African Americans are facing racism within the LGBT community. Dr. Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Cleo Manago, CEO and founder of Black Men’s Xchange; and Earl Fowlkes, president and CEO of the Center for Black Equity joined Roland Martin on the set of Washington Watch to discuss the racism and the lack of diversity within the LGBT community.
MR. MARTIN: Welcome back to “Washington Watch.”
Earl, I want to go to you and Cleo on this – the conversation we were just having. And that is getting white gays and lesbians to understand it can’t be a one-way street. You can’t keep saying, for black folks, “give, give, give,” and then there’s no “give” in return when it come[s] to the issues that we care about in our community.
MR. MANAGO: I think I should contextualize my perspective by saying that I’ve been doing work around so-called “LGBT” and same gender-loving issues for almost 40 years. I’ve seen black people for almost 40 years go to the white community and say – even when Act Up was running – I’m not sure if you’ve heard –
MR. MARTIN: Yeah, of course.
MR. MANAGO: — of Act Up. Black people were saying, “Everything that you do only benefits white gays.”
And they were like, “And?”
And so my point to you was that a long time ago, I gave up even being concerned about trying to play that game while the black community keeps on suffering and being isolated and not getting what it needs. I’m focused on the community and trying to make sure that black people understand that we’re here, ’cause the black community, separate from what you’re talking about, has yet to have a rational, focused, problem-solving conversation around same gender-loving black people.
DR. NIPPER: Well –
MR. MANAGO: There’s been no conversation.
DR. NIPPER: [Unintelligible.]
MR. MANAGO: So, the work I’m doing is trying to fill that gap and create some space for rational dialogue around unpacking why there[’re] issues, because those [are] issues of masculinity, manhood, religion, oppression that the white, gay community [doesn’t] even have a clue about; and black people are so busy trying to get their approval, they forget about our own issues as black people, and we keep staying in the back of the bus by default.
MR. FOWLKES: And, you know, the point has to be made is that it’s only in recent years that the white, gay community [has tried] to understand the importance of intersection issues. This is a new thing for them. They never had to worry about how people of color felt – how blacks felt, how Latinos felt.
MR. MARTIN: And is that because of what Cleo said – that, pretty much, it was seen as “this is a white thing”?
MR. FOWLKES: Well, I don’t think – you know, sometimes – let’s call it “white privilege” – you don’t see anything past what you don’t see. So, you don’t have to think about – you know, I’m concerned about affordable housing for our community. I’m – affor[dable] healthcare; you know, HIV-AIDS – not just for black, gay men; but for heterosexual black women. But those issues – if you’re not touched by them, if you don’t have to worry about economics and those kind[s] of things, they’re not on your radar.
And I think because of the marriage issue – one of the things that the same-sex marriage issue caused in a lot of the states where there’s a significant [number] of black voters – the white community had to take a step back and say, “Wait a minute. We need people in Maryland to vote for this” – “black folks in Maryland to vote for this. We need to find ways of working better with the community.”
MR. MARTIN: And part of that also [was] because in North Carolina, there was an ad that was run that featured mostly white gays and lesbians, and folks there were saying, “Man! Y’all are helping – [chuckles] – the other side, because you have” –
OFF CAMERA: Right. [Crosstalk] –
MR. MARTIN: — “significant black opposition, and then what do you do? You run a commercial, and all the folks in it are white. You didn’t include any folks who were black in the commercial.”
MR. FOWLKES: And you look at Prop 8 in California. Black folks got kicked in the face by the white, gay community because we were accused – incorrectly – of not supporting it in enough numbers, and we were –
MR. MARTIN: And to your point, initially for that proposition, the initial reports [were] that 70 percent of black folks voted against it. That was with the initial reports.
MR. FOWLKES: Right.
MR. MARTIN: They went back and double-checked with the exit polling data. Actually, it was around 56, 58 percent. And you’re right. There were a lot of black folks who were called the n-word –
MR. FOWLKES: Right.
