From Seattle writer and consultant Matt Rosenberg...

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Gay Racism In San Francisco?

June 27, 2005

Are too many white gay men, and one apparently very white gay bar in San Francisco's famed gay Castro District, racist? San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom last Friday appointed his predecessor Willie Brown to mediate a dispute between the city's human rights commission and the owner of a gay bar named Badlands, where the commission has determined that 13 instances of racial discrimination by the staff occured. While the city commission's finding on Badlands carry no legal weight on their own, the state liquor commission is soon to complete an investigation that could pack some punch. More here from the San Francisco Chronicle.

They are among the most maligned groups in society, but when it comes to discrimination, many say, gays can give as good as they get.

A city investigation of S.F. Badlands, one of the largest and most popular bars in the heart of the Castro neighborhood, has added evidence to that argument. In April, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission found that the bar discriminated against African American customers and job applicants.

That finding, which is vigorously disputed by the bar's owner, is elevating the murmurs of racism in the gay community to a national discussion...Protesters have picketed the bar every week (for tweo months)....(they) are affiliated with a group called And Castro For All, which formed around the issue, and have a stated short-term goal of putting bar owner Les Natali out of business and a long-term aim of "fostering a generally welcome Castro neighborhood ... and exposing actions that undermine inclusion."

....this community built on tolerance and diversity has to answer to members who say those ideals do not match reality. "I was told that Harvey Milk would be rolling in his grave if he knew a black man was running San Francisco's gay pride parade. I was told Martin Luther King would be rolling in his grave. I was told that I was not qualified," said Calvin Gipson, who was president of the parade committee from 1998 to 2000 and on the board of directors for five years. He is the director of human services for Glide Memorial United Methodist Church.

"I have been called 'big, black nigger bitch' while walking on the street in the Castro," said Zwazzi Sowo, a lesbian who has lived in San Francisco for 20 years. "I am 52 years old. Nowhere else in my life have I experienced walking down the street and someone calling me a nigger."....Lesbians who have spoken with And Castro for All consistently say two things, according to John Newsome, who started the group.

"When I asked lesbians if they had experienced or heard of discrimination at Badlands, they generally offered one of two responses: 'My friends and I feel unwelcome almost everywhere in Castro,' or simply, 'I don't even go to the Castro anymore,' " Newsome said.

At some point, a community based on exclusivity or cultural and political homogeniety begins to collapse upon itself. This is as true of The Castro as certain parts of Idaho or Alabama, or Chicago (and I'm talking white, black and Latino neighborhoods with regard to my old hometown, by the way). Overbearingly liberal Seattle is another example.

NOTE: Previous Rosenblog post, "Are Some Gays Intolerant?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at June 27, 2005 09:38 PM

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