There Are No Gold Medals in the Oppression Olympics.

This slipped under my radar, but David Kaufman at HuffPo has a stinging diatribe against Andrew Sullivan for suggesting that the fight for marriage rights is equivalent to the Civil Rights Movement. Part of me agrees that it's somewhat problematic that the "separate but equal" analogy has become a gay-rights orthodoxy. I have argued vigorously that the marriage issue does not compare in scale to segregation, where blacks were barred from attending certain schools, restaurants, etc. -- not just the institution of marriage.

But Kaufman's takedown is often contradictory and borderline distasteful. First, while the analogies might be hyperbolic, the statement itself is fairly straightforward: Having separate marriage institutions is an affront to equality, just like miscegenation laws were. In the push to win equal rights -- not just marriage rights -- for their constituents , the gay and black civil-rights movements are similar. Members of both groups have been victims of violence and discrimination for decades.

Second, Kaufman criticizes the LGBT community for painting all African-Americans as virulently anti-gay. He then paints the LGBT community with the same broad brush:

Indeed, since the defeat of Proposition 8 last year, the Marriage Equality movement has been in a problematic pas de deux with Black America. On one hand, LGBT Inc. demands the right to appropriate the Civil Rights struggle wherever and whenever possible. Yet at the same time, it constantly blames Black folks for every same-sex marriage set back. From the Black church to Black singers to our Black president, somehow a mere 13.5 percent of the population is responsible for 100 percent of the problems.

As Adam Serwer has argued, the black community is no monolith when it comes to marriage rights, and not everyone in the gay community in blaming African Americans for Prop. 8.

But most problematically, Kaufman engages in the same "Olympics of oppression" that he claims to repudiate:

I was immediately struck by the chutzpah of Sullivan's statement -- both because of its erroneousness and because he had the audacity to make it. Like many before him, I'm certain Sullivan never considered that despite my Jew-boy sounding name and Valley-Boy sounding accent, my Black father attended a segregated high school while his sister was hosed down by haters when she dared enter a mixed-race college.

Ultimately, this rhetoric is silly and -- as Kaufman himself notes -- unproductive. Collaborative conversations aren't prefaced with a laundry list of discrimination you've faced. We've all got the cred; let's argue on the merits.

--Gabriel Arana

You may also like