MR. MARTIN: — who were trashed. There was a whole lot of racial animosity there; and it was based upon, really, false reporting. That’s what it was.
DR. NIPPER: Absolutely; but, you know, so many people from all different perspectives are complicit in that very issue. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force was among the organizations that did the polling research that determined that the African-American community actually voted in similar numbers to their white counterparts.
MR. MARTIN: But it’s hard –
DR. NIPPER: So – so –
MR. MARTIN: — though, for black folks to say, “Wait a minute. You want equality, but you call me the n-word.”
OFF CAMERA: Right.
DR. NIPPER: Oh, absolutely! I totally agree!
MR. MANAGO: Not only that –
DR. NIPPER: I think no- —
MR. MANAGO: — and the white, gay community has often found angles in which to do some things that are accusatory to black people – like what happened with you –
MR. FOWLKES: Right.
MR. MANAGO: — what happened with Tracy Morgan, what happened with other people. There’s a whole black story in this context that never gets talked about because the white gays railroad everything and frame everything in their agenda, and our story is not told again.
MR. MARTIN: And, in fact, to your point in terms of what happened last year with GLAAD, the African-American woman who was chair of the board of the directors resigned after that because of what happened. And also, there was another individual on the GLAAD board who was the treasurer, who also resigned [from] the board about what took place as well. Folks didn’t report that –
OFF CAMERA: Yeah.
MR. MARTIN: — but it was also tied to it as well, because one of the things that she told me – Roxanne Jones – [was] that in her five years there, GLAAD had never called for anybody to get fired in her five years. She said, “So, people made egregious comments, but why all of a sudden was it called for him to get fired?” And that’s one of the reasons why she said she had to leave. And she’s their top fundraiser.
MR. FOWLKES: And –
MR. MARTIN: My producer’s saying, “Wrap, wrap.”
MR. FOWLKES: — you look at what happened with GLAAD. The perception in the black LGBT community is GLAAD is not for us. And so what happens [is] you have these dual, you know, organizations – like the Center for Black Equity and Cleo’s organization – that are doing things on the black side, because people don’t feel that – and it’s not always correct, but there’s a perception that a lot of the white-dominated organizations don’t have our interests at heart, and [they] need to understand black folks before they start jumping all over us.
MR. MARTIN: Darlene?
DR. NIPPER: While I agree with Earl, I think we need to be very, very clear. A lot of the funding and support that Earl is getting – and other people who are running these kinds of organizations are getting funding from the very people [is] from white donors.
So, the truth is that this is an issue that is – structural racism is a problem in this culture. It’s in the African-American community. We have to deal with that as far as our homophobia. In the LGBT community, we have to deal with structural racism, like the broader society. We cannot let anyone off the hook for addressing these issues, and I think that’s what’s key – and especially that we need to be examples within the community of what we are espousing.
MR. MARTIN: Cleo, final word.
MR. MANAGO: People that want to work with the white, gay community – I’m talking about black folks – I wish them well. I think it’s important that we do work in our community with black families; with the black communities, black people and demystify same gender-loving people as a part of the black collective and get rid of some of this oppression and ignorance that occurs in our community, that leads to people being hurt and people being misunderstood and the HIV issue, for example, never going away because we won’t focus on black people.
The white, gay community doesn’t focus on black people. A lot of black people who want to be in those confines don’t focus on black people, and the black community keeps being left in the dust.
I’ve invited you to have a conversation that’s specific about same gender-loving people in the context of black life, history and culture.
MR. MARTIN: Well, I told Earl we saw him at the White House Black History Month reception, and we were having this conversation because – literally – I’ve had black folks who were gay and lesbian say, “Nobody wants to have the discussion. We need to have it on a black show, black network.”
And I said, “I[’ve] got a show, so we can actually do it.”
So, Darlene, Cleo, Earl, we appreciate it. [This] won’t be the last time we chat. All right?
DR. NIPPER: Thank you.
MR. FOWLKES: Right.