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The Black Commentator
Obama has “barack the vote” by getting disinterested
and disenfranchised Americans involved in his campaign for
the presidential bid. His promise to cease partisan
politics and the old beltway boys’ bickering has not
only raised the hope of the American public, it has also brought
out untold numbers of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender
and queer Americans to cast our vote for him. And
with Obama’s win of the Democratic presidential primary in
South Carolina last month, his inspiring victory speech, “Yes,
we can change,” proved that not only can he reach across
this nation’s dividing lines, but we, as Americans,
“This election is about the past vs. the
future. It's about whether we settle for the same divisions
and distractions and drama that passes for politics today
or whether we reach for a politics of common sense and innovation,
a politics of shared sacrifice and shared prosperity...
Don't tell me we can't change. Yes, we can.
Yes, we can change. Yes, we can. Yes, we can heal this nation.
Yes, we can seize our future.”
But as Obama helps the nation to seize
a better future, “the same divisions and distractions
and drama that passes for politics today” concerning LGBTQ
Americans civil rights seem to either haunt him or come
out of his campaign closet.
With news outlets reporting that in 2004 Obama
asked to not have his picture taken with San Francisco's Mayor
Gavin Newsom, because of the Mayor's support of same
sex marriage, we must ask ourselves this question about
Obama , as Obama challenges us - can he change?
"I gave a fund-raiser, at his [Obama's]
request at the Waterfront restaurant. And he said to me, he
would really appreciate it if he didn't get his photo taken
with my mayor. He said he would really not like
to have his picture taken with Gavin." former Mayor Willie
Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle.
years later and a denial from the Obama campaign, Newsom
told Reuters, "One of the three Democrats you mentioned
as presidential candidates, as God is my witness, will not
be photographed with me, will not be in the same room
with me, even though I've done fund-raisers for that particular
person - not once, but twice - because of this
Newsom’s a staunch ally to our community.
He has neither publicly veered away from photo-ops with
us nor from our allies promoting marriage equality.
Many LGBTQ supporters of Obama, however, will
argue that Obama, then as now, must tactically do what he
or she has to do to stave off the vitriol of religious
conservatives in order to win.
But how is he then the candidate of change?
And how does Obama’s political strategy reconcile with these
words he spoke in South Carolina?
“We're up against the idea that it's acceptable
to say anything and do anything to win an election. But we
know that this is exactly what's wrong with our politics.
This is why people don't believe what their leaders say anymore.
This is why they tune out. And this election is our chance
to give the American people a reason to believe again.”
While it is true, in Obama’s case, that
a picture with us would perhaps now say more than his eloquent
equivocating words on behalf of us, Obama can’t risk
the political fallout.
Comer, owner and editor of InterstateQ.com
stated in his article "President
Obama' - Why Gays need to worry” that “If Obama wins the
presidency the LGBT community is in for four (and possibly
eight) years of being subjected to a dangerously employed
“big tent” strategy that places an oppressed group of citizens
at the same table as their oppressors. Obama’s presidency
would see James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Donnie McClurkin and
other anti-gay leaders sitting down with LGBT community leaders
telling them how much they are evil and going to hell while
Obama sits back and says, ‘“We should work together and hope
And while many of us will rationalize and embrace Obama’s
“big tent” strategy, in truth, Obama is on the “down low” with
the LGBTQ community. He has repackaged a softer
and more gentler anti-gay platform than the Republicans, which
is perhaps why so many of us uncritically and defensively
come to Obama’s defensive.
“You and the white gay establishment are holding
Obama to a double standard that is ridiculous and disingenuous.
What about Hillary Clinton? If you’re going to judge people
by the company they keep, it should be across the board and
not selective condemnation,” an avid critic of mine wrote
The argument that Hilary isn’t and
Bill wasn’t any better on LGBTQ issues is true. However, that’s
not the issue here.
Because Obama is the new guy on the block challenging
the old establishment. He’s allegedly espousing a differently
political platform, one where he says if..."we are
met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us
that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that
sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple
words - yes, we can."
But Obama's “big tent strategy” to
ascend to the White House and his elusive and “down low” promises
to the LGBTQ community play us like pawns on a chessboard.
And, consequently, if we neither hold him to his promises
to us nor have him to expound on them we will then have
participated in the closeting of ourselves, and the disenfranchisement
of our full and equal rights when he’s elected.
So, the real question on the table is, can
we get Obama to change?
I am going to throw caution to the wind and
say, “Yes, Obama can!”
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, the Rev. Irene Monroe is
a religion columnist, theologian, and public speaker. A native
of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a graduate from Wellesley College
and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and
served as a pastor at an African-American church before coming
to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate as a Ford Fellow.
Reverend Monroe’s “Let Your Light Shine Like a
Rainbow 365 Days a Year - Meditations on Bible Prayers"
will be out in June, 2008. As an African American feminist
theologian, she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently
invisible. Her website is irenemonroe.com. Click
here to contact the Rev. Monroe.
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