Guest Blogger

Not Just About Numbers: A Response From a Latino Democrat

Filed By Guest Blogger | June 21, 2011 7:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: Log Cabin Republicans, people of color, Stonewall Democrats

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Omar Narvaez is president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and a community activist who works to build bridges between the LGBT, African-American, Asian, and Latino communities.

omar.pngRecently, Robert Turner, the president of the DC chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, penned a response to criticism by Bilerico's Alex Blaze regarding the lack of people of color in Log Cabin's national leadership. In that response, Mr. Turner made several incorrect statements regarding National Stonewall Democrats (NSD) and contradicted his own logic in the process.

It is easy to agree with the first point in Mr. Turner's rebuttal: that focusing on just the national leadership gives a skewed perspective of the diversity of an organization. Mr. Turner goes on, however, to belie his own argument by looking only at the national board of Stonewall Democrats and not at the leaders of our more than 60 affiliates around the country.

This past year, affiliate clubs of Stonewall Democrats - a grassroots network connecting LGBT Democratic activists from the east to west coast - saw several of its Texas chapters elect Latinos as president. Hispanics now lead councils in Dallas, Denton, San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley. People of color lead many other affiliates across the country from places like Washington, DC, Las Vegas and even Cleveland, OH. People of color can be found throughout our network of organizations.

Olga Hernandez, a Latina who also hails from the great state of Texas, is the NSD PAC board co-chair and serves on the C4 board in that capacity. Earlier this year, Jeffrey Richardson accepted a job as the LGBT liaison for Washington, DC mayor Vincent Gray and had to step off the board before his term had been completed.

We're also very proud of the fact that until the most recent board cycle, both our C4 and PAC were co-chaired by transgender women, one of whom is the first transgender delegate to the DNC. You may not be aware that the DNC also has suggested quotas for state parties for LGBT delegates, in addition to women and people of color; to my knowledge, the RNC has not made a commensurate move.

On a recent visit to Dallas, NSD Executive Director Michael Mitchell said during a speech to our members, "You know, the Democratic Party may not look as much like America as it could, and our organization doesn't look like the rest of America as much as it could, but I am committed to making sure that National Stonewall Democrats is an example to our Party, to the LGBT community and to American in general on how we engage and include women, people of color and the transgender community." That comment made me proud to be a Stonewall Democrat.

However, it's not just about numbers. As an organization, Stonewall Democrats is devoted to a broader ideal of social justice. We support the issues that directly affect people of color both inside and outside the LGBT community. As examples, we have been strong supporters of the commonsense DREAM Act since it was first introduced in Congress, as well as supporters of workers to unionize because we know that - especially in conservative states with no LGBT protections - a union-bartered contract often provides the only protection and benefits for LGBT people and their families. In places where racism still plays a role in hiring, firing and promotion, union-bartered contracts provide protection for people of color as well.

We also have committed ourselves to mentoring and coaching young people of color as they enter the fight for equality. Currently, the summer intern at national HQ in DC is a phenomenal young African-American woman attending Howard University. During the last election season, NSD built a team of young organizers that were embedded in campaigns across the country. Five of eleven members of the ElectEquality team were people of color.

I'm sorry that the LCR is seen as a totally white - and male-dominated organization. As someone committed to social justice, I'm heartened to see an African-American man elected to head a local Log Cabin chapter, and glad to know that there are other people of color who head Log Cabin chapters around the country. Perhaps if Log Cabin was more committed to lifting up people of color and the issues that directly affect them, instead of pushing an agenda that all too often ignores the institutional racism the GOP embodies, leaving people of color on the sidelines, folks wouldn't experience it as an all white organization. Numbers mean nothing when the mission and actions benefit rich, white men more than any other group.

(Photo credit: Omar Narvaez. Feature img src)

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