1993 March: the Case Against Quotas
The Washington Blade
September 6, 1991


1993 March: the Case Against Quotas

Over the objections of a few, organizers of the 1993 Gay rights march on Washington have adopted a 50 percent gender parity rule and a 50 percent quota for so-called "people of color" in all march decision-making bodies. In the name of inclusiveness, these quotas will be used to exclude from the national steering committee any regional delegation that fails to meet them.

At first glance, a goal of 50 percent gender parity appears reasonable, since just over half of the population is women (leaving aside the oft-quoted Kinsey figures that indicate homosexuality is less prevalent among women). On the other hand, a 50 percent goal for people of color is blatantly unrealistic, since the population figure for ethnic minorities is less than half that.

The adopted rules imply that gender and ethnicity are all that count. What about those who suffer discrimination based upon age, physical handicap, or religion, to name only three? The people-of-color rule skews representation in favor of urban areas, penalizing areas with low minority populations. It also punishes those who come forward for the failure of others to do so. This suggests, insultingly, that ethnic Gays cannot be expected to look after their own interests, but must be coddled with special advantage and more-correct-than-thou rhetoric.

It is one thing to set goals for greater inclusion and participation of women and minorities, and quite another to make those goals into quotas. Let all who are prepared to do the work be encouraged to come forward. A person's leadership ability should not be judged either positively or negatively on the basis of irrelevant criteria.

Neither quotas nor national marches are needed to encourage and cultivate new leaders whenever (and in whatever color or sex) they present themselves. Those who seek an authentic national consensus should not attempt to impose a false one by means of restrictive quotas which perversely discriminate against a majority of the population in the name of fairness.

According to radical doctrine, the history of European imperialism (one mustn't talk about the Incans, Arabs, or Japanese) entirely exempts non-Caucasians from accountability for their present actions. A corollary is that bigotry should be overlooked when it comes from a member of an historically oppressed group. This is the most patronizing, racist attitude one could possibly take, and enshrines a double standard that sabotages cooperation.

Only by meeting as equals can men and women of different backgrounds join in common cause. It simply will not work any other way. In order to receive the good will of others, one must display good will oneself. This is impossible if one habitually cries "Racist!" whenever anyone strays from the One True Path of Political Correctitude.

The fact is that all of the misery in the world was not created by Caucasians. Such "nations of color" as China and Cuba are notorious abusers of human rights, and the reforms in South Africa are an increasing embarrassment to the unreformed governments of Zimbabwe and Kenya; but, for the Left, it is only fashionable to criticize Israel, South Africa, and the United States.

At movement powwows like the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's annual Creating Change conference, white male activists are used to hearing diatribes against the Rich White Male Oppressor. Many white Gay men have been intimidated into silence or non-involvement because they are tired of being accused of racism, sexism, and classism before they can open their mouths. They are not inclined to give their time and money to support a radical junta which refuses to admit that haranguing people for being white, male, and middle class is itself an example of racism, sexism, and classism.

Pandering to unresolved anger is not a basis for a healthy relationship, and adopting every ultra-leftist cause and slogan is not grassroots organizing. Shrill calls for "dismantling the patriarchal, capitalist, imperialist social order," those familiar refrains of radical agit-prop, more closely resemble the Communist Manifesto than a realistic program for creating change.

The Gay rights movement's mainstream workers and donors cannot be expected to keep bailing out the out-of-touch, socialist ideologues who are hell-bent on taking the Gay community in a direction the bulk of it doesn't want to go.

Speaking of direction, what are the purposes and goals of the march, now that it has been set for April 25, 1993? Amazingly, the organizers aren't planning to decide that until early next year. Don't they have things backwards? There ought to be some justification before committing to the enormous expense, complex logistics, and sheer time and effort required to draw hundreds of thousands of people to a national march. If the whole purpose is to have a big party and pep rally on the Mall, fine; but let there be no illusion that it will overturn the HIV immigration ban, pass the Gay rights bill, legalize sodomy, or elect more Gay men and Lesbians to public office.

Instead of adopting a variety of other causes (such as protests against U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf War) about which large numbers of Gay people disagree; instead of politically correct posturing; instead of constantly bashing white male activists, the United States, capitalism, and everything else that looks remotely mainstream instead of all this, the leaders of the Gay rights movement in this country would do well to return their focus to advancing the cause of Gay rights. Now there's a radical notion.


Richard J. Rosendall is a past president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC. He can be reached at rrosendall@starpower.net.

Copyright 1991 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.