I felt sad this morning when I got the news that Coretta Scott King died. Then, as passed by a television tuned to CNN this morning and heard the announcer say that “friend of the family” Bishop Eddie Long would be on shortly to talk about Ms. King’s death. I felt sick. It’s happening already. It always does. Dreamers die, and the ones who end up speaking in their wake have loud voices but only a clouded understanding of the dream, at best.
It’s a common practice with famous African Americans. It’s usually when someone who’s gay or lesbian dies — like Langston Hughes or Essex Hemphill. The body is barely cool before efforts begin to erase from the deceased past anything deemed embarrassing or unbecoming by the living. I didn’t hear Long’s comments (didn’t have the stomach for him), but I have a feeling the same is underway with Coretta’s passing.
First, let’s recall what Coretta had to say about gay & lesbian equality.
“I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice,” she said. “But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'” “I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people,” she said. – Reuters, March 31, 1998.
“Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood,” King stated. “This sets the stage for further repression and violence that spread all too easily to victimize the next minority group.” – Chicago Defender, April 1, 1998, front page.
“We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny . . . I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be,” she said, quoting her husband. “I’ve always felt that homophobic attitudes and policies were unjust and unworthy of a free society and must be opposed by all Americans who believe in democracy,” King told 600 people at the Palmer House Hilton, days before the 30th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination on April 4, 1968. She said the civil rights movement “thrives on unity and inclusion, not division and exclusion.” Her husband’s struggle parallels that of the gay rights movement, she said. – Chicago Sun Times, April 1, 1998, p.18.
I support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 1994 because I believe that freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. My husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” On another occasion he said, “I have worked too long and hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concern. Justice is indivisible.” Like Martin, I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.
Most recently, when dozens of black ministers rallied against same-sex marriage, Coretta spoke up for equality.
“Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union,” she said. “A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages.”
By contrast, Bishop Eddie Long mis-heard King’s call for justice as “just us,” and marched against marriage equality.
The Dec. 11 “Re-ignite the Legacy” march — coordinated by Bishop Eddie Long, leader of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia — drew between 20,000 and 25,000 people, according to Atlanta Police Department estimates.
The trek from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s gravesite to Turner Field was in response to Long’s call for black churches to become more vocal political players on issues like banning same-sex marriage, reforming the education and health care systems, and creating economic opportunities for minorities.
And if you really want to know where he’s coming from, you can take it from someone who sat through one of Long’s long sermons.
“In Christ, God puts his seed in us. Any other way is a spiritual abortion. Cloning, Homosexuality and Lesbianism are spiritual abortions.”
“Homosexuality is a manifestation of the fallen man.”
… “God brings himself back to himself through covenant through blood. When the ordained process of God (marriage), when a virgin man has sex with a virgin woman, there is blood shed on his penis which represents covenant and the redemptive grace of God. That’s the reason why men, you are circumcised, so that every time you pull out your male organ and wants to go in the wrong direction, you can SEE that you are in covenant and anything that goes against the covenant is Anti-Christ. It creates a religious system that will not return God to God. Anything that will hinder that is Anti-Christ. It’s an abortion of the whole process of covenant and blood shedding.”
“…They (children) cannot have 2 female parents. They cannot have 2 male parents. They will be off balance.”
Bishop Long’s answer to “I was born that way” – “spirits can be inherited or acquired. You can have a strong domineering mama and a weak daddy that creates a spirit in the male child that makes him more effeminate. This is true for homosexuality or any other disorder in our lives.”
I can’t say whether Long is a close friend of the King family, but he’s a close friend of Bernice King who has, sadly enough, bought into bigotry.
The sight of the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. standing at her father’s gravesite Saturday with thousands of demonstrators to denounce same-sex marriage was painful. The Rev. Bernice King and march organizers deliberately chose King’s resting place in Atlanta to imply that he would have stood with them.
… At Saturday’s event, King’s daughter was careful not to mention same-sex marriage in her talk. Her mentor and march organizer, Bishop Eddie Long, cautiously downplayed the issue, though media reported that Long’s Web site listed promoting a federal amendment against same-sex marriage as a major goal of the march. But Bernice King is an outspoken evangelical, and in the last couple of years she and other black evangelicals have marched, protested, and written letters and petitions denouncing such marriages. Polls show that black evangelicals’ hostility to same-sex marriage is much stronger than that of white evangelicals.
Maybe I took heart in what Coretta had to say about gay & lesbian equality, because it gave me some hope that my black evangelical parents — of the same generation as Coretta — might come around. Either way, I can’t help taking a moment upon her passing to reflect and remind people where she stood on equality.
Let’s hope that Long is not the spokesperson for the King family. And let’s remember that Coretta understood that her husband’s dream was for everybody. She got it, even if those who remain — including her own child — don’t. Don’t let anyone forget that. And don’t let them tell you “now is not the time.” If it isn’t, it never will be.