Tuesday, October 26, 2010

About Juan Williams and the Risks of Public Discourse

I have always liked Mr. Juan Williams, and I certainly do not agree that he is a bigot by any extent of the imagination.
The problem is that now Mr. Williams is lending himself to the regular criticism of NPR as a very liberal medium, by saying that NPR was looking for a reason to fire him.
I disagree with Mr. Williams’ comment, which is similar to Mr. Jackson saying that he was afraid when he saw a black man on the street (paraphrasing).
I do understand his comment in context, and it may have been more honest than we are ready to admit in public. But I believe there is a very good reason not to admit those kinds of comments in public: they justify and even incite the fear some people (even many people) have of Muslims (or of the “angry black man.”)
As we know, racism or prejudice is harder to extirpate than just our conscious efforts to stop being racists. We are all very familiar with the research showing how we – even us, blacks, or us, women – still harbor unconscious racist or sexist views because, even though our intellect tells us one thing, the influence of society as a whole, the images we see, etc. condition our unconscious beliefs quite strongly. Therefore, we –smart, respectable people such as Mr. Williams - cannot make those comments and give authority and justification to the open expression of racism and prejudice. Or, at the very least, one will have to admit that those comments do lend themselves to justify racism, even if that’s not our intention.
I do believe this issue is extremely complicated, because otherwise we cannot have the open public discourse we want to incite. But pretending that these kinds of comments don’t have any other further incidence is dangerously naïve.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pérdida y permanencia de La Habana

La Habana. La noble Habana de antiguas columnas con diseños raros y distintos que ahora exhiben un gris único, el de la dejadez y el culpable olvido. El sitio donde florecen las paredes al tiempo que se agrietan y derrumban. Ciudad de risas y lágrimas, echada de menos por tantos que están lejos y de más por tantos que están dentro.

¿Qué ve el viajero al recorrer calles que no conoce o no recuerda? ¿Qué rememora quien poco tiempo atrás las abandonó?

El paseo del ayer, el Prado de los soñadores, sigue siendo el lugar privilegiado por quienes caminan en la noche, apesadumbrados por “la nostalgia del día que vendrá”, casados con una belleza de la que sobreviven ligeros vestigios. Cada sábado se anda sobre las huellas del anterior y se repiten los amigos el mismo verso, se prometen la misma fidelidad, se secan mutuamente las mismas lágrimas. La pregunta callada martillea en las sienes, mientras se aprietan los dientes para no pronunciarla: dónde estaremos en unos años.

Las posesiones son escasas: una estadía en la universidad, 25 años de envejecimiento sin experiencia, algunas lecturas que nos devuelven embellecido un paisaje que no hemos contemplado, un ansia infantil de aventura. Es extraño permanecer atados a una historia que no ha sido la nuestra, sentir la pérdida de una ciudad que en verdad no conocimos sino por viejos álbumes y descripciones literarias, pero amamos esta plaza porque fue la de Lezama y Martí, la de Cabrera Infante y Villaverde, la de los de ayer y los de anteayer, y porque de algún modo eso la hace nuestra.

Otros, también jóvenes, sentados en cualquier esquina de lo que ayer fuera una construcción envidiable se dejan matar por el tiempo, se aburren por costumbre, se emborrachan por no llorar…o por no esperar. A menudo vivir es difícil, pero no renuncian. Recuestan su espalda en columnas apuntaladas e inventan un piropo para cualquier mujer que se contonea ante sus narices, mientras la esposa aguarda. Lo demás es el dominó, la música y el juego prohibido. Y los ancianos se levantan cada día al amanecer, con las arrugas más acentuadas y las vestimentas más ajadas; hacen colas en oscuras fondas. Siguen ahí, aferrados a una vida que les ha sido ingrata, idealizan los tiempos pasados y tienen fe: ¡ya vendrán tiempos peores!

Nada es demasiado terrible para no alcanzar una solución aparente y, aunque nos preguntemos mil veces por qué, la gente ríe, el cubano ríe sufriendo y sufre riendo; cuando la realidad es muy abrumadora, se escapa y ríe; cuando el problema es insoluble, lo elude y ríe; cuando la solución radical es imposible, la olvida y ríe.

