Wednesday, April 21, 2010

BAR: Kevin Jennings,
Safe-Schools Czar, Falls Short

Back in early December, I blogged about Kevin Jennings, longtime leader on gay kids and schools issues, and as is my habit, I posed a pointed question. In the larger context of tremendous silence from him, I wrote:

He was appointed to that job in early May, and while the right has used him as punching bag for homo-hatred, the left, including Gay Inc orgs, has come to his defense but his supporters have failed to disseminate facts about what he's accomplished in six months on the job.

What measurable goals has he met that are helping students, both gay and straight? [...]

I also raised the possibility that he got his federal position, in part, due to his good standing as a gay Democrat, one with a few bucks to throw into campaign coffers:

In his last year at GLSEN, Jennings earned a whopping $273,574 salary. During 2007, his pay was $255,448, and for 2006 he was compensated $175,000. Over those years, his total compensation came to $704,022.

That kind of salary allowed him to donate $26,300 to Democratic Party candidates and committees since 1998, according to FEC records. Included in that amount is the $6,500 he's given to Obama. [...]

For my troubles, I received an angry note from Steve Hildebrand, the wonder gay for the Barack Obama for President campaign:

When the hell are you going to shut the fuck up? Why don’t you start supporting gay activists instead of questioning people’s integrity all the time? Kevin Jennings is an incredibly honorable, qualified individual – and yes, Michael, he worked very hard during the 2008 campaign.

I’m not sure who appointed you to be the gay police. But if you want to help advance gay rights, I’d hope you would start supporting gay leaders who do this work honorably. If you have real proof that people are acting inappropriately, unethically or improperly I do hope you will point those things out. But unless you have some kind of proof, I wish you would stop questioning people’s actions and motives based solely on your own angry agenda. [...]

Jeez, what would I have to be angry about, after more than thirty years of watching, and waiting, for good gay Democratic Party stalwarts like Jennings and Joe Solmonese and Hildebrand and too many others to name, to finally get their damn friends in elected office to enact pro-gay laws and repeal the discriminatory ones?

Since Hildebrand obviously didn't get my memo that I alone appointed myself to be the gay police, or, at least one cop on the Gay Inc accountability beat, I'll clue him into something a long time ago: I'm not impressed with the like of him or Jennings, and they cannot automatically count on my support.

That being said, fast forward to Thursday's Bay Area Reporter and the highly critical editorial by Cynthia Laird, echoing my questions from five months ago:

After almost a year in the position, however, we're skeptical that Jennings, the founder of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network and a former teacher, is up to the task.

Our unease is bolstered by the fact that Jennings has yet to give an interview to the LGBT press; [...] Since April 2009, several young students have committed suicide because they were harassed and bullied by classmates, but Jennings has not been seen (or heard) on this issue, arguably one of the most critical for safer schools, which is the primary focus of his job. [...]

This is where Jennings should enter the picture and his silence – as well as the silence from the Education Department in general – is deafening. We haven't heard one comment from him about these cases of youth suicides or of the bullying that is reportedly to blame for the deaths. [...]

Great BAR editorial, so far, but there is one very troubling passage in it that is simply not true:

Just as striking as Jennings's silence is the complicity of the LGBT community. This includes executives at the national LGBT organizations, as well as the LGBT bloggers who routinely criticize them. Progressive bloggers have been extremely critical of the country's largest LGBT organization, but they haven't questioned whether the openly gay people in the administration are effective. Instead, they rant about the anti-gay attacks on Jennings, which is a fair point; but why not go beyond the standard response – and taking the bait dished out by the right – and ask what the heck is Jennings doing? [...]

As I've shown with citing my December 2009 post asking that very question of Jenning, I was not part of the complicity Laird and the BAR say exists. My voice was the lone critical voice, questioning again the lack of accomplishment of a Democratic gay leader, and my thick skinned rebuffed Hildebrand's browbeating. Silence was not my m.o. on Jennings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So, what exactly was Hildebrand saying that Jennings has accomplished?