are and always will be looking out for number one. We just can not have a gay community unless we have one where the men in it trust one another enough to have their goddamn photo up (implying that he's gay) or without having to insult each other in order to feel good about himself (8th grade girl behavior).

    Our civil rights movement is going to be led by those born today and ten years from now because we are too screwed up to lead. We are all so busy with our single issue activism (marriage) which affects such a small percentage of gay people that you will never get the majority of the gay community to rally behind you. Because none of us know how to or want to listen to each other - for the few gay couples who are ready to get married I know of tons of single gay men who've met nobody for years who are getting ulcers because they have no support or backup, have lost their job (and only source of income), or are going to lose their health insurance, their home, their sense of community; when you have nobody else in your life to fall back on and these are your issues - believe me - it is tough to feel sorry for gay couples who can't get married. I'm almost positive that the gay men I know of who are about to be on the streets would be willing to trade places with the couples who can't get married anyday. The point is that everyone in this small group called gay America needs to be willing to listen to each other and realize it's not just ONE issue that is important to us - it's many, many issues but if we can stop thinking about ourselves for five minutes and give everyone a moment to voice their concerns, there's enough time to listen to everyone. And once they feel they are being heard, once they feel that you actually care about something other than what happened to your $600 sunglasses, that's when we make progress. Until then, it's not going to happen. We hate each other more than the fundamentalist right wing does.
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    Jul 22, 2009 11:12 PM GMT
    DuluthMN: I would march alongside any adversary on this site or in my local community. And I don't think I am alone. I think most of us know when to step up and get over our differences for the greater cause.

    I'm sad that you've lost faith in this.