Update: This blog was linked on Towleroad.com -- Thanks, Andy! -- and I wanted to welcome all the Towleroad readers over here to QueerCincinnati.com! To follow up with this story, there are lots of links in the follow posting, and you can check out my two other responses (Part 1, and Part 2). To sum up, for your benefit: Chris Smitherman, Cincinnati politician and President of the local NAACP and a historical supporter of LGBT rights here in the 'Nati, brought Chris Finney, arch-conservative firebrand and historical anti-gay activist, as the Chair of Legal Redress for the local organization. This details the further fallout of that decision...
I've been given the heads up by my "hacker" -- the mysterious person sending me links via my own account -- about two CityBeat bits that have come out about the Smitherman-Finney relationship. First, CityBeat (in its most recent issue) gives us a great lay out of Finney's history of anti-gay work here in town, including the first indication from Smitherman on his position:
“Chris Finney has done a fabulous job for the NAACP over the last two years,” Smitherman says, referring to successful ballot issues that blocked a sales tax increase to build a new jail and repealed City Council’s decision to install red-light cameras at intersections. “He has earned our confidence in him with our legal work. I cannot be concerned with the interests of any other constituency group. I must look out for the interests of our membership.”Hm. OK. Meanwhile, a blog post at CityBeat goes a little further into Smitherman's position:
Finney has belonged to the NAACP’s local chapter for about three years, Smitherman added. With his recent appointment as “chair of legal redress,” Finney becomes one of two white members on the chapter’s executive committee.OK. Strange. George Ellis, President of Equality Cincinnati, in the former article, states that he would like to speak specifically to Smitherman about this appointment before any position is made. Ellis and I disagree on a lot, and I'll be interested to know the outcome of that meeting -- seriously, I would.
“You have to practice what you preach,” Smitherman said.
Also, Smitherman isn’t overly concerned if Finney’s appointment upsets Cincinnati’s gay community.
“As if I would care what they think about that. They don’t have a relationship with the Cincinnati NAACP,” Smitherman said. “(Finney’s) been working and communicating with us. The question is, where are these other communities?”
In fact, Smitherman dismisses much of the criticism about the appointment as instigated by the Hamilton County Democratic Party. Noting that the local party has opposed the NAACP chapter’s last three efforts — blocking a sales tax hike to build a new jail, overturning City Council’s approval of red-light cameras and trying to revive Proportional Representation — he said thoughtful residents should be more angered at the party.
“There’s no issue that we’ve put on (the ballot) that the Democratic Party has supported,” Smitherman said. “People call Chris Finney radical, but it’s the positions of the local Democratic Party that are radical.”
Smitherman has made, in the past, some excellent points about racism within the gay community. And I'm not going to say its unfair for him to go a step farther and ask where were these groups when the NAACP needed them? I think that's kind of the point of a progressive movment, isn't it? To build a movement, and to work together. So I'm not going to say Smitherman is completely off-balance by saying any of that. I think they are valid and interesting points to bring to the table when discussing LGBT-African American relations, especially in a city like Cincinnati.
With no snarkiness, and absolutely no backstabbing or bitchiness, I'll say that I'm curious to know the outcome of a potential Equality Cincinnati-NAACP meeting over this very issue.
Meanwhile, friend Texas Liberal, a former Cincinnati resident, makes a fascinating connection: "Writing about this issue and seeing that Chris Finney is still causing trouble after I’ve been away from Cincinnati for 11 years reminds me of the Jean Sartre play No Exit. The same people year after year after year afflicting each other by dredging up bad memories and the inability to leave the room even though they may in fact have the option to go elsewhere."
And the Cincinnati Black Blog is up in an uproar over the -- ahem -- uproar: "The Beacon Boys are, quite predictably, mad about the appointment. They object to Finney because of his history of opposing special rights for white male homosexuals who want affirmative action and preferential treatment because of who they sleep with, even though there is no history of homosexuals, as a group, being denied jobs and contracts based on their sexual orientation." To which I have one response: why does anyone read the Cincinnati Black Blog? Why do I? I think it's just to get angry in the morning.
Finally, our friend Wolfie at Back2Stonewall.com is making waves trying to get in touch with the National NAACP over the appointment. He received this response: "As you know the NAACP’s national position does not condone any discrimination or denial of civil and human rights and that includes towards the LGBT community." He's waiting on further response.
As for me... well...
...this is my first foray into politics, so I'm sitting back and listening, wondering, and reading. Except to say: maybe black folk aren't wrong. Maybe it's time we stood up for them at some point, too, instead of expecting them to stand up for us.
I'm just sayin'.
Oh, and I just got another heads up from my hacker that Christopher Smitherman hosts a show every Saturday from 5:00pm-6:30pm on 1230am/WDBZ. It's a call-in program, apparently. I don't know. Again, I'm just sayin'