During the last Democratic debate, South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigeg turned a few heads when he suggested that he can relate to the struggles blacks still face. How’s that, you ask? He’s an openly gay man.
Watch Buttigeg make that argument here.
In response to Senator Kamala Harris’ claim that Democratic candidates only care about the black vote at election time, Buttigeg replied that he knows how it feels to experience the sting of discrimination.
While I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country, turning on the news and seeing my own rights come up for debate, and seeing my rights expanded by a coalition of people like me and people not at all like me.
The comment drew a heated response from several black politicians. Harris, for instance, claimed Buttigeg was being “naive,” while others accused Buttigeg of misappropriating their experience. The criticism came from both sides of the aisle. For instance, black conservative teen CJ Pearson was none too pleased about it when he took to Twitter on Saturday.
Well, as a black man who has a number of LGBT friends, there’s a simple explanation for Buttigeg’s argument. The black community and LGBT community have one very sad trait in common–in much of the country, both blacks and gays are still regarded as second-class citizens.
Think about it, folks. Years after Loving v. Virginia struck down laws barring people of different races from being married, there are still areas of the country where people look askance at interracial couples. It’s really no different from how people in some of those same regions look askance at a gay or lesbian couple.
Also, consider the spate of “bathroom bills” that have the effect of giving legal sanction to discrimination against transgender people who want to use the bathroom matching their gender identity. Back in 2015, Gillian Frank of Slate noted that these bathroom bills are rooted in one of the main arguments for Jim Crow laws–the supposed need to protect white women.
Frank recalled that calls for integrating bathrooms were often met with pearl-clutching claims that it would give black men carte blanche to sexually assault white women. That argument is not unlike the common argument for bathroom bills–that it will give sexual predators carte blanche to molest kids in the bathroom.
When viewed in historical context, it’s obvious that Buttigeg was on to something. The black community and the LGBT community have both had to fight tooth and nail to be accepted as equal partners in our society. All Buttigeg was saying was that he knew how it felt to be treated as less than equal.
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