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Jessica Joseph Headshot

Homophobia and Racism: Similar Methodologies of Dehumanization

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If your hackles are already raised, relax.

This is not a "who had/has it worse than whom" contest between gays and blacks. I can say unequivocally that black people have won that tragic contest by a landslide.

This is also not a "which trait is more deserving of equal rights" contest either. Both ethnicity and sexual orientation are not chosen traits and are both included in the Universal Charter of Human Rights. There is no justification for intervention or alteration of either. The only thing that has any bearing on whether someone of a particular race or sexual orientation will be an asset or detriment to society is that individual's self-perceptions and resulting actions.

This exploration is about the systematic tactics employed by racists and homophobes in order to instill a negative self-perception in others and how strikingly similar they are.

Similarity 1: Use Scripture and Pseudoscience

My dear granny went to her grave with the hope that in paradise, God would make her white. Where on Earth did she learn this? It was the remnants of what used to be very popular Christian teaching by many Protestant sects:

The negro race is supposed to be descended from Ham, whose special degradation is mentioned in Gen. 9:22, 25. (Zion's Watch Tower, Aug. 1, 1898, p. 230)

Racism was enshrined not only in laws but in theology, and I am not just talking about all the way back in slavery days, with the likes of Rev. Thomas Stringfellow, George Fitzhugh and countless others, but as recent as the 1970s.

The methodology of legalistically cherry-picking scriptures like Genesis 9:25-27, Exodus 21:20-21, Leviticus 25:44-45, 1 Timothy 6:1-5, 1 Peter 2:18-29, Genesis 11:8 and Nehemiah 13:23-30 (the last two used to argue for segregation) and misapplying them is the exact same methodology used to take Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:13-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9 out of context to refer to all LGBT people today, even those who are not under Mosaic Law or practicing Roman orgiastic rites or soliciting catamites in Corinthian brothels, a practice so well-known in that port city (there were numerous enclaves with just a bed and a boy) that Paul had to invent a special word for it -- "arsokenoites" (men-beds) -- confident that the church there would know exactly what he was culturally referencing, just as a Wisconsinite knows exactly what a "cheese-head" is.

Since Paul coined it, the word "arsokenoites" has never been used in any Greek writing to refer to a man loving another man or a woman loving another woman. It is always used to reference buggery, prostitution or exploitative sexual situations.

Many of those who claim that these scriptures are speaking about all LGBT people and their relationships today are often woefully unaware of how hateful and derogatory it is to use the Bible in that way. Many white racists were sincere, "I'm doing this for your own good, black people" types. Their blindness to the damage they are doing to people's spirit stems from being cocooned in a bubble of superiority and self-righteousness.

Of course, since the Enlightenment, religion alone has become insufficient to form the basis of social and political decisions, so bigots throughout history have also resorted to using the academic cover of "science." Racialist science theories by the likes of William Z. Ripley and Madison Grant were used as supporting "academic" basis for continued ill treatment of non-European whites, blacks and Jews. Even today, assertions that IQ levels and ethnicity are irrevocably linked is still clung to by racists, as is selective use of statistics that omit all other contributing factors.

On the issue of homosexuality, many have broken away from the respected medical and scientific community, citing gay activism as the only reason the American Psychological Association reversed its views in 1973 and later removed homosexuality from the DSM. They ignore the fact that even in the earliest days of medical exploration of homosexuality, professionals were discovering the trait had no direct bearing on how intelligent, ethical, nurturing, able or mentally well-adjusted a person is or can be.

Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902), who is credited with popularizing the term "homosexuality," changed his initial position after broadening his test subjects outside those who were already seeking psychiatric help or in prison and asylums. He argued that homosexuals are perfectly respectable and functional individuals and began helping overturn sodomy laws and advocate for humane treatment of homosexuals.

In his 1935 "Letter to an American Mother," Dr. Sigmund Freud reassured a woman asking him to "cure" her son that his condition was not an illness or vice but a variation of sexual function shared by some of the greatest men in history -- Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci -- and that changing a homosexual to a heterosexual is highly unlikely.

In the 1950s psychologist Evelyn Hooker's groundbreaking study dismantled the view that homosexuality was always associated with psychopathology.

Groups like Exodus International, NARTH and Love in Action continue to embarrassingly fail at an academic level to prove their case, because their foundation is not science, and their so-called research and the assertions they derive from it belong in the same pseudoscience bin as the racialist theories of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Similarity 2: "Hide Your Women and Children!"

All homosexuals are pedophiles out to recruit children. Jews kidnap and kill Christian babies in their evil rituals. Black men are sex-crazed monsters who will rape our white women if they get the chance.

Threats to women, children or family hit a primal defensive nerve in us. That adrenaline-fueled "fight response" also temporarily shuts down the centers of the brain responsible for rational thinking. It turns people into a thoughtless mob, too fired up to examine if the threat is real or not. By the way, all the aforementioned threats have been proven to be 100-percent false.

Similarity 3: The Bad Eggs/Caricatures Represent All of Them

All blacks are like this. All gay men are like that. Statistics taken out of context are indicative of all of them.

Similarity 4: Dangle Acceptance Like a Carrot (But Never Fully Give It)

You can never satisfy someone who objects to what is fundamentally a part of you. Their sense of esteem depends on you constantly working hard for their approval and showing never-ending repentance and shame for who you are. You must always be holding them up as the ideal of beauty, intelligence, culture or morality. No matter how many glass ceilings you smash, you will never truly be "one of the boys." Just ask President Obama and GOProud.

Similarity 5: Homophobes and Racists Are Blind to Their Real Issues

Perhaps the saddest thing about racism and homophobia is how it distracts people from what truly ails them.

Families in America are under real threat, not from gays but from longstanding gender issues that men and women still have not resolved. Are people seeing how mad, distrustful, sexually frustrated men and women are with each other? Then, on top of it, demands of work and financial woes have spouses stressed out and kids neglected. Are the so-called defenders of marriage raising millions and millions to actually help these families find solutions? No. How supportive were they of greater domestic violence protections? Not very. Why not?

Any working-class or poor white person who clings to racial superiority and votes for politicians who pander to their bigotry but enable corporations who ship jobs abroad, poison their food and water and profit off their illness and debt is just as much a pawn as the black communities across Africa who allow themselves to be exploited by despotic leaders all in the name of empty vengeance against white farmers for past wrongs. Divide and rule is an essential colonial tool to keep everyone in their pigeonhole, playing their designated role.

Racism, classism, sexism, religious imperialism, homophobia and feral corporatism may look like individual poisonous plants, but if you dig under the surface, the roots are all intertwined. Pull on one, and it is firmly anchored by the root network of another toxic tree. Homophobia is held fast by sexism, as expertly put by brilliant HuffPost blogger Murray Lipp, and I am sure sexism is connected to other root systems.

We need many hands working together to grab hold of all the toxic trees, and with a mighty, unified heave-ho, yank them all out together. In order to get many hands, we are going to have to join causes. Don't just march with your own. March with others. We are stronger together. Every Dr. Martin Luther King needs a Baynard Rustin. When blacks were protesting abuse of "Stop and Frisk" by the NYPD, LGBT voices should have joined them, for what do we see now if not police harassment of gay men too.

Wake up! Your problems are not just your own. Contrary to what you might think, rather than dilute your movement, allies from a related movement add strength. When a "mixed multitude stand individually and also as one," it is a powerful thing.

So, in the words of my favorite Trinidadian rapso group 3Canal (rapso is a style of music centered around delivering conscious/protest lyrics to a rhythm known as "the power of the word in the rhythm of the word"), we need to "Mix It Up."