Kalamazoo’s example: Other cities should follow in anti-discrimination ordinances


JUL 23, 2013, 2:30 PM 

Kalamazoo’s example: Other cities should follow in anti-discrimination ordinances

Kalamazoo Township on Monday got it right when it unanimously voted in favor of an ordinance banning discrimination based on race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, height, weight, marital status, familial status, citizenship, physical or mental ability, gender identity, sexual orientation or genetic information of another person.There are federal and state civil rights laws that penalize discrimination, except for gender identity and sexual orientation, so some may view this as overkill. It does, however, send a message that Kalamazoo is serious about having an inclusive community and is seeking to dispel the perception that western Michigan is inhospitable to minorities.

Moreover, given that Michigan has no law banning housing discrimination against the LGBT community (the  right to housing is a basic human right), the ordinance provides a small measure of recourse in addressing such bias.

Michigan was the only state in the last census to suffer population loss. In order to attract new investments for jobs and migration, our cities and townships need to exert maximum effort towards making our state looking like a more desirable place to live and do business.

Bravo to Kalamazoo. We need more municipalities to follow its example in Michigan.

DOMA ruling is no victory for civil rights


JUL 2, 2013, 5:00 AM 

DOMA ruling is no victory for civil rights

There’s a strange political dichotomy that I see from some on the political left relating to last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decisions overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Section 4B of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Many celebrated the abolishment of the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, which keeps same sex marriage legal in multiple states (including the District of Columbia) while paving the way for its potential legalization in other states like Michigan. Others, however, cried foul over the ruling against 4B, which holds in place voter identification laws – which disproportionately block access to polls for people of color.

Both decisions, however, are couched in the problematic notion of states’ rights.

Historically, the idea of states’ rights was pushed by the Confederacy. The main issue of those in Dixie was the choice to have legalized slavery. After Reconstruction, southern states then instituted Jim Crow laws – including voter suppression laws – which deprived blacks and Latinos of equal access and protection.

Hence, federal laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which were instituted to protect prevailing national interests – thus trumping popular state votes which had disenfranchised minorities. This is why core issues relating to civil rights cannot, ultimately, be left to state discretion.

Thankfully, we have evolved as a nation with the help of federal measures.

We no longer have blatant Jim Crow laws such as “whites only” restrooms or bans on interracial marriage. That’s not to say that all groups in America enjoy full sociopolitical equality. Hopefully, we can one day be that “more perfect union” mentioned in the Constitution.

But back to the dichotomy of those celebrating the DOMA decision: It appears that the celebration is based on a selfish vision of equality.

The legal justification against DOMA is rooted in a notion of states’ rights that has perpetuated inequality. Perhaps this is lost on many who have led the LGBT movement – the majority of whom have enjoyed white privilege.

I cannot celebrate any ruling from our high court which leads to the disenfranchisement of people of color. Gay white men still enjoyed their white privilege – freedom from mass incarceration, racial profiling at airports, crossing the border, etc. – prior to DOMA’s defeat. Maybe this point was lost on those celebrating last week’s DOMA ruling, but this point was not lost to some of the activists that I communicate with in black and brown communities.

Some will say that I’m dwelling too much on past racial injustices and that I’m playing the race card. We have a history in America of racism that still has contemporary implications. I wish this was not the case.

In order to bring about true equality in America, we need more honest conversations and sincere work towards changing structures of inequality – not celebrations of an isolated victory within a framework that may perpetuate structural racism.

In overturning of DOMA and leaving same sex marriage to the states, I see a long term loss for civil rights.

Warith Deen Mohammed on gay issue

Excerpt of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed in Freedom American Style (Progressions Vol. 1, No. 9 – 1987):

Just a few years ago, people didn’t think that equal rights meant equal rights for Gays. At that time, Americans could have accepted equal rights for women because that is natural. I realize that this may be offensive to some people, but I don’t hate anyone because he or she is Gay. I just don’t see their way of life as being normal.


I have been trained to believe that, what is normal, is that which is established in nature. And it is not established in nature that the human being is homosexual.


Nature has established that the human being is male and female. Although there may be an occasional development or presence of homosexuality, that is not the norm. And if it is not the norm in nature, it is unnatural.


The new way of thinking today claims: “Anything that happens is natural!”


That is not the way I was brought up, nor the education I received when I was young. We were taught to judge, whatever normally occurs in nature, to be natural – and the accidents or deviations of nature to be unnatural.


That is how I was brought up and I am going to hold onto that kind of thinking even if it kills me. I prefer to die that way.


I must say again, that I do not hate Gays. In fact, I sympathize with them. It’s a wonder we do not have more Gays when we consider the way masculinity is treated in this society.

Collins’ coming out & the erosion of the sacred in the public square

Though I disagree on a number of matters with the “Religious Right,” I am in agreement with them in principle that there is a growing (though subtle) hostility towards religious expressions in American popular culture.  This emanates, unfortunately, from some who call themselves progressives.

Case in point is the seemingly national media celebration of homosexual basketball player Jason Collins, who just came out of the closet.  His praises are being sung as being a brave role model for gay youth and a sign of our national movement towards “equality.”

President Obama even contacted Collins then mentioned how proud he was of him at a White House press conference yesterday.  I wish Obama would visit Detroit proper or called community leaders regarding the democratic voices of Detroiters being stripped through emergency management.  That, however, is for another blog post.

Collins is a professional athletic, who made a public proclamation of his lifestyle.  He has that right and is being bear-hugged by many political progressives for his exercising that right.  When NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, however, openly professed his Christianity in his professional capacity, he was criticized by some of the same folks.  Moreover, some of these folks called him a hypocrite.

Hence, we have two people who are professional athletes, who have been given a public platform.  One of them being an obscure NBA journeyman, who average basketball fans knew little to nothing about until he came out of the closet.  The other being a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, who had a storybook NFL rookie season that now is most known for making short prayers during games (tebowing). The former is now the flavor of the month while the latter is virtually persona non-grata.

There is a growing movement in America, which is much larger in Europe, for the removal of expression of organized religion in pop culture.  So a “spiritual” gay basketball player with a less than stellar career becomes the symbol of progress and equality in America while the Christian quarterback is chided to keep his religion as a private matter, not display it publicly.  In other words, I view these recent events as it’s cool to openly celebrate gayness as being a symbol of advancement while seeing the relegation of the open celebration of religion, especially if its theology is conservative.

Ball players are given too much cultural deference in our society to begin with.  I am not a fan of any of them being elevated as roles models from Michael Jordan to Ben Roethlisberger.  My main point, however, is that the recent fawning over Collins’ coming out party is a subtle reminder that there indeed is a culture war under way in America led by those who uphold obtuse humanism and (pseudo) relativism on those who believe that the sacred has the right to be in the public, not just private, space in society.