“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence,”— Frederick Douglass
Venerable African American scholar Douglass is offering an iconic counsel on the true measure of leadership that may not be popular, but one that is willing to tackle issues head-on even at the expense of their own fortunes.
Douglass went on to say, “A man’s character always takes its hue, more or less, from the form and color of things about him.”
I strongly urge that Detroit City Council candidate Charles Pugh to heed the wise words from a man whose work on the greater questions of justice and equality have helped to inform the Black struggle for more than a century.
In other words, Pugh should confront the elephant in the room and be bold about it and seeing it as a teachable moment for Detroit and the wider community.
Something is wrong if the candidate who espouses and exemplifies the struggle for gay rights is not willing to make it a campaign issue to liberate others who share the same sexual orientation but are afraid to come out publicly.
Despite the conspicuous silence on the campaign trail about the issue, the streets are talking and the conversations are taking place in living rooms as Pugh is set to become the first openly gay president of the Detroit City Council.
And when that happens, Detroit will make history.
In a barbershop style dialogue I had with a Detroit businessman who was adamantly but secretly opposed to Pugh’s candidacy, I discovered a deep resentment among some about other people’s sexual orientations.
Everyone should have the right to their sexual preference and we cannot legislate or try to impose on individuals what kinds of lives they ought to live.
The Bible-touting and cassock wearing men and women always say that Detroit is a God city because of its religious tradition, and not the number of churches that are on every street corner, some located near the tranquilizing liquor stores.
No one would dispute the strong religious tradition in Detroit that has for long spoken to the issues of economic and social justice for African Americans.
But we cannot also forget that this city ought to be a free society where there is tolerance regardless of whether we approve of the lifestyles of others or not.
If a particular religion dictates a certain kind of lifestyle/sexual choice for those who subscribe to that faith, it ought to be between that individual and their faith. That is why I believe that faith is a personal matter.
I keep my faith to myself.
I am not interested in dangling what church I go to or engaging in a verbal competition about the church that has the most enriching spiritual experience.
Faith is strictly a personal experience for me.
Likewise, Pugh should be judged on the merits of his campaign, his understanding of local government and whether that, in fact, translates into meaningful change, and not his sexual orientation.
But just like President Obama was forced to deal with race and racism at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia during the 2008 presidential campaign because of the Jeremiah Wright crucifixion, I believe Pugh, should have addressed the issue of homophobia and gay rights.