ARE WE CIVIL? ARE WE EQUAL?

Dear Elder Brother (EB), I’m excited that we are officially launching our new website and thus the full scope of the multi-media project, Truth in Progress.  This website is the heart and headquarters of all our activity, it is the avenue that allows others to enter into our reflections and proposals. It is our public forum to ask and learn what others are thinking about issues of race, sexual orientation and religion, to offer insights into the similarities and differences of the black civil rights and queer (lebsian, gay, bisexual and transgender, lgbt) rights movements. We can show that we’re not seeking agreement but getting people talking, listening, learning and talking some more. Here on this site we are opening our correspondence to the world in order to get others to inform our sense of truth: yours as my black heterosexual older married ordained retired male pastor Elder Brother and your white lesbian younger single spiritual-but-refusing-to-sit-in-the-back-of-the-church-bus Younger Sister. We invite readers/viewers to comment, add your own links, and invite others to this site. The video clips are another way to bring more people into the conversation, and as we go to various cities and sites of significance to both civil rights movements, we offer a visual sense of the history of humanity.

With all that said, let’s get going.

This afternoon on a wonderful sunny day in Montana where spring and the birds have returned and I can sit outside without needing the warm cocoon of a down sleeping bag, I’m thinking about our trip to Dallas in February. To be in the downtown Sheraton around 2,000 members of my “tribe” and extended tribe (that’s you allies) was to be back in the world of beautiful diversity of gender, fashion, haircuts, jargon (“branding” and “messaging” are most popular, it seems), spirit, perseverance, and fight.

We were privileged to talk to so many dedicated activists and thoughtful spirits. For me, one very powerful thread came from interviews with black lesbian activist and filmmaker C.d. Kirven (she’s the guest TiP blogger this month), the Rev. Peter Johnson, and an email comment by a youngish African American pastor who would not meet with us because she didn't see any similarities between the two movements. I thought of her as C.d. recounted her story of being beaten by a girlfriend’s ex-husband in front of this man and her girlfriend’s children, and a crowd of fifty plus people, none of which came to her aid.  Then when the police were called, the officer slammed her against the car calling her a nigger dyke (I don’t include those words without hesitation, but they represent the rage and prejudice that lgbt people face). I thought of the pastor when we talked with Peter and he said that everyone that had been on the front lines of the black civil rights movement, those that had been “bitten in the ass by dogs,” know that the two civil rights movements are the same. He went on to say that maybe the younger African American generation doesn’t see it because they have only known the black civil rights experience from reading about it in textbooks; but those that were there know that the ugliness of hatred, violence, and legal exclusion is the same no matter what face is put on it.  These traumatic experiences for Peter and C.d. (happening almost 40 years apart) were personal encounters with the ugliness and evil of discrimination.

We can talk about the use of the words “civil” or “equal” to try to distinguish between the two for-rights battles, but the lived experience is the same. It reminds me of the time when Mpho Tutu, a child of apartheid in South Africa, looking at me with much emotion after listening to me describe my experience of living in the world as a lesbian, quoted her father, “Discrimination is not only evil, it is blasphemous. It makes a child of God, doubt that he or she is a child of God.” Yes, we have different struggles (over and against apartheid; slavery; Jim Crowe laws; killing of queers; legal discrimination in the workplace, church, housing and marriage) but the fight is the same –civil/equal rights for all. Respect and the end of violence is not guaranteed by equal protection under the law –consider the overt racism dumped on President Obama- but it’s a start.

A bit of humor to bring this to a close, I must tell you a line from Native American comedian, author, filmmaker Sherman Alexie. He said, “gays don’t threaten my (heterosexual) marriage, straight women with no boundaries do.” Thought you’d get a smile from that.

With love,

Younger Sister (YS)

YS,

As I "read" you, I enjoy embracing your sentences that "jump out at me". You write that our website can "…show that we're not seeking agreement but getting people talking, listening, learning and talking some more." I am convinced that one of the reasons we still wrestle with the negative "isms"; sexism, racism, heterosexism, classism, etc., is that we as human community and national "family", have not spent enough time creating space for persons to "have their say". Perhaps if people had been able to speak from their hearts about racism and sexism, we would not now be combatting heterosexism.

Grace and I still remember with joy, our first visit to Helena and Montana, where you reside. Helena and Montana were not what I thought they were. One of the residuals that I hope will come from our conversations about heterosexism and racism, is that those of us east of the Mississippi will discover the richness of the human and natural resources of Montana

and the west. What an amazing surprise it would be if in our dialogue we could share with our readers, word pictures of the west where you live and the east where I live.

You have done that about Montana as you write; "This afternoon on a wonderful sunny day in Montana where spring and the birds have returned and I can sit outside without needing the warm cocoon of a down sleeping bag, I’m thinking about our trip to Dallas in Frebruary."

There is something about that sentence that transcends the painful realities of racism, sexism and heterosexism. We must never allow the pain and anger that isms sometimes create within us and others keep us from acknowledging a sunny spring day in the beauty that is Montana.

Almost every week as I hear or read of persons "passing by" LGBT persons, particularly persons who claim a relationship with Jesus and who are deeply committed to the Church, I think of the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus tells the story of an injured man who is lying on a dusty road and a Priest and a Levite walk by on the others side of the road to avoid him. But, a Samaritan, a member of a despised class of people stops, takes care of the wounded man and takes responsibility for his lodging and care.

What is it about you and those who share your Gay sexual orientation that causes people, particularly people of faith to pass by on the other side? How can any of us who claim a "calling by God" to be in ministry, set that calling aside by avoidance of LGBT persons and the discrimination they/you experience?

I observed that silence and avoidance by many persons as I grew up as a black person in the south and the southwest. Persons who were clergy or active laity in the church, were so infused with the culture of racism in those days, that they set aside their teachings and preachings about Jesus, their adherence to Scripture and their commitment to the mission and ministry of their churches, as they ignored the needs of those of us who were black. Sometimes many of them were activists in their discrimination, segregation and persecution of blacks.

You can understand that as I observe the heterosexual privilege and supremacy that exists in too many places today, I cannot help but think of the white privilege and white supremacy that I grew up with many years ago. "The more things change...."

There are persons who would deny your comment about the "overt racism dumped on President Obama", but overt or covert, there is a minority of persons who knowingly or unknowingly, are unable to separate the race of the President from their disagreements with him and his administration. If they could, there would not be the racially negative depictions of him and his family expressed as they criticize him. But years from now as future generations read about some of the responses to the 44th President of the USA, they will find them unbelievable.  Of course I am not surprised by those responses. Jackie Robinson experienced them, as he became the first Black person to play major league baseball. And, Henry "Hank" Aaron who broke Babe Ruth's homerun record was verbally brutalized as he approached and then broke the record.  Because he was Black.

How can a few people live with their hatred of persons because of their race and/or sexual orientation, when most persons do not have that hatred? My hope is that "Truth in Progress" will encourage the non-haters to become pro-active in their affirmation of all people, because, "We Are Family".

EB