I do a lot of social consciousness lectures and presentations in my work as a consultant. One of the things I’ve continually stressed is the need to learn from and engage in each other’s civil rights efforts because these are essentially our own. This seems to puzzle many people, so I use examples of some of the more successful civil rights outcomes of the 1960s. Many groups, such as the Black Panther Party, understood that their sociopolitical agenda was in fact part of a larger global effort for all persons of color to actively overcome the racially oppressive and imperialist contexts in which they lived. Even while the settings and players were different, as the BLP and other organizations understood, the system of oppression and the pain of loss it caused were shared by all. The shared value was of dismantling that system.
It is certainly true that some of the social movements in the 60s and early 70s were exclusionary or hierarchical (the early women’s movements often ignored the experiences for women of color, many of the racial-ethnic civil rights groups developed patriarchal structures that marginalized women’s experiences). It’s my belief, however, that everything was so new and changing so rapidly that many of the revolutions’ leaders were inadvertently bypassing and disenfranchising these members of their own communities.
Fast forward to 2012. I’ve been active in LGBT efforts for 20 years, now. Sadly, we talk very minimally about the specific concerns of persons of color within our community, and not at all of those outside the community. We have tended to look at communities of color in terms of how they support us or not at the polls. There’s a lot of information, much of which is erroneous, that indicates that communities of color are generally unsupportive of LGBT rights. It’s my estimation that any LGBT folks who still believe this as the whole truth have some catching up to do. LULAC, which has a long record of supporting LGBT Latinas/os, and the NAACP, which by the way is the oldest civil rights organization in the U.S., have both issued statements supporting President Obama’s statements on same-sex marriage.
The victory this represents for LGBT persons from the Latina/o and African-American communities is tremendous and cannot be overstated. Importantly, however, this represents a victory for us all in the LGBT community in that these two organizations are taking a stand for our rights. Both LULAC and the NAACP recognize that civil rights are a matter of shared concern, a mutual investment that we all make in upholding and championing our humanity. As I see it, the next logical step has been clearly delineated for me and others in the LGBT social justice effort. If LULAC and the NAACP have our backs, shouldn’t we have theirs, too?
Stacee Reicherzer is a counselor, a faculty member at Walden University, and a private consultant with special interests that include: transgender issues in counseling, lateral (within-group) marginalization, and sexual abuse survival.