Monday, January 23, 2006

Alito and Inclusion

Noting this from the Feminist Wire:

Judiciary Committee Votes Tomorrow on Alito; Filibuster Possible, Says Durbin
Tomorrow, two days after the 33rd anniversary of Roe v Wade, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Samuel Alito, a Supreme Court nominee who in 1985 wrote that the Constitution does not protect a woman's right to an abortion. Women's rights leaders and activists rallied last night at the Supreme Court in support of the landmark Supreme Court ruling.

"Since we last gathered to commemorate Roe v. Wade, two seats have opened up on the Supreme Court, and George W. Bush has used both opportunities to nominate judges whose records show a disdain for privacy rights and individual liberties," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. "The Senate is poised to vote on confirming Samuel Alito, who would replace Sandra Day O'Connor, a justice whose vote has upheld women's rights for nearly 25 years. How quickly the fate of women's reproductive rights could turn in this nation."
Already, at least nine Senators have come out publicly and strongly against Alito's confirmation, including four who voted in favor of confirming John Roberts as chief justice. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), the Democratic Whip, said that a filibuster was possible.
"A week ago, I would have told you it's not likely to happen," Durbin said. "As of [Wednesday], I just can't rule it out. I was surprised by the intensity of feeling of some of my colleagues. It's a matter of counting. We have 45 Democrats, counting [Vermont independent] Jim Jeffords, on our side. We could sustain a filibuster if 41 Senators ... are willing to stand and fight."
GET THE INSIDE SCOOP with The Smeal Report and the New Leif blogs at MsMagazine.comTAKE ACTION Call your Senators and urge them to oppose AlitoDONATE Make an emergency contribution to the Feminist Majority’s Save Roe Campaign. We must be a strong voice in this crucial fight to save Roe and the Supreme Court for women’s rights.
Media Resources: Feminist Majority; NOW statement 1/22/06; Chicago Sun-Times 1/20/06

It's the last lap in the home stretch. We can pull it out, we can dig deep and grab onto those last bits of energy.

Now we just got done with a roundtable for the gina & krista round-robin and you can consider what follows to be the writing of Betty and Cedric. If there's something we feel differently on or want to make our own point on, we'll indicate it, but this is our joint entry.

Every Saturday when we get together to work with The Third Estate Sunday Review gang (the gang is Ava, Jess, Ty, Dona, Jim and C.I; we are Rebecca, Wally, Mike, Elaine, Kat, Betty and Cedric) there are any number of items that are proposed for a feature. Some ideas are shot down because they're too big to undertake (unless they can be repitched as something easier in scope) and some are shot down because there's not enough interest in them from enough people. On something like that, if it's not just an idea you had but something that is really important to you, you can state that and everyone's willing to include it. But each edition there are ideas that we never end up having time to get to.

Everyone usually tosses out interesting ideas even if they are too large in scope. One idea that came from C.I. this weekend was about an article in the New York Times. It was on a topic that we hit on a lot in roundtables there. Ty usually has something to say on the issue as well. We made a point not to invite Ty to help on this entry because we know he would have said "yes" or felt guilty. As you'll see in the round-robin tomorrow, Ty's got a major exam first thing in the morning.

We left Ty out of this trying to make sure he was able to focus on studying. Had we not known of the exam, we would have brought him on board. We are the three Black voices of the community in terms of doing sites.

The article C.I. brought to the table was Neela Banerjee's "Black Churches' Attitudes Toward Gay Parishioners Are Discussed at Conference" and it ran in Saturday's New York Times on page A10. We'll note that Betty is from the Atlanta area and she does know of Dr. Kenneth L. Samuel of the Victory Church.

The article addresses a meeting last Friday between Black clergy and and the National Black Justice Coalition and the issue discussed was prejudice against gay men and lesbians. We have spoken repeatedly in roundtables about what has happened in our churches and how our congregations have had to face up to the fact that many of our brothers and sisters include those who are gay.

Betty: Cedric's church dealt with it way before mine did.

Cedric: The AIDS epidemic led to my church addressing it long before I was an adult.

Betty: Dr. Samuel is well thought of and respected by many in the Atlanta area for his work on this issue. Banerjee has no control over where the article appears or the length the paper decides to go with but this really should have been an article in the paper's Sunday magazine. Had there been more room, I'm guessing Banerjee would have noted that Dr. Samuel not only has critics but he has support from outside his own church. He, rightly, has made a name for himself by taking the gospels to heart.

The article details how Bully Boy and the Republicans were able to lure some Black churches into their tent by making gay marriage a wedge issue. African-Americans/Blacks should have known better than to throw in our lot with someone who stands in direct opposition to our own advancement as a people.

