Speak Your Mind: Comparing Movements
My tumblr account is good for almost nothing. Unless you consider Doctor Who gifs, Avengers screenshots, and feminist history to be the things that make life worth living (which I do.) But recently it also made me check my privilege, as it were, regarding civil rights.
I’ve always considered myself an ally and, although I’m not perfect by any measure, I liked to think that I was someone who could be counted on to fight for civil justice. Because I want to be the best ally I can, I need some help.
You see, I’ve always likened the fight for LGBT rights to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The parallels seem too obvious to overlook. In both cases there were legal distinctions not based on reality that pitted one minority group against the powerful majority. And when you look at the LGBT rights struggle through the lens of the civil rights movement it makes those legal distinctions look doubly absurd. I might do this because of my legal background. The evolution of the Constitution makes it necessary to make at least a passing analogy to legal racial equality when arguing for any other type of legal equality.
I’ve been doing this for years and I had no idea it was offensive.
The reasoning, as I pieced it together, is that the LGBT rights movement and the civil rights movement each has its own set of problems, strengths, and strategies that deserve to be recognized in their own right, not in reference to another groups fight for liberation. I suppose this reasoning make sense, however, I’m unclear why we shouldn’t compare various civil rights struggles. Especially if it helps make the case for equality.
Am I misunderstanding the argument? Was the comparison once relevant, but is now doing more harm than good? Does comparing one to the other erase individual experiences?
Featured image credit: stevebott