According to an article in the Des Moines Register, Ratcliff stated that gays are "hijacking the Civil Rights Movement," and emphasized that there is "no parallel" between the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and the gay rights movement. Making such a comparison is "an insult" to black people. He concluded that “Deviant behavior is not the same as being denied your right to vote.”
His words tarnished an organization that has tried, unsuccessfully, to damper the homophobic bigotry that is so pervasive amongst minority groups. The most recent expression of it was President Obama's election day victory. As throngs of minorities flocked to the polls to vote into power a minority candidate for president, those same minorities also voted in California to strip the gay community of their right to marry. (Proposition 8)
But alas, I'm not going to denounce "Rev." Keith Ratliff Sr. I'm actually going to agree with him in some respects. It is simply a fact that the oppression gays experience is nothing like what ethnic minorities experience. It is, in fact, much worse for gay people. Gay people are decades behind in gaining their god-given, inalienable rights.
Blacks got the right to serve their country in the 1940s. Actually, that's only when the military was desegregated. They've actually served since colonial times. Gay people only got that right in the past couple of months. Black people got the right to marry in 1967, when the supreme court ruled in "Loving v Virginia" that interracial couples cannot be denied the fundamental right that is marriage. And again, they could actually marry long before this - just not to white people. Gay people have only had marriage rights in a small handful of states for a few years - and these marriages are still not federally recognized.
Blacks have had the right not to be harassed and murdered by hate groups since the passage of the 1969 Federal Hate Crimes Law. It was considered to controversial to add gay people to that law, until the recent passage of the Matthew Shepard Act.
And while it is still legal to fire someone for being gay, discrimination in employment based on race has been prohibited since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
So gay people are very far behind. And the kind of discrimination gays face is quite different as well. When a black kid comes home from school after having been called a "nigger" by some racist white kids, he can talk with his sympathetic parents about it - parents who very likely know exactly what their son or daughter is feeling. When a gay kid comes home after having been called a "faggot," he keeps the incident to himself, less his or her parents send him to a concentration camp to be tortured by religious bigots. [Oops, sorry, that should read "conversion camp."]
Has a black kid ever been sent to a conversion camp? Has a black kid ever had his minister tell him that due to his race, he is an abomination before god? Has a black kid ever been kept from his prom, because the school doesn't want to encourage that "lifestyle choice?" Does a black kid have to sit in class and listen to his fellow students debate whether or not he should have the same rights and privileges that everyone else enjoys?
Furthermore, black kids know about their own oppression. They can learn about slavery by reading their American History textbooks. Where do gay people turn to learn that Hitler targeted them in the Holocaust, and forced them into the death camps? Not in history textbooks, as it's too controversial.
So, I'm sorry that "Rev." Keith Ratliff Sr. feels all offended that someone has compared the humanity of gay people to the humanity of black people. I'm sure when Matthew Shepard was being bludgeoned to death with a pistol, hung to a fence, and left to freeze to death in the middle of the night, he was thinking: "Gosh, I hope the gay community doesn't make this into a big deal. After all, blacks should get their rights first."
"Rev." Keith Ratliff Sr. should be ashamed of himself. And if the NAACP wants any street credibility as it reaches out to the gay community, it can start by denouncing and firing "Rev." Keith Ratliff Sr.
In the meantime, I sure hope that "Rev." Keith Ratliff's kid is not gay, because if he is, he has a much greater likelihood of committing suicide due to the pervasiveness of hatred and bigotry against sexual minorities in this country. I'm sorry if that fact disturbs, insults, and demeans the good "reverend."
Copyright © By Jay Jordan Hawke, March 20, 2011.