Obama linking Selma to Stonewall divides black community

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Obama linking Selma to Stonewall divides black community

President Barack Obama's inaugural address was the most inclusive speech a president has ever given. It was delivered on the 27th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and the President honored King's legacy when he eloquently spoke of how the many U.S. liberation movements, both current and historic, are interconnected.

"We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall."

As an African American lesbian, whose identity is linked to all three movements, I felt affirmed.  I applaud the president’s courageous pronouncement.

Some African Americans, however, felt “dissed” by the President’s speech. The linkage of their civil rights struggle to that of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Americans did nothing to quell their dislike of the comparison. The fact that it was spoken by this president made it sting more.

New York Times reporter Richard Stevenson picks up the tension where he wrote in his recent article "Speech Reveals an Evolved and Unapologetic President" that Obama  "After spending much of his first term 'evolving' on the question of same-sex and doing too little in the eyes of many African-Americans to address poverty and civil rights, he invoked “Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall.”

For many African Americans, especially those male ministers who “professed” to have marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., the reason they scoff at comparing the black civil right struggle to today's LGBTQ civil rights struggle is because of the persistent nature of racism in the lives of black people and the little gains accomplished supposedly on behalf of racial and economic equality. They expected more gains under the first African American president.

Also, many African Americans contest that civil rights gains have come faster for LGBTQ Americans, from the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in New York City to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.

The gains in the LGBGT movement, many African Americans both straight and LGBTQ will contend, is largely because of the structural and cultural exclusion of people of color. 

The LGBTQ movement has no doubt made some tremendous gains into mainstream society, a reality