Las mujeres adultas están atravesadas por la inmediatez y envejecen a sus propios ojos ante el espejo, los caracteres se vuelven ácidos, los matrimonios caen en frecuentes crisis, los hijos son cada día más independientes y problemáticos, y se acabó la cebolla, y el azúcar no alcanza para llegar a fin de mes, y se multiplican sospechosamente las reuniones de los esposos, y qué cara la pintura de uñas.
En cambio las muchachas no parecen dispuestas a heredar de sus madres otra cosa que la belleza, se peinan y se maquillan, algunas buscan futuro de los modos menos recomendables, muchas se alarman por no avizorar ninguna tierra prometida, no piensan en parir, no paran de soñar, quizás irresponsables, tal vez superficiales, sobre todo indiferentes.

Los niños preguntan, desean, corretean bajo la lluvia y siguen siendo la mayor fuerza de subversión. Perplejos ante las nuevas tecnologías, suspiran por las computadoras y los juegos televisivos y pierden la inocencia al descubrir en el dinero un hada madrina.

Los turistas miran todo sin ver nada. No pueden entender el secreto conjuro de esa ciudad mágica que contiene misteriosos desafíos para cada uno de sus habitantes. Las calles permanecen majestuosas, contemplan, esperan. ¡Ah, mi ciudad! Seguro es falso que todo hombre nace con un plano de La Habana en la cabeza, pero eso es porque no somos perfectos.

Siempre desde lejos se le envía a La Habana el mensaje del cantor: “dile que la echo de menos cuando aprieta el frío, cuando nada es mío, cuando el mundo es sórdido y ajeno”.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Discurso de graduación

Para mis queridos alumnos, graduación del 2010, de la Escuela Argentina de Washington:
Lara Bes, Carolina Galdiz, Carolina Fermoselle, Julián Palau, Juan Manuel Segura, Luciana Giorgio, Melissa Minniti.

Read it in English.
Aquí estamos, 14 años después. Pero, ¿acaso no dijo un argentino famoso que 20 años no es nada? Claro, que el tipo los pasó en París. Yo sé que ustedes quieren que yo pronuncie un discurso interminable pero los voy a desilusionar. Sólo les voy a decir tres cosas que les dije a mis estudiantes muchas veces en los últimos años: piensen, piensen, piensen.
1. Piensen, para que se libren ustedes y ayuden a liberar al mundo de las cadenas de la intolerancia y la superstición que nos condenan a perennes conflictos y futiles odios.
2. Piensen para que se cuestionen todo lo que les sea dicho con mucha certeza pero poca evidencia.
3. Piensen para que no repitan como papagayos verdades antiguas y para que den validez a la experiencia vital.
Y cuando se opongan a las verdades manidas y a la tradición, háganlo con convicción y con fuerza. No nos permitan a nosotros, las generaciones anteriores, limitarles su horizonte. No dejen que nuestros miedos les corten sus alas o que nuestros prejuicios limiten el vuelo de su mente y la expansión de su alma. No, todo tiempo pasado no fue mejor. Asumir esto significa decir que la acción del hombre es vana y que ustedes no son agentes de la historia. Todo tiempo futuro tiene que ser mejor porque ustedes lo van a construir. Escúchennos, sí, pero con oídos críticos, pues el estado del mundo de hoy deja mucho que desear sobre la habilidad de las generaciones pasadas. No teman imaginar un mundo diferente en que los fuertes y poderosos sean también los buenos y en que la felicidad y comodidad de unos pocos no se base en la miseria y sufrimiento de la mayoría. Y cuando les digan que las cosas siempre han sido así, respondan que lo único que ha sido constante en la historia es el cambio y que las grandes transformaciones sociales han ocurrido cuando jóvenes como ustedes han dicho: lo que siempre ha sido, siempre ha estado mal y no tiene por qué seguir siendo. Sólo piensen cuántas cosas que la sociedad antes creía verdades evangélicas nos parecen ahora absurdos increíbles en la medida en que evolucionan los estándares de decencia que marcan el progreso de una sociedad que madura.
¿Y del amor? ¿Qué decirles? Hemos hablado mucho de amor en estos años. De los amores terribles de seres que no se conocen a sí mismos y que buscan en la lujuria una respuesta que tendrían que encontrar dentro de sí. Seres como Rebeca o el Coronel Aureliano Buendía, que un día frente al pelotón de fusilamiento recordó cuando su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo. Amores de seres condenados a cien años de soledad y que no tienen una segunda oportunidad sobre la tierra. Amores como el de Penélope y Julián que arrastraban un lastre mayor de lo que sus jóvenes almas podían cargar. Amores como el de Daniel y Bea que no eran sólo para sí, sino que debían empujar consigo a otros para que su propio amor tuviera sentido. A ustedes les deseo que sepan encontrarse para encontrar.
Huyan de lo fácil, pues sólo lo difícil es estimulante, todo lo serio es difícil y todo es serio. Recuerden el consejo de Rainer Maria Rilke: que algo sea difícil debe ser una razón más para hacerlo.
Por ejemplo, es fácil creer que los valientes son buenos y los cobardes son malos. Pero si así fuera, los buenos ganarían siempre, con facilidad. Piensen en Fermín que se moría de miedo ante Fumero pero pudo superarlo para defender a su amigo. Y Fumero, quien evidentemente no tenía miedos… ni escrúpulos. Los hombres somos complejos y es esa complejidad lo que nos hace humanos y lo que hace que la vida valga la pena.
Al escribir esta despedida me vino a la cabeza el poema de Borges que recitamos en el maratón de poesía hace tres años: What can I hold you with?/ ¿Con qué puedo retenerte? Me imagino que eso es lo que quiero preguntales ahora. ¿Con qué puedo retenerlos? Y como Borges, sólo tengo palabras vacías, abuelos guerreros y memorias que sirven para llenar el aire, pero son inútiles para detener la historia, es decir, su historia. Puedo ofrecerles noticias sobre ustedes mismos que pretendo, presumo saber, pero que sólo están basadas en haber tenido vuestra edad, hace un par de siglos. What can I hold you with?
A ustedes y a sus padres, por el privilegio que me han concedido de compartir con ustedes estos años sólo me queda dedicarles la palabra luminosa de la ofrenda: gracias.
Su profesora, Isabel M. Estrada Portales.
Read it in English.

