Saturday, October 31, 2009

Letter to Bernice King

Rev. Bernice King
Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Dear Rev. King:

I just read that you have been elected to head the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the eighth person and first woman to hold this position. Congratulations on this honor.

What a proud organization the SCLC once was. A great American institution. What a responsibility to fill the shoes of those like your father, your brother, and Bayard Rustin, who made the SCLC something we all came to look up to.

Unfortunately, there is a dark shadow that hangs over your election. While looking for some indication that as the first woman in this position you would be expanding this progressive tradition, instead I note that you have declared, "I know in my sanctified soul that he (Dr. King) did not take a bullet for same-sex marriage."

For many of us who hold your father and mother and Mr. Rustin in great regard, this is a stab right through the heart.

I’m glad you are convinced your soul is sanctified. You’re young, and self-confidence is always nice to see in the young, even if it crosses over at times into the hubris of believing you know the mind of God. With the passing of time, I hope you will come to understand that the battle gays are engaged in for same-sex marriage is only the latest of many struggles for rights and recognition. We are not lesser beings because we are gay. Your father knew that. Your mother was our friend and our champion. So was your sister, Yolanda.

Black Americans are not the only Americans who owe your father and mother a debt of gratitude. In the end, the rising tide of equality they worked for their whole lives long raised all our boats.

Please, Ms. King. Continue to bring the SCLC forward. Do not align yourself with evangelistic con artists like the Eddie Longs of this world.

Some are calling you the last nail in the coffin of a now irrelevent has-been organization. I hope they’re wrong. I hope you’re the person who brings it back to life. In the progress of history there were pro-women’s rights Christians and anti-women’s rights Christians, pro-slavery Christians and anti-slavery Christians, pro-segregation Christians and anti-segregation Christians. Your father knew how to choose the right side in these struggles. One of the last great divides in our society is between Christians who seek to demonize gay and lesbian people and Christians who understand making outcasts on the basis of sexuality is no more justified than making outcasts on the basis of race.

I hope you can find your way to help us rid ourselves of one of our society’s last lingering bigotries.

We will be watching your career with interest, and wishing you all the best.

Yours very truly,

Alan J. McCornick
Berkeley, CA

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