LGBT and Latino rights activist Larry Baza Compares African American, Latino and LGBT Civil Rights and Movements

Published: February 9, 2012

1 – What are the parallels/similarities between the black civil rights movement/Latino civil rights movement and the LGBT-rights movement?

There are parallels/similarities between the civil rights movements of African Americans, Latino Americans and the other communities of color.  The most basic one is that each of these movements are driven by the need to address the denial of rights guaranteed to all citizens by the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, hate crimes committed against and upon LGBT people and people of color, both violent and non violent, continue to be catalysts in the fight for equality and civil rights. The denial of certain civil rights (marriage, and in the past inter-racial marriages) equal opportunities (employment, housing & education) granted to Caucasian heterosexual Americans continue to be important factors in the need for civil rights movements.

It is important to place the fight for civil rights, for LGBT folks and the communities of color, in a truthful context – simply put racism and homophobia still exist in our country.  While there has been significant legislation in many states, counties, municipalities and at the federal level, clearly much more needs to be done.  We must remember that legislation has not completely changed generational feelings of entitlement and the superiority of Caucasian citizens over the “others.”  Fundamentalist religious groups and white supremacist’s beliefs and teachings continue to condemn and attack non-Christians, LGBT folks and people of color.  There does not appear to be an end to racism or homophobia despite legislative attempts to do so.

2 – What are the differences between the black civil rights movement/Latino civil rights movement and the LGBT-rights movement?

The differences between the civil rights movements of American people of color (including, Native Americans, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Pacific Islanders, etc., etc.) and LGBT Americans are many and all are worth in-depth examination.  The differences lie within the context and history of our lives, and the kinds of prejudice, bigotry, institutionalized homophobia and racism as individuals and as a class of people.  What is important is to understand and respect the differences for what they are, and to work together to make the promises of the U.S. Constitution become reality for all Americans beyond our respective racial, sexual, and religious differences.

When white Europeans landed on these shores the founding fathers set about claiming all land occupied by the Native American peoples and nearly completed a wave of genocide against natives.  They did, however, succeed in subjugating and relocating tribes from ancestral homelands for the purpose of taking their land.  Following that Africans were bought, traded and brought to this country against their will as slaves to become chattel and a slave work force for households and plantations.  After the acquisition of the California, Texas, Arizona, following the Spanish – American war and the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo the Mexicans in the Southwest lost lots of land and acquired second class citizenship in the land that was once Mexico.

Basically the LGBT civil rights movement has made incredible stride in 40+ years since the riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York spawned the modern LGBT movement.  Especially when we consider that that the civil rights movements, starting with the Black civil rights movement and followed by Latino movements in California and the East Coast arguably are movements 300+ years in the making.  The reason for that difference lies in the fact that the “face,” of LGBT America has been white and male.  People of color cannot change the color of their skin.  So white Gay men have always enjoyed the privileges that straight men have as long as they appeared to be straight and not obviously Gay.  And I dare say the “straight appearing,” or “straight acting,” nature of the leaders of the movement was deliberate and calculated.  LGBT leadership in the country has been slow to nurture and develop the young leaders from the communities of color.

Many people of color, and I am one, believe that we have yet to achieve full equality, in all aspects of American life.  There is much work to be done by all of us to create a more level playing field now and for future generations.  The outrageous attacks upon the first African-American President, during the election process and certainly after election, are nothing short of racism through the use of new code words and strategies to undermine his credibility and appeal to old racist viewpoints is evidence of the work that needs to be done. That many religious organizations pour money to into anti same sex marriage initiatives throughout our country is further proof that the LGBT civil rights movement must continue its work.  African Americans and Latino Americans have learned that the fight for civil rights will not end and that we must be vigilant and active participants in the governance of our country.  LGBT need to reach the same conclusion.  Maybe, just maybe we all should coalesce in this fight for equality rather than separating our struggles by working together, when we can.

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