5 Things LGBTs Can Learn From Black Civil Rights Mvmnt
Bus boycotters, Montgomery, Alabama (1955)
It seems our post yesterday Why Black People Don’t Like It When White Gays Co-opt the Black Civil Rights Movement, got some folks riled up. That wasn’t our intention, however. We just felt the time had come to distinguish the two movements—the black civil rights battle and the current LGBT quest for civil rights and why the movements most drastically differ in almost every way.

In the comment section of the post (which we encourage everyone to read because there are some great points brought up by individuals who did not necessarily agree wholeheartedly with our opinion) we applauded LGBT activist Robin McGehee for her respectful usage of the black civil rights movement as example in encouraging LGBTs to get active as well in terms of civil disobedience.

In addition to Miss McGehee’s urgings we thought we’d add to that with some thoughts and ideas on other ways the current LGBT rights movement could benefit from the black civil rights movement in terms of successful tactical actions and strategy. To criticize the movement without offering solution would be irresponsible and uncool. We do not want to follow in the footsteps of other LGBT bloggers who offer abundant complaint yet do not encourage empowerment and action items to their community. Here’s our list of 5 things the LGBT community can learn from the black civil rights movement:


President Barack Obama is NOT the leader of this nation’s LGBT rights movement. This bears repeating: President Barack Obama is NOT the leader of this nation’s LGBT rights movement. This confusion of sorts we feel is probably the most damaging of all misguided thinking in the LGBT community in terms of civil rights. Here’s a little known secret: President Barack Obama is not gay. Not only that, he already has his civil rights. So it makes sense that from a personal take on things there’s just no sense of breakneck urgency on his behalf—-not at the speed apparently some LGBTs would like him to have. And that’s probably because he’s not personally affected by a lack of civil rights.

When we bring this up in discussion with some gay folks, they actually get outraged. They tend to insist that Obama is in fact our leader and therefore SHOULD act in the interests of LGBTs as such. We don’t understand their thinking. After all, Ghandi led the Indian people—–not the British government. Caesar Chavez led the migrant farm workers—-not the farmers. Martin Luther King led Southern blacks—-not Kennedy or President Johnson.
The leadership in each of the movements just outlined share a commonality: they all had a personal investment in the change their communities sought. They themselves were part of the oppressed.

If the LGBT community wants things to pick up at a faster pace, the LGBT community needs to create its own leader or leadership. The failure to do so rests solely and squarely on the LGBT community. President Obama has nothing to do with that failure.


This is another huge point of confusion when it comes to activism and LGBT civil rights. Waiting for the government to act on civil rights is not only self-sabotaging, it’s just plain stupid. Unfortunately the LGBT blogging community has hypnotized the nation’s LGBT community into thinking that this is the way to go. Nothing could be further from the truth. LGBT’s must act FIRST. Black Alabamans did not wait for the local public transit system to give them the right to sit anywhere on public busses. Those people went on boycott until the bus system changed its policy of making blacks sit on the back of the bus. Southern blacks also did not wait for Jim Crow laws to be abolished and voted away. No. Instead they conducted sit-ins, boycotts and other various civil disobedience tactics putting themselves at grave risk in most cases therefore arousing the nation’s sympathy and support. Hence, laws were changed within a fairly reasonable timeframe.


While this is not absolutely necessary it certainly helps as demonstrated by the black civil rights movement and the highly visible roles of black spiritual leaders in that movement. While MLK was the most famous of these leaders, he most certainly wasn’t the only one. A big chunk of the success of the movement lent itself to black clergy encouraging their congregations to participate in the civil rights movement.

The LGBT community on the other hand has done very little so far in promoting or taking advantage of LGBT spiritual leaders or allies like Catholic priest Father Geoff Farrow, and how someone like him could add to the momentum of the LGBT rights movement.


Nothing breaks the back of the oppressor faster than hitting their wallets. This was best demonstrated by protesting blacks with the Montgomery Alabama bus boycott by those who tired of being forced to sit on the back of the bus. The reason why the bus company caved in and changed its segregation rule was because it was hurting financially. It could no longer afford to maintain the same racist policy and stay in business. There are so many opportunities available where the LGBT community can mobilize to do the same. And it’s effective.


We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: a civil rights battle cannot be won from a comfort zone. It’s not gonna happen. LGBTs can bitch and moan and complain about Obama and everyone else until the cows come home. But if the LGBT community is not willing to put itself on the line, don’t expect too much change in terms of civil rights for that community. Yea, you might get a crumb thrown at you—the current scenario with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But that’s about it.

During the black civil rights movement black citizens, allies and activists where subject to untold atrocities and assaults, homes torched, many killed. The business of civil rights is serious business in the United States. That has not changed since the black civil rights movement. Fighting a civil rights war is not for sissies. You need to be willing to die for what you believe in.

If LGBTs don’t want it handed to them piecemeal then you’ve got to show that you don’t want it piecemeal. And that means sit-ins at the risk of being arrested and other actions that could put one’s person at risk. Time held mantra for civil rights battles: NO PAIN NO GAIN.

The LGBT civil rights journey is no exception to this.

By Derrick Mathis
Published on the blog REWNL.ORG
Direct link to posting: 5 Things The LGBT Community Can Learn From The Black Civil Rights Movement
5 Things LGBTs Can Learn From Black Civil Rights Mvmnt

5 Things LGBTs Can Learn From Black Civil Rights Mvmnt

Article outlining direct action tips for the LGBT community by using examples from the Black Civil Rights Movement.

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