"You should try to show them a way to deal with that problem [homosexuality], just like alcohol ... or sex addiction ... or kleptomaniacs."
-- Sen. Trent Lott, 1998
When Trent Lott made these comments in 1998, I was appalled. An elected official in a position to influence decisions that would ultimately affect my life, the life of my partner and the lives of our friends showed incredible contempt for gay people.
My Southern Baptist family undoubtedly heard Lott's comments, and as accepting as they are, I feared they might share some of his views. I wish I had been more vocal about it.
Fortunately, even though I remained silent, many in our community reacted quickly and aggressively, showing that our collective voice does matter. Unfortunately, we are frequently put in the position of defending ourselves from the onslaught of anti-gay comments often hurled at us by elected officials or those allegedly interested in promoting "family values." We've become veritable experts at it. We are swift when a member of our community is defamed or discriminated against. Or are we?
While we are highly aware of the damaging effects of anti-gay epithets, we often lose sight of how racism directly affects our diverse community. We stand by and think, "how awful," but don't take action, possibly because we don't see it as "our issue." Well, it's time to see things differently.
Perhaps we are beginning to, but I would argue not quickly enough. Our community has not been as swift in responding to Lott's recent comments on Strom Thurmond.
Lott defines racism as one of "the discarded policies of the past." Clearly, he fails to understand that racism was not an idea simply "discarded" or that fell out of favor, rather it was--and continues to be--fought against. Even President Bush condemned such remarks. Lott's statements of regret don't seem to be taking hold.
But it's not shocking that our community didn't react quickly. What is shocking is that the Family Research Council was among the first to condemn his remarks. FRC urged the Republican Party to "…ask themselves if they really want … to continue to be represented by Trent Lott."
The FRC has never been all that concerned about civil rights for every American. The organization is more interested in dispelling the stereotype of straight, white, conservative men as racist, than with effecting any real social change. Where was an FRC statement of support for our civil rights in 1998 when Lott compared homosexuality to alcoholism and kleptomania?
As a community, we have to remind ourselves that racism and homophobia are indisputably linked. The reality is that racism, as homophobia, impacts our allies, friends, families and loved ones. The LGBT community does not exist in a vacuum. In order for our civil rights struggle to be successful, we need to be aware of all social issues and how they impact us.