This month is the centenary of the birth of the great Bayard Rustin. I particularly liked Eric Lee’s appreciation, but some others I liked were: by Richard Kahlenberg, Matt Meyer, Michael Long, Bennett Singer,
Rustin’s list of achievements is long. So why don’t most Americans know about him? Rustin had three strikes against him. In the 1930s he had been a Communist, and in J. Edgar Hoover‘s America, that meant you were always a danger to the nation. In the 1940s he had been what some might call a “draft dodger.” He served two years in federal prison rather than fight in World War II, a stance that did not go down well with American Legions and other patriots during the Cold War. And, through all these decades, an era I describe to my students as “the worst time to be queer,” he was a gay man who refused to play it straight. At a time when every state had sodomy laws, when the federal government banned the employment of all homosexuals, and when police across America felt authorized to walk into gay bars and arrest everyone who was there, Rustin’s sexuality brought him no end of trouble.
All that is true of course. But it is interesting (and a great cause for celebration) that his gayness now seems to count for him rather than against him in the mainstream and liberal worlds. And while his 1930s Communism still counts against him in the viciously anti-Communist American mainstream, it counts for him in the liberal HuffPo world; his later anti-Communism has to be airbrushed out by the liberals who like him, and is one of the reasons that so many liberals do not keep his memory alive.
- Recognition Overdue for Bayard Rustin (3quarksdaily.com)
- Moment of Silence on Bayard Rustin’s 100th Birthday (griotcircle.wordpress.com)
- Recognition Overdue for Bayard Rustin (theroot.com)