Whether you are an integrationist or an isolationist, the last thing we need to be doing is dividing our collective power by drawing a line between those of us who are straight and those of us who are gay. When our ancestors were working on plantations, masa' wasn't concerned about who were fantasizing about, just about squeezing every bit of life out of us he could. When the civil rights movement fought for integration, the racists standing in our way didn't care if the brother or sister sitting at the counter or going to the school dreamed about the opposite or same gender. When we were disenfranchised in Florida in 2000 and in Ohio in 2004, no one was concerned about what was or wasn't going on in our bedrooms. From way back to the current day, the line against us was and is drawn based upon our skin color.

Like it or not, we are in this together. And as a race, we have collective power. The Republicans attempts to divide us and turn us against one another is just another attempt to co-opt elements and dilute our power.

When we talk to brothers and sisters who are skittish (or worse) about sexuality, the first thing we usually ask is, "Who in your congregation has died of AIDS?" The awful disease has made gay men more visible (in death) but what you find is that a church that hasn't attempted to have a dialogue about this issue is a church that goes out of its way to erase the contributions of a deacon or a choir director, you name it.

Brother Ray that you were always so happy to see dies of AIDS and suddenly it's as though Brother Ray never existed. That's not right.

And the only way this changes is when we start getting honest. Gays and lesbians have always been in the Black chuches. You might not have known it at the time, but they were there. They were there on Sunday wanting so much to take part and they were there contributing to the church in spirit and with tithes. They are us and we are them.

It shocks us that our proud race which can rally when we see a brother or sister demonized, even if they may very well be guilty of a crime (including murder or child molestation), wants to turn against our own brothers and sisters.

In unity we have power and strength. In unity we are one and able to help one another. Though some churches do have sports team, it's not a requirement that you shower with your congregation so the silly notion of "What if we were in the locker room together?" is even sillier.

God made each of us. But for some reason we want to kick some of our brothers and sisters out of the boat and instead break bread with a Bully Boy who's declared an illegal war and attacked a people but expected us to fight his war in large numbers seems far from the teachings of Jesus Christ. To be there for our brothers and sisters, all of our brothers and sisters, who are attempting to struggle on their own paths to spirituality seems very much in keeping with the teachings of Christ.

At a time when so many Uncle Toms and Aunt Tomisinas are willing to turn their backs on race to enrich themselves, we don't think it makes sense to turn our backs on those who want to stand with us.

We also think that this turning is the sort of thing Jesus counseled his disciples against.

We have relatives who are gay and lesbian so we saw a long time ago that they're not the "other." They are our family members and they bring much to our families. African-Americans/Blacks who have not been uprooted repeatedly due to the economy and other factors usually not only have a strong sense of family but are also close to many of their kin.
We don't think any large family gathering takes place without at least one gay or lesbian family member attending. You may not realize that or you may go out of your way to deny it. But they truly are us and we truly are them.

The article makes the point that in the 19th century scripture was used against us to justify slavery. Jesus and his teachings rejected that argument. We believe that this is true with regards to sexuality as well.

The article notes that "Blacks often bridle at comparisons made between the civil rights stuggle of African-Americans and the campaign by gay men and lesbians for equal protection under the law." We think that's a mistake and have addressed this before.

The civil rights movement is something we look to with great pride. We'd love to see it taught as something that not only brought African-Americans/Blacks closer to equality but that provided a framework and sense of justice to inspire people of all walks of life. We're quite aware that we work and work to create something (blues, soul, rap) and then a White person comes along and rides it to popularity while our own work is often ignored.

But with regards to the civil rights movement, it seems to us that nothing could be a better legacy than for people of each generation to learn of it and honor it by utilizing it to make their own strides towards equality. It's our legacy and we'd like to see it be a living legacy that continues to inspire.

That could remove it from something that's only noted one month a year (Black History Month) and instead becomes something all value. An activist, of any color, gender or orientation, a hundred years in the future turning to the civil rights movement for inspiration speaks to how important that movement was. We also believe that this attention can only provide a renewal in interest of the objectives we are still striving for.

The Rev. Al Sharpton is noted in the article and we'll note that we remember in the recent Democratic primaries, he was one of the few voices that could speak out for all. He didn't shy from the issue of gay rights and we think that's because, due to our own struggles, we are inclined to grasp anyone's struggle. We have had to overcome so much and we can identify with others who are also struggling for equality.

This is our better nature. We are more than track stars and basketball players, rap stars and comedians. We are the ones who shook off the shackles of extreme discrimination (and still live under discrimination often in less overt forms). We are leaders. Our struggles have made us that.

Our gay brothers and sisters shouldn't have to hide in closets from us or risk scorn if they come out. We shouldn't return to a past that rewarded those who could pass or gave preferential treatment to those among us who were lighter skinned. We are a race, a powerful race, and unless someone's working to hold us back, they are in our boat. We need to welcome them and we need to reach out to them.

We sincerely pray that we will have the strength as a race to welcome all who want to continue the fight for equality. As so many of us continue to live in poverty and below the poverty line, we need strength. The only line drawn should be the one that asks, "Are you for us or against us?"