Commencement Speech

To my dear students, Class of 2010, Escuela Argentina of Washington, DC:
Lara Bes, Carolina Galdiz, Carolina Fermoselle, Julián Palau, Juan Manuel Segura, Luciana Giorgio, Melissa Minniti.


Léalo en español

And here we are, 14 years later. But, didn’t a famous Argentinean say that 20 years were nothing? Of course, he spent them in Paris. I know you want me to give an endless speech, but I’m going to disappoint you. I’m only going to tell you three things I have told my students a million times in the last years: think, think, think.

1. Think, so that you free yourselves and help to free the world from the chains of bigotry and superstition that condemn us to eternal conflicts and futile hatred.
2. Think, so that you question everything that you are told with too much certainty but little evidence.
3. Think, so that you don’t repeat like parrots old truths and so that you value life experience over precepts.

And when you oppose hackneyed truths and traditions, do it with conviction and strenght. Don’t allow us, the old generations, to limit your horizon. Don’t allow our fears to curtail your wings or our prejudices to limit the flight of your mind, the expansion of your soul. It is not true that the past was always better. To assume that the past was better means that men’s actions are vain and that you are not agents of history. The future has to be better because you will build it better. Listen to us, yes, but with critical ears, because the current state of the world leave plenty to be desired regarding the ability of past generations. Don’t be afraid to imagine a different world in which the strong can still be good and where the happiness and confort of the few are not borne by the missery of the many. And when they tell you that life has always been like this, answer that the only thing that has been constant in history is change and that the greatest social transformations have occurred when young people like you have said: what has always been has been wrong and doesn’t have to continue. Just think how many things society thought of as Gospel look to us now as incredible absurdities with the evolving standards of decency that mark progress in a maturing society.

And, what about love? What can I tell you? We have spoken about love a lot during these years. We have talked about the terrible loves of people who didn’t know themselves and were looking in lust for an answer to something they could only find inside themselves. People like Rebeca or the Colonel Aureliano Buendía, who as he faced the firing squad remembered that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. The love of people condemned to one hundred years of solitude and without a second opportunity on earth. The love of Penélope and Julián carried a weight too heavy for their young souls. The love of Daniel and Bea found its purpose in helping others to find answers. I wish you find yourselves so that you can find the truth.

Flee from the easy, because only the difficult is exciting. Everything that is serious is difficult, and everything is serious. Remember Rainer Maria Rilke’s advice: that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it.

