THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Southern Discomfort: Gay Inc.'s Harold Ford Jr. Problem

The arrival of Harold Ford, Jr. onto the New York State political scene has once again revealed the sharpened -- and race-based -- claws of the LGBT lobby. Ford -- the African-American former congressman from Tennessee -- seems likely to challenge incumbent Kristin Gillbrand for her U.S. Senate seat later in the year.

The news of Ford's Senate interest was immediately received with the type of vitriol typically reserved for the Becks and Palins of the world. Instantly branded "anti-Gay" by important and influential LGBT blogs, Ford's unimpressive record on LGBT issues was touted as proof-positive he has no business holding office in his adopted home-state.

The criticism hurled against Ford was both expected and warranted. Yet I could not help but recoil at seeing yet another Black democrat skewered by White Gay leaders with zero concern for the implications of their actions. Picked apart by bitter bloggers even before he'd had a chance to lay out his New York agenda, Ford was cast as a carpet-bagging bigot and yet another Black man out to get the Gays.

Of course the blogs (and bloggers) who lambasted Ford may themselves not be racist -- or at least resorting to blatantly racist language. But a quick look at their viewer comments confirm that many of their readers are far less generous. Indeed, this comment from the popular blog Towleroad says it all:

He lives in Manhatten (sic), is in his 30s, a minority AND a democrat and a full blown homophobe?
If New York queers allow this piece of dirt in to any position...well, go burry (sic) your heads in quick sand.

At 39-years-old, Ford is indeed in his 30s and as an African-American, he's certainly a minority. But a full-blown homophobe -- not so much. In fact, although Ford's record back in Tennessee is unquestionably less than ideal, his potential plan for New York State remains an unknown. He has in the past voted against same-sex marriage, but just today announced that he is for civil unions and marriage equality. He's voted to limit abortion rights and increase the rights of gun-owners, but both issues would certainly have to be tweaked to accommodate liberal New York voters.

These are key issues which Ford must account for. And he must be given the opportunity to do so. But there is some serious accounting due by the race-based haters who've chosen -- once again -- to blame a Black Man for problems far beyond his control. Much like Pres. Obama, Ford is the latest whipping boy of the Gay media elite -- an easy target for a frustrated and impotent movement lashing out like a bewildered bully.

The issue here is one of responsibility. Terms like "anti-Gay" -- like "Gay Apartheid" before it -- are powerful and loaded. They also carry important implications of hatred, violence and -- as cases such as Jorge Lopez Steven Mercado demonstrate -- even murder. Harold Ford has displayed none of these attributes. Branding Ford "anti-Gay" is not just shrill and counter-productive, it waters down the danger of the truly anti-Gay like those who lynched young Mercado.

Then we come to the issue of race. Many might say by glazing over Ford's color, Gay-stream bloggers have opted out of this particular color-war. Not quite. As I've regularly argued, since the repeal of Prop. 8 in November 2008, race has been at the core of nearly every element of the Marriage Equality battle -- racism, race-baiting, race-appropriating and race-traitoring. This is a movement now swirled in race and Harold Ford's 11th hour arrival is no exception.

The problem here is one of relevance. Ford's race should -- of course -- be of zero relevance to his candidacy. But then again, neither should race have played any role in the unending take-down of Black America by Marriage Equality leaders. As the comment above -- and many more -- confirm, any issue dealing with Black folk and Marriage Equality is fated to become race-based and hateful. That tide has simply reached a point of no return.

Well aware of this sorry state-of-affairs -- and mostly responsible for its genesis -- the mainstream Gay media must demonstrate that while race has become an unavoidable element of this conversation, racism must not allowed to do so. This is particularly crucial because so few alternative voices are allowed any breathing space -- while Gay thinkers who dare stray from the mainstream are quickly brandished traitors and sell-outs.

Harold Ford will have to work hard to secure the dollars and votes of skeptical New Yorkers -- of all colors and sexualities. Indeed, much like Hillary Clinton before him, Ford is yet another Southerner searching for redemption up North. Unlike Clinton -- a politician I deeply admire and twice voted for -- Ford actually held political office before arriving in town. Perennial Gay-fave Clinton may have gone on to become a seasoned and successful political force, but it must be remembered her only achievements down in Washington were a failed health care plan and...well...surviving a failed marriage.

Harold Ford has -- like it or not -- emerged as a political reality and must be afforded the opportunity to state his case. Do not forgot that before she was appointed senator, Gilibrand herself held many conservative and regressive views, but was allowed the breathing room to redefine her agenda. Along the way she became a champion of many key liberal causes -- including the battle for Marriage Equality. With that battle now on life-support, perhaps its time to recruit as many new allies as possible -- yes, even the Black ones.