reprinted from 4/9/09
If you are gay or a gay rights activist in America, this past week was the week for you. First, the Iowa Supreme Court legalized gay marriages. Then Vermont became the fourth state to recognize those marriages – and the first to do it legislatively instead of through the courts. Last but not least, the D.C. Council then unanimously voted to recognize the gay marriages performed elsewhere. To top it all off, Obama did specific outreach to gay families and designated a good amount of the coveted, already sold out tickets for the National Easter Egg Roll on the White House Lawn.
So what does this mean for the broader hip hop community? What's the lesson for those of us passionate about other issues like poverty, education, health care, and some tangible survival issues that impact our neighborhoods and our livelihoods?
Sure, it could spark a long conversation about homophobia, and equality, and the tide is changing for discrimination of all types in this country. But for the hip hop community, or anyone else that has been historically disenfranchised, oppressed, or written off, there are three more important, political lessons for us:
1. The underdogs can win.
Sure the conservatives want us to believe that “gays are taking over” and that everyone and everything is gay now, but the reality is, no matter how much visibility gay people have, America is still a largely, overwhelmingly heterosexual and homophobic country – both in population and in culture. Gay rights activists are then in essence, an interest group, a type of minority group if you will, that has worked to leverage their power, their resources, and their messaging to bring about real political change.
2. Everything isn’t a national battle.
Sure a federal law allowing same sex marriages would be a bigger victory than small state wins. But leaders of the same sex marriage fight are smart enough to know that state victories create political momentum, targeted areas to fight, and winnable campaigns. Rather than looking to Obama for everything, they are looking at local leaders, state houses, and courts to gradually, state by state, give the small victories that will one day lead to a national win.
3. Things can change.
If you had told my grandmother 20 years ago that same sex marriages would be legal anywhere in this country, she wouldn’t have believed you. Now she looks at the tv in disbelief and says “Well I guess anything can happen in America.” Power grows slowly but it does grow and you can be a part of a movement that will actually achieve political gains. It just takes time, dedication, and strategy.
Let’s learn some strategy from this past week so that you, your community and your issues can also have the best week ever.