For instance, it’s easy to believe that brave people are good and cowards are bad. But if that was the case, the good ones would always win, easily. Think of Fermín who was so afraid of Fumero but overcame it to defend his friend. Think of Fumero, who had no fear…or scruples. Men and women are complex and it is that complexity that makes us human and what makes life worth living.

When I was writing this good bye of sorts, I remembered the poem of Borges we recited in the Maratón de poesía three years ago: “What can I hold you with?” I imagine that’s what I want to ask you now. What can I hold you with? And, like Borges, I only have empty words, warring grandfathers and memories that fill the air but are useless to stop history, that is, your history. I can offer you news about yourselves that I presume to know but that are only based on having being your age a couple of centuries ago. What can I hold you with?

To you and to your parents, for the privilege of sharing with you these years I can only dedicate the luminous word of the offering: thanks.

Your teacher, Isabel M. Estrada Portales.
Léalo en español

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Questions about Arizona’s Immigration Law

I am so hurt and outraged by this law that I don’t even know where to begin. I just really hope that all freedom loving Americans, and, in particular, all minorities whose rights and mere humanity are being infringed by this hateful law will jump to the side of Hispanics and immigrants in general and oppose this law. Blacks, gays and lesbians, Jews, Cubans – yes, I’m one of them and I know we are very privileged when it comes to immigration laws in this country – and any other minority, if you think this has nothing to do with you, just wait until you are the one made into a scapegoat and you’ll then see.
Please, do read the Arizona Senate Bill 1070. You can also find it here: http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/bills/sb1070s.pdf.
My questions are simple:
1. How exactly can the police “reasonably suspect” I’m an undocumented alien? What would be the hint? My accent, maybe? My Afrolatina swagger?
2. Actually, how can they “reasonably suspect” I’m an alien and not an American citizen?
3. Even if we go into racial profiling without dying of shame, what does an undocumented alien looks like? This creates another problem: open racism. Yes, there are European undocumented aliens. Also, the repeated verse of “Hispanics can be of any race” is actually true, so, you may be missing out on some “undocumented aliens” who look just too white (or too black and maybe confused with African Americans) for your racist taste.
4. Are naturalized citizens considered “immigrants” under Arizona’s law? Would they now need to carry ID? How about US born Latinos?
5. Then, even if you are a citizen – that is, if you actually came legally or became “legal” – you are never fully American.
6. How about just asking everyone to carry ID at all times, and allowing the police to ask for it at any time they “reasonably suspect” someone? That would have the benefit of not racially profiling Latinos, and the small inconvenience of forcing everyone to forgo that nonsense of privacy and its component of remaining anonymous. Would we be ok with that? Would we be ok with demanding white Americans to produce documentation and sending them to jail until they can produce it to demonstrate they are actually here legally…for five generations?
7. I guess I can get used to carry my ID with me at all times. I had to do it in Cuba! Where did I get that idea about privacy in America anyway?

Read this paragraph from the Senate Bill 1070:
B. FOR ANY LAWFUL CONTACT MADE BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR AGENCY
21 OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS
22 STATE WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO IS
23 UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE,
24 WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON. THE
25 PERSON'S IMMIGRATION STATUS SHALL BE VERIFIED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
26 PURSUANT TO 8 UNITED STATES CODE SECTION 1373(c).
“Any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision.”
I’m assuming this only refers to law enforcement and not to every state and local agency, right? Otherwise, when undocumented individuals are trying to register their children in school – mind you, those children may very well be American citizens by birth – the school district officials will be forced to try to determine the immigration status of the parents. Also, make sure you let everyone know about those distinctions between agencies and agencies, to ensure that kids are not kept from being enrolled in school.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Finally, Cuba Seems to Be Grappling with Racism, and, Oh my, Race!

