While we take the time to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we should also remember Bayard Rustin. A man who will never get the proper respect he deserves simply because he was an openly gay man during the civil rights movement of the 1960's.
Rustin once said, "The barometer of where one is on human rights questions is no longer the black community, it's the gay community. Because it is the community which is most easily mistreated." This statement would be a shocker to many African-Americans who are enraged that the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement are even remotely compared. Rustin lived the peak of both movements and was active in both. In discussions of gay rights and African-American rights it seems many white gays and black straights forget there is a combination of the two, black gays.
Bayard Rustin was Dr. King's advisor on monumental events such as the Gandhian tactics, Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott and the 1963 March Washington. However, Rustin was viciously discriminated against for being a gay man. According to Wikipedia, "U.S. Representative Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. forced Rustin's resignation from the SCLC in 1960 by threatening to discuss Rustin's morals charge in Congress." and "Senator Strom Thurmond railed against Rustin as a ‘Communist, draft-dodger, and homosexual’ and produced an FBI photograph of Rustin talking to King while King was bathing, to imply that there was a homosexual relationship between the two. Both men denied the allegation of an affair, but despite King's support, NAACP chairman Roy Wilkins did not allow Rustin to receive any public recognition for his role in planning the march."
According to an essay by James Kirchick at The New Republic, Rustin: went to jail for two years for resisting the World War II draft, co-founded the Congress for Racial Equality, conceived the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr., and "The non-violent tactics of the civil rights movement can largely be attributed to Rustin, who had traveled to India a decade before to learn from Mahatma Gandhi."
Rustin passed in 1987, survived by his partner of ten years, Walter Neagle.
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Labels: COMMUNITY, Race