Saturday, July 18, 2009

Raymond Leon Roker: NAACP Should Lead the Social Justice Conversation

Yesterday, I wrote,

. . . I intend to keep calling the president to accountability—to action—as he makes wonderful statements like the one he made yesterday to an organization [i.e., the NAACP] whose leader recently side-stepped the question of whether his organization supports gay marriage.

And now today, I’m delighted to read Raymond Leon Roker maintaining,

But I'd be remiss if I didn't hold our president's feet to the flame a bit too. Obama is still skittish about same sex couples being allowed to marry, as opposed to having civil unions. He also hasn't stood firm to remove the military's so-called "don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, much to the disappointment of many in the GLBT community. The NAACP should consider right now a very public chance for black leadership to influence the national conversation in a bold way.

In the end -- as is the trend in America as a whole -- demographics will ultimately drive the gay rights battle in the NAACP. An aging layer of more conservative and religious constituents is giving way to a new generation, far more tolerant and progressive. The strict covenants of the black church are of little interest and its antiquated positions -- from rap to sex to HIV -- seem quaint to the Obama Generation. One-hundred years ago the NAACP was founded on a radical principle of equality that was far ahead of its time. Today, the group has a chance to do the right thing again.

It is heartening to hear clear, measured, compelling African-American voices, rooted in the powerful tradition of struggle for civil rights of people of color in the United States, speak out now about the need for consistency in the struggle for human rights—and the need to include their gay brothers and sisters in that struggle. I hope that Mr. Obama will listen to those members of his community who call on him to make his own similar statements about these issues a reality that goes beyond glitzy rhetoric.