It’s about time. It seems that researchers from the University of Havana are now at least acknowledging the fact that racism exists in the Island and that, no, good will and ignoring race and racism as atavistic or residual legacy from the past won’t be sufficient.
Here goes, because it’s very brief, the transcription of Racism in Cuba from the Cuba Transition Project.
This January Esteban Morales, a senior researcher at Centro de Estudios Hemisfericos, University of Havana, was interviewed by Patricia Grogg from Inter Press Service (IPS) in Havana. The University of Havana, as well as other educational institutions in Cuba, are run by the Castro government. Following are excerpts of the interview translated by the staff at ICCAS.
• We need to perfect our civil/democratic rights, not only for the Cuban blacks, but for the whole of society.
• Cuban social and revolutionary projects did not take into account race.
• During the special period in the 1990s, we realized that the blacks were suffering most.
• In today’s Cuba it is not the same to be poor and white than to be poor and black.
• The subject of racism in Cuba reemerged with a vengeance in the 1990s. While the government claimed that the issue of racism has been resolved, in reality it is not.
• Cuba lacks racial consciousness. For whites that is not important because they have always been in power but the blacks must have racial consciousness to fight against racism and to find a place in society.
• Racial discrimination remains in people’s minds in the family, in interpersonal relationships and even in Cuba’s institutions.
• The problem of racism in Cuba should be included in the agenda of the forthcoming Congress of the Communist Party.
• What is affecting us in our external image is the fact that our discourse does not conform to our reality. Until very recently, we were emphasizing that there were no racial problems in Cuba.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Yes, Immigration Reform Is an LGBT Issue

I was ecstatic when I heard the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey in her State of the Movement address at the Creating Change 2010. It's not always that you see people who are fighting for one cause take on the issues that supposedly pertain to another.

But we all know that's not true. We need big, really big coalitions to achieve the equality that we need in society as a whole, and to fight the real enemies: inequality, socioeconomic disparities, environmental degradation, and racism.

So, yes, civil and human rights cannot – and should not – be parsed out and divided. Nor should anyone be given the right to decide over the human rights of others. And certainly, sadly, as with the case of civil rights and blacks, society can't wait for the majority to arrive at a consensus when the morality of the issue is overwhelmingly clear. Human rights can't be put to a vote.

Rea Carey said that they will stand by their allies in the immigration reform movement come what may. I applaud that and I hope the Latino organizations and people, and, yes, the churches will heed her advice and also stand by our allies in the LGBT community – and the black community, and the uninsured community, and the disability community – come what may.

Here is an important fragment of Carey's State of the Movement speech:

Take immigration.

If we are truly a community and a movement committed to freedom, justice and equality then reforming our nation's cruel and broken immigration system must be on our agenda for action.

Today, there are 12 million immigrants, including at least half a million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who are forced to live in the shadows of our society.

They are people like Harold, an 18-year-old gay man who came to this country from the Philippines with his parents when he was five years old. This is really the only country he has ever known. But today, because he is undocumented, he cannot get a driver's license, cannot get a job, cannot get a student loan, and is in constant fear of being arrested and deported to a country where he has no connections, no prospects and where he cannot speak the language.

They are people like Victoria Arellano, an undocumented transgender woman who was swept up by the immigration system, put into a detention jail where she was denied HIV medications and medical attention, even when she was vomiting blood. This cost Victoria her life. She died, chained to a hospital bed with two immigration guards at the door.

And, of course, there are at least 36,000 binational couples who cannot live together here in this country because federal law bans recognition of their relationships.

So, yes, immigration reform is an LGBT issue.

Read the whole State of the Movement speech.

Small Tribute to Howard Zinn

Those of us who teach know that the only thing we want at the end is a student who would say: She made me think. She made me enraged. She made me say "I'm not gonna take it anymore."
That's what we all got from professor Zinn. Those who are neutral are standing with the powerful, and he said it best: You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train.
Here is how he described his own approach to teaching:
From the start, my teaching was infused with my own history. I would try to be fair to other points of view, but I wanted more than 'objectivity'; I wanted students to leave my classes not just better informed, but more prepared to relinquish the safety of silence, more prepared to speak up, to act against injustice wherever they saw it. This, of course, was a recipe for trouble.

To that, I can only say Amen, and thank you, professor Zinn!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Aren’t You Sick and Tired of Health Disparities? Open Your Mouth, Then!

Time is running out to comment on the National Plan for Action. Changing Outcomes – Achieving Health Equity. The open period closes on February 16. I think we should all chime in and comment if we expect change to happen.

Yes, I'm as cynical as the next gal, and I know the government does not work always as the amount of taxes we put in would make us expect. But, if you have another choice right now, I'm all ears!

Even to change the system we have, we need to participate. Just say no, ain't cutting it either.

This plan was developed collaboratively with the private sector, several government agencies, and a multitude of non profits and foundation partners. A great step forward is that we are finally discussing health and health disparities in the larger context of the social determinants of health.

