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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 7, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 31
Homophobia is like racism, Obama says
Section One
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Homophobia is like racism, Obama says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Homophobia comes from the same exclusionary mindset as racism, President Obama told a meeting of young African leaders August 3.

President Obama spoke at a three-day summit of the Young African Leaders Initiative in Washington, D.C. The president recently returned from a visit to Africa, where he also challenged homophobia.

A question from a Kenyan participant set the stage for Obama's remarks.

Noting that in her country, Kenya, people with albinism were often murdered so their body parts could be used in magical rituals, she asked Obama to comment on the situation.

The president condemned the killings and then continued, 'The same, by the way, is true for sexual orientation.'

'I spoke about this in Africa,' Obama said, 'and everybody is like, oh, oh, we don't want to hear that. But the truth of the matter is, is that if you're treating people differently just because of who they love and who they are, then there's a connection between that mindset and the mindset that led to racism, and the mindset that leads to ethnic conflict. It means that you're not able to see somebody else as a human being.'

Obama then compared the oppression of Africans and African-Americans by European colonialists to the oppression of LGBT people in some countries.

'You can't, on the one hand, complain when somebody else does that to you, and then you're doing it to somebody else,' Obama said.

'You can't do it. There's got to be some consistency to how you think about these issues. And that's going to be up to young people - because old people get stuck in their ways.'

During his visit to his father's homeland of Kenya, Obama clashed publicly with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta over the issue of LGBT rights.

'When you start treating people differently not because of any harm they are doing to anybody, but because they are different, that's the path whereby freedoms begin to erode,' Obama said at a July press conference, with Kenyatta standing by and looking annoyed. 'And bad things happen.'

Under Kenyan law, sexual activity between men is illegal and punishable with a maximum imprisonment of 14 years. In 2010 rumors of an impending same-sex marriage in the resort town of Mtwapa led to a week of rioting during which Gay men were attacked on the streets and an AIDS clinic was burned down.

Kenyan leaders had urged Obama not to bring up Gay rights on his trip, but Obama very publicly equated legalized discrimination against the LGBT community to legalized racism in America.

'And when a government gets in a habit of people treating people differently, those habits can spread,' Obama said. 'As an African-American, I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently under the law.'

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