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Iowa’s NAACP president: civil rights for me, but not for thee

Timothy Kincaid

March 17th, 2011

Rev. Keith Ratliff, pastor of the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines, is the president of the Iowa-Nebraska chapter of the NAACP. He’s also an anti-gay activist who takes his opposition to gay equality so seriously that in last year’s gubernatorial election he endorsed Republican Bob Vander Plaats, who made opposition to equality his signature position.

Ratlif had a few choice things to say this week to a rally organized by Vander Plaats to stir up anti-gay sentiment. (Iowa Independent)

“For the few victories that the gay community is claiming,” Ratliff said, “they have won it mostly based on the hijacking of them trying to parallel themselves on the backs of the civil rights movement, here in America.”

He said their is “no parallel” of what an “insult” it was for them to compare themselves with the civil rights movement.

Ratliff, of the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines, said not being able to marry a person of the same gender was no where near what it’s like to be denied service in a restaurant or hotel for the color of their skin.

How sad that Ratliff has been subjected to the insult of gay people thinking that they were equal to him. But while it may make me seem uppity, perhaps Mr. Ratliff needs a history lesson.

You see it was in 1965 that the state of Iowa banned racial discrimination in service at restaurants and hotels, but it was perfectly legal to deny gay people those exact same services until four years ago.

And there are more than a few readers who could give personal testimony to experiencing exactly the same treatment to which Ratliff thinks there is “no parallel.” Except they had no recourse. It was perfectly legal.

I don’t pretend that racial discrimination is identical to anti-gay discrimination. There are differences and subtleties that are better discussed by those who have experienced both and I’ve heard good argument why either was painful than the other. Nor do I deceive myself into thinking that racism ended in Iowa in 1965. However, I do know that civil rights are those to which each person is entitled from their government without arbitrary denial and that discrimination is ugly and cruel.

And I know that anti-gay bigotry looks just like all other bigotry: the smirk which says that the most despicable and characterless of the “acceptable” race or gender or religion or orientation will always be better than you based on a scale that has nothing to do with merit and everything to do with unearned presumptions of superiority.

Yet while it is foolish and pointless to pit victims of bigotry against each other as though injustice and indignity against one is acceptable because someone else ‘had it worse’, if Ratliff’s wants to compete in the Oppression Olympics on “not being able to marry” and “being denied service in a restaurant or hotel” then he loses and the gay community takes gold. In our lifetime, we’ve known both.



Nigel Puerasch
March 17th, 2011 | LINK

I don’t want to point ppl to my own blog, but I don’t know how to post two relevant cartoons to this site.

They are:

Sorry for big-noting myself, but they are great cartoons, and I dunno how else to do this.

Ben in Oakland
March 17th, 2011 | LINK

This is a subject I’ve been itching to write about for a while. I’ve been told I shouldn’t because I have not ever been black, because I don’t know what it is like to be a black man.

Maybe that’s correct, but I’m not sure what it has to do with anything, because I have no intention of writing about what it is like to be a black man. Don’t have a clue beyond what my empathy as a gay man, i.e., an oppressed man, has to tell me. But who needs empathy when you have your wholly imaginary superiority to support. Not to mention, the wholly imaginary superiority of your suffering.

I do know, however, what bigotry is like, both as a gay man and as a Jew. Fortunately for me, I have very little interest in competing in the Oppression Olympics. If I ever do, I’ll see your racism and raise you a Holocaust.

So, i hope I have some time to write.

March 17th, 2011 | LINK

It’s pointless to comment on figures like that man. He has neither the wit nor the simple generosity to embrace the whole of the field to which he would claim to devote much of his life.

Beyond the particular grievances of his race, he knows nothing and is not interested in knowing. All his words are hollow.

Sean Santos
March 17th, 2011 | LINK

If he was interested in honestly comparing the two, he would compare same-sex marriage to interracial marriage. But of course, he wouldn’t, because that would make it clear that the two cases are quite similar. So instead he compares one type of discrimination used towards both groups, to totally type of discrimination used towards both groups, as if this poor sleight-of-hand describes anything.

Obviously the discrimination of racial minorities vs. LGBTs is not really directly comparable in a simple or universal “Which is worse?” sort of way. Being black is usually obvious, whereas being gay can be kept in the closet. Being gay often gets condemnation directly from one’s family, church, or social circles, whereas most black people experience prejudice mainly from people they know less well or in public settings. Being black is in some ways a hereditary economic disability, whereas gay people do not take such a big hit in terms of education or income. Homophobia is much more socially acceptable than racism.

