Last week the NAACP elected 44-year-old Roslyn Brock as its new chairwoman to replace the legendary Julian Bond. Brock's election was described as "a generational shift in leadership" of the nation's oldest civil rights group." Brock joins 37-year-old NAACP President Benjamin Jealous as the "youngest to hold their positions" in the organization's history and both have pledged to make it more relevant to today's black youth. Does that include embracing LGBT issues and gay rights, asks an editorial in the Baltimore Sun.
One way would be to embrace President Barack Obama's call
for ending the military's discriminatory "don't ask, don't tell"
policy, which forces gay and lesbian soldiers to lie about who they are
or face dismissal. The arguments heard today against gays serving openly
in the military offer an eerie echo of fears voiced 60 years ago about
allowing black soldiers to serve on an equal footing with whites. When
President Harry S. Truman
signed the executive order integrating the armed forces in 1948, the
decision was hailed by the NAACP as a great step forward in the struggle
for equal rights. There's no reason the fight for equal treatment of
gays and lesbians in the military shouldn't be part of the NAACP's long
tradition of working to level the playing field for all oppressed
Enlarging the NAACP's civil rights mission to include combating discrimination against gay and lesbian service members might bring Ms. Brock and Mr. Jealous in conflict with their base of supporters among African-American churchgoers, many of whom oppose homosexuality on religious grounds. Ironically, the two young leaders could find themselves obliged to undertake the delicate task of reminding rank-and-file members that the Bible was also once used to justify slavery and segregation. They might also point out that many of the gay soldiers discriminated against by the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy are black.
More than "many". As we wrote at The Grio, MSNBC's new portal for black news and opinion, blacks are disproportionately affected by DADT. Blacks make up about 29 percent of active duty troops and more than 45 percent of those dismissed under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" 2008.
Under Bond and Jealous, the veteran civil rights organization supported expanding hate crime and employment protection laws to LGBTs. The NAACP now has an LGBT Equality Task Force. And of course the the national board of the NAACP (finally) took a position on marriage equality and called for the overturn of California's Proposition 8. But the organization is still largely controlled by traditional anti-gay black churches and ministers, such as Rev. Keith Ratliff, Iowa's leading black pastor and the anti-gay chair of the Iowa/Nebraska chapter.
Would it make good sense for the NAACP to throw its weight behind a DADT repeal and other gay rights issues. Absolutely. But will it happen anytime soon?