Reflections on the Ferguson decision re: Black Rights and Gay Rights

Billings GazetteIt is my belief that any person or group of persons who have known discrimination, less-than-equal treatment, and oppression because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, immigrant status, or anything else, understands the pain and anguish that many of us in the black community feel today. The police killing of an unarmed black teenager, the fact that his dead body remained on the street for four hours, and the defense of the killer by the Prosecutor that resulted in no indictment, evokes and provokes within us many emotions. Again, I remember the question raised by James Baldwin. He raised it as a black man, but I am sure the fact that he was gay, shaped the question as well. His question, "Who wants to be integrated into a burning house?"

FergusonCard3What happened in Ferguson reminds us that no matter how much access and equality "persons like us" –those who have been/are relegated to the margins because of who we are; our "acceptance" after great struggle, does not mean the nation's "house fire" burns no longer. I, as a straight black clergyman who rejoices in the growth of marriage equality throughout the nation, rejoice when the married gay couples that I know acknowledge that neither heterosexism, racism or sexism are dead, despite their newly married status.

My wish is that LGBTQ persons, same sex married couples and gay rights organizations could "speak out" against the overt anti-black racism that was so evident in the no-indictment decision of the Ferguson Grand Jury. The Prosecutor in his public announcement made Michael Brown the perpetrator and the one who shot him, the victim. Thus, the Jury decided what it did.

statusquoSome say that because of what took place in Ferguson, we saw again manifestations of white power and privilege. I prefer to say that what was revealed was not white power, but "status quo power and privilege." I want to believe that any person who has been victimized by state-sponsored discrimination or oppression, because of who she/he is, is my ally because they resent and resist anti-black injustice as fervently as they resent and resist their own oppression.

be the changeI of course repudiate the violence that took place in Ferguson. But, as so often happens, some will focus on the violence and not on the nonviolence of those who protested for over 100 days. And, there will be those who will "use" the violence to avoid acknowledging the history of injustice experienced by black persons in the USA. Most black persons and others view what took place in Ferguson as being linked to the history of slavery, lynching, racial segregation and discrimination that has been the black experience in the USA.

Ferguson compels me to share this Langston Hughes poem particularly for those who do not understand black anger:

What happens to a dream deferred?
      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

Gil Caldwell, November 23rd, 2014


5 James Baldwin Quotes That Foreshadowed Ferguson