Black homophobia is contemptible


Published: Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 3:01 p.m.
During this season of honoring the civil and human rights legacies of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, and when we begin our celebration of Black History Month, another well-known, intolerant black person has debased the ideals of the Kings and of Black History Month.
This time that person is actor Isaiah Washington of ''Grey's Anatomy,'' the blockbuster ABC television network series. Twice during the last few weeks, Washington publicly hurled anti-homosexual slurs at T.R. Knight, co-star on the show. The New York Times reports that after the first slur, Knight was forced to come out of the closet.
Fearing the loss of his lucrative job and future roles, Washington apologized and agreed - at his employers' urgings - to undergo counseling for what he referred to as his ''negative actions.''
In other words, Washington is going to get help for his homophobia. What is it with so many black people - the world's perpetual victims of discrimination - that they possess the capacity to hate people for their sexual orientation?
By expressing his hatred of gay people, Washington joins the likes of the Rev. Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s and Coretta Scott King's youngest daughter, and Alveda King, Martin Luther King's niece.
Alveda King started spreading her hatred in 1998, during a nationwide campaign opposing gay rights legislation. Ironically, her organization was named ''King for America.'' To this day, she continues to rally the minions of homophobia.
Bernice King first hit the gay-bashing scene big time in a December 2004, when she and her close friend, Bishop Eddie Long, led thousands of so-called black Christians in a march to, of all places, Martin Luther King's gravesite in Atlanta supporting a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Here is how Bernice King uses her father's legacy to rationalize her anti-homosexual protest: ''I know deep down in my sanctified soul that he did not take a bullet for same-sex marriages.''
Consider her father's humane precepts of tolerance, justice and courage in his ''Letter from Birmingham Jail.'' He wrote the letter while pastors, black and white nationwide, condemned his confrontational, nonviolent tactics: ''So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?''
All pundits, and I am one, like to speculate on what Martin Luther King Jr. would say about various topics today and which causes he would be involved in. Specifically, would he agree with his daughter? I do not think he would.
One of Martin Luther King's most trusted associates was Bayard Rustin, an openly gay black intellectual. Rustin was the major organizer and political force behind the landmark 1963 march on Washington, when Martin Luther King delivered his famous ''I Have a Dream'' speech.
Many leaders, including Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, warned Martin Luther King to cut all ties with Rustin. Even President John F. Kennedy disdained Rustin and asked Martin Luther King Jr. to get rid of his gay friend and organizer. Martin Luther King vigorously defended his friend, and the two split years later only after they grew apart politically.
Coretta Scott King disagreed with her daughter. In fact, she supported civil rights for homosexuals, as shown in 2005 speech at Richard Stockton College in New Jersey: ''Gay and lesbian people have families and their families should have legal protection whether by marriage or civil union. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay-bashing and it would do nothing at to protect traditional marriages.''
Even knowing that her parents were opposed to her hatred of gay people, Bernice King remains undaunted in her campaign to discriminate against an entire segment of the U.S. population.
Bernice King need not worry about a lack of supporters. Millions of other blacks - urged on by their pastors and other leaders - are the most homophobic group in the United States. Isaiah Washington is just the latest reminder.
Bill Maxwell is an editorial writer/columnist for the St. Petersburg Times.
Bill Maxwell is an editorial writer and columnist for the St. Petersburg Times. He wrote this column for The Guardian.

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