However, we can compare the legal statuses of the two groups directly, and LGBT rights is easily far behind in that respect. Our marriage status is over 40 years behind, and our status in terms of federal discrimination is over 45 years behind. Even sodomy laws only disappeared 8 years ago; while Brown v. Board was being decided, Congress was passing laws forbidding homosexuals from entering the country (as they were considered “psychopathic”).

We can also compare hate crimes, in which case it is currently significantly safer to be black than LGBT.

It’s easy to claim that the two situations are different; they are. It’s hard to claim that one group has it better in some generic, universal way. It’s flatly wrong to say that somehow gay people have it so good that we have nothing to complain about.

Sean Santos
March 17th, 2011 | LINK

* I mean, “to a totally different type of discrimination”

Regan DuCasse
March 17th, 2011 | LINK

My friends, this man is an embarrassment to me.
Civil and equal rights belong to ALL human beings. Period.
He is an ignorant black man. I don’t know what it’s like to be gay either. And I’d never, NEVER argue with someone gay that:
1. They can change or hide being gay.

2. Or speak to a gay person as if I know more about being gay than they do.

Straight people that do that are an embarrassment.

But in the case of other black men like Ratliff, he is also an ingrate. There are gay soldiers who have risked life and limb to preserve his freedoms, while not enjoying the same at home.
Similar to black soldiers who did so, yet faced Jim Crow at home.
This is no different.

He’s an ingrate to all the gays and lesbians who took risks here at home during the Civil Rights Movement and did so with no recognition for doing so at the time.
Most prominent among them, Bayard Rustin.

I’ve made quite a list of such black people who are like this. I have names, phone numbers and emails. I pick a certain moment, I don’t reveal at first that I’m an equality activist, but I do give them background as a black woman, a person in law enforcement and someone in a mixed marriage.
And then what the differences between me and an ignorant ungrateful black person and how they resemble segregationists and do they really WANT to behave like a segregationist?
Who is, after all, someone who wants to separate someone from the rest of society for being different, yet are not excluded from social responsibility and accountability.
Something that gay people DO know as well as black people do.

I have a debt to pay to what’s right. After all, there are people who fought for me to be here free and mostly without challenge.
What would I look like not fighting for someone in turn?
It’s a moral impossibility to benefit from the very people you vilify.
A decent Christian wouldn’t behave that way. And Ratliff, as a man of the cloth, has an obligation to know better.

And, he will. :0 P

Mihangel apYrs
March 18th, 2011 | LINK

may we start a practice where we don’t massage their egos by calling them “Reverend” or “Bishop”? These are terms alive in their own sects, but theologically speaking a “bishop” can only be made by two other bishops consecrating HIM, and those bishops having been “done” by others who can trace back the line to Peter and the other apostles. Anything else is make believe (well even more make believe).

Otherwise, henceforth I will be known as “his holiness, the most high archimandrate of Thog”. And will have about as much substance….

Chitown Kev
March 18th, 2011 | LINK

Dear, it’s too early in the morning for me to deal with this asshat.

March 18th, 2011 | LINK

“How sad that Ratliff has been subjected to the insult of gay people thinking that they were equal to him.”

And he considers himself a civil rights activist? Yeah, right, civil rights for my group but not for yours.

March 18th, 2011 | LINK

Black gay people should be furious at this man, not only has it been proven that Gay history and Black history in America are both intertwined but I would even go so far to say that MLK would be rolling in his grave if he knew this man and people like him were doing the very same thing as some White people were doing during MLK’s time.

Chitown Kev
March 18th, 2011 | LINK


Been know about Ratliff’s antics for a long time

March 18th, 2011 | LINK

Bigotry & prejudice are alive and well and living and being protected within the Black community. It is WAY past time everyone admitted this.

Lost Choi
March 19th, 2011 | LINK

As a sidebar, the Iowa Independent (and its readers) should be embarrassed. At first I thought Timothy mistyped the paragraph from the Iowa Independent, but no. Indeed it does read:

“He said their is “no parallel” …”

Umm, that should be “there” not “their.”

And after three (3) days, the paper and its reader haven’t noticed the grammatical error. It still hasn’t been corrected on the paper’s website.

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