Correspondence: Hate Crimes, Bias, and Silence
by Geoff Kelly - posted 11:21 am, January 14, 2010
We received this letter today from Paul Morgan on behalf of OUTspoken for Equality:
Two events hit the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) community hard as this second decade of the twenty first century dawns frigidly on Buffalo, New York. Lindsay Harmon was savagely stabbed, blinding her in one eye, while her attacker uttered anti gay slurs, as Lindsay exited Roxy’s nightclub with her girlfriend. Investigations have not yet proven this to be a hate crime.
As this sobering attack filtered through Allentown’s close knit community, the LGBT community was affronted by an offense less physically violent, but every bit as insidious – the Rev. Darius Pridgeon arrogantly moved to the front of the pack of contenders for the vacated common council seat of Brian Davis.
Rev. Pridgeon had the support of the Brown administration. He had the support of disgraced former council member Brian Davis. He had the support of Grass Roots. He DID NOT have the support of the largest population of LGBT individuals, businesses, professional, and medical service providers in all of Erie County.
A letter was sent to Rev. Pridgeon asking that he clarify offensive statements he made in relation to HIV/Aids and the gay community. In addition Pridgeon was asked if his sworn religious convictions would interfere with his sworn civil responsibility to represent ALL residents of the Ellicott district, and the City of Buffalo at large. Regrettably, he did not respond. His silence spoke volumes.
While over 18 THOUSAND individuals from around the world expressed outrage and concern for Lindsay on facebook (PLEASE help support lindsay harmon, and STOP hate crime!), a few committed activists got busy on the ground challenging back room politics, the democratic political machine, and the status quo. We were gratified to see mounting political pressure beginning to erode the small but powerful lobby for Rev. Pridgeon. At this writing, the council appears poised to appoint another individual to this seat, and that is a small but encouraging toehold upon which to enter this new decade.
There is still much work ahead. Education, advocacy, and the commitment of all LGBT individuals are required to battle the current legislative backsliding. The reason we, the LGBT community, require hate crime laws and marriage equality legislation, is that we, LGBT Americans, continue to live a ‘separate but unequal’ reality. We possess the inalienable rights of every American citizen, yet we daily face unrelenting religious and partisan defamation, physical threats, and myriad affronts to our families, and our character. Lurking around every corner, whether at work, in the media, or in our most private lives- we are dogged by a pervasive bias, sanctimonious intolerance, and indifference to the violence we suffer in words and deeds.
Ironically the very term ‘Stonewall’ refers to civil rights unrest in 1960’s Greenwich Village by a few angry drag queens, many of them African American, who simply had enough of New York Cities Police abuses. The ‘OUT’ in OUTspoken refers to the courage it takes to live an authentic life, as opposed to one lived in shame and hiding. We in the LGBT community have HAD ENOUGH. How we respond as a community is very much dependent on the response of elected officials to these two entirely unacceptable recent events. We will continue to demand our undeniable civil rights as American citizens, and our innate dignity as human beings. That is what WE have to say. For their part, the Mayor and other officials remain provocatively silent.