Black Leaders And Hardaway

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Has the new Black leadership become the new white moderate?

That's the question on the minds of Black same-gender loving people all over the country after the deafening silence from America's Black leaders on the recent controversy surrounding former NBA All-Star player Tim Hardaway's admonition that he “hates” gay people. 

But what if Tim Hardaway would have been a white NBA player?  What if as a white player he said the following: "You know I hate Black people, so I let it be known. I don't like Black people and I don't like to be around Black people. I am racist. I don't like it. They shouldn't be in the world or in the United States. So yeah, I don't like them." 

In his poignant and prophetic "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told is fellow clergyman that he was disappointed with the "white moderate."  He went on to explain that he had reached the "regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice." 

I often feel that the biggest hindrance to Blacks is not the white conservative right but the people that look like us that are too afraid to disrupt the order of things to do any real meaningful work towards my civil rights as a lesbian. 

Like the white moderates of King's era who believed that Blacks would eventually receive equal rights in good time, we are living during times where Black leaders know that it is inevitable that gays will obtain all of their civil rights, including marriage, and that the mistreatment of gays based solely on their sexual orientation is wrong.  But these same Black leaders aren't willing to rock the boat in the fight for equality and would rather settle for being good Negroes assuring people like me that it will come one day, not today, but one day. 

Tim Hardaway's comments were hateful, demeaning, and hurt same-gender loving people all over this country. But the silence from the Black leadership hurts even more.  Because from that silence, I was told very loudly that my life as a lesbian has no meaning to them and that it is morally just to hate gays, even if I am Black. Just don't go on a tirade in a comedy club about hating Blacks because then we're coming for you.

The double standard in today's Black civil rights movement has got to stop. Hardaway's comments were just as bad as what comedian Michael Richard's said about Blacks.  It's just that today we are living in 2007, some 40 years after the Jim Crow Era and integration where Blacks are now considered equal. 

We just haven't reached that point with gays.  But had Richards made his comments forty years ago, the furor that erupted from his comments today would have been met with white moral justification to defend him and sadly today, Blacks haven't reached the point where it's acceptable to defend gays from verbal attacks like Hardaway's. 

If the silence from the Black leadership on Hardaway is any indication of what we can expect as we roll into a heated Presidential campaign season on gay issues, then we very well stand to see a repeat of 2004 where we had Black pastors urging Blacks to vote for a President that opposed gay marriage and abortion while critical issues of importance like healthcare, housing, and social security were overlooked.

Ignoring gays isn't going to make us go away.  We're here.  There were gays before us and there will be gays after us.  But like King in the face of rabid opposition from the National Baptist Convention, that vehemently opposed the civil rights movement and wanted King to stay in his Negro place, we too will not be swayed from participating fully, openly, and honestly in our faith, family, and community.  It just means it's going to be that much harder on all us when we have to take time to fight with each other over something as small as ones sexual orientation instead of working together on the bigger picture which includes all of us. Thus, bringing new meaning to King's observation that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Cannick is a commentator and critic who addresses social, cultural, and race issues and is based in Los Angeles.  She can be reached via her website at

Black Star Publisher’s Note: I agree totally with columnist Cannick that Hardaway’s comments were hateful, despicable, mean-spirited, thoughtless, malicious, and ugly: I also agree that the silence is deplorable. I would not compare the hateful comments to Richards, who actually, in his own words, yearned for the good old days when Black people were being lynched.

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