So, let me show you a bit of the National Plan for Action. Changing Outcomes – Achieving Health Equity, and I hope you'll go, check it out, comment, scream, make suggestions, demand that it starts from scratch. Whatever you do, just do not keep silent!

What You Can Do?

Read the Plan

Make general comments on the Plan

Read the Chapters

1 - IntroductionComment on Chapter 1

2 - The Current ContextComment on Chapter 2

3 - Strategies, Benchmarks, Actions and MeasuresComment on Chapter 3

4 - Implementing the National PlanComment on Chapter 4

5 - Evaluating ProgressComment on Chapter 5


 

You can download the Plan on pdf: http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/npa/images/plan/nationalplan.pdf


 

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

If you are uncomfortable, don’t ask. If you are happy, do tell!

Ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military is an idea whose time is long overdue. Obama has pledged to put an end to it, and there will be plenty of discussion today, when his top defense officials tell the Senate they won't be disciplining gay service members whose sexual orientation is revealed against their will.

So, you still can't tell. You still shouldn't ask. But if someone tells on you, you won't be kicked to the curve. Oh, that's much better. Isn't it?

Or is it? You come back to base after meeting with your lover, you're beaming with happiness and you tell that old story of boy meets girl. Boy loves girl. Boy and girl make love. Boy tell the story to a room full of boys (don't they always), girl tells the story to her best friend. Boy and girl write letters to each other to and fro a dusty corner of the Iraqi desert. If the players change, if boy meets boy or girl meets girl, the celebration of love becomes an infringement of the law. And this is the most inconsequential of the problems. Imagine to dream of a family, to be lucky enough to live in a civilized state that has legalized same-sex marriage, to learn that your partner just had a car accident and is in the ICU. All of these situations would jeopardize your career and your life opportunities, as if you were an untouchable, a pariah of sorts.

But, if a friend from your unit sees you in a bar kissing another boy and tells on you…Well, actually that may almost be a blessing, because you won't be penalized now, and, since everyone know, you can then openly keep a picture of your partner under your pillow.

To me, without a doubt the rights of gays and lesbians are a top civil rights issue of our time. Equality is only so if is equal. Freedom is only so if we are all free.

I couldn't help by laugh at Charles Cooper, the lawyer defending Proposition 8 in the California trial, when he judge Walker ask him "how it (same-sex marriage) would harm opposite-sex marriages." His answer was, one has to admit, more straight forward than we usually get from the anti-equality crowd: "Your Honor, my answer is: I don't know. I don't know." (Read A Risky Proposal)

As a black Latina, I am particularly hurt by the reaction of both of my communities to the fight for equality of the LBTG community. A good African American friend told me that some of the reaction may be from the history of black rape at the hands of white owners. Of course, this black rape was not limited to the violation of black women, but to the doubly traumatic experience of the rape of black men.

Before anyone screams, I don't mean the rape of women is not the most horrendous possible crime with indelible scars that are difficult to comprehend. But in a patriarchal society, a black man being rape carries the added burden of being reduced to the supposedly worst, lower thing you could be: a black woman. On top of that, black men had to witness the rape of their women. Needless to say, there sure are examples of white women sexually raping black women – beyond the regular violation of their whole beings that was the slavery system.

In that sense, maybe the black community is particularly sensitive to issues related to same-sex relationships. Of course, the messages from the pulpit play a role too. But, those messages also allowed for the HIV epidemic to wreck havoc in the black community, and the stigma to settle over it.

At this point, the discussion of choice or genetics should be just as outdated as the one about race as a biological entity. Does it really matter? Assuming it was a choice or a lifestyle, does society has a right to discriminate against a group of people because they chose to be gay? Can society discriminate against a group of people because they chose to be Christians, or Jewish, or have pets?

The tactics used to stimulate homophobia are the same they have used to instill the fear of the black man, and to despise the welfare queen. We have seen this in operation before. Why do we allow it to go on when is not against us? "Gay men will touch you in the showers." "They will make advances onto you." "They will turn our children gay." "They will teach it in the schools." "They will raise gay children." As with race, it does not matter how much science shows regarding the lack of factual support for any of it, prejudice remains. And prejudice (or its impact) can only be curtailed by action, affirmative action to actualize the equality we say to value so highly.