Last week, businessman Michael Flatt, who owns a gay bar in downtown Louisville, posted a picture to his Facebook page that compared President Barack Obama to a chimpanzee. The photograph showed former President Ronald Reagan feeding a chimp and a caption that said it was the former president babysitting Mr. Obama in the early 1960s.
A boycott was organized, but Flatt has since apologized for posting the picture. Now, leaders with both groups have agreed to have a discussion with Flatt this Friday outside of his bar.
Fairness Campaign board member Jaison Gardner says highlighting racism within the LGBT community has caused a backlash from Flatt’s supporters, but the conversation is necessary given African-Americans’ role in the movement.
“Black folks and brown folks have always been a part of this movement and so it’s never okay to hold us to the fire for bringing up issues of racism when we’re a part of this community and we’ve led these fights in many regards. And so, it’s very much a part of our mission,” he says.
In a statement, Flatt says he made a mistake and that he is not a racist despite how people may react to the picture.
Gay rights advocates have asked for a “Diversity Night” to be hosted at Tryangles bar, which Flatt owns, to celebrate the entire LGBT community. Flatt’s business management has reportedly agreed to work with the organizations to host the proposed event in April.
Since the controversy erupted, however, several of Flatt’s supporters said it was a joke and that activists were playing the “race card” to drum up media attention. The incident has sparked a conversation about division within the city’s LGBT community and how to mend those fences.
“There is no room for racism, anti-Semitism, or other forms of ethnic and racial hatred in our community,” says KGBPA President Tan Walker. “Education and awareness about discrimination are very important because it very much still exists. It is still real here in our city, and we do not want to become complacent with it.”
Gardner says he wasn’t surprised about the posting because the city’s gay community isn’t comfortable dealing with race.
“As a member of the LGBT community, as someone who has fought along side on many issues facing our community it’s disappointing when you are discriminated against or when you’re oppressed by members of your own community,” he says.
Listen to the full interview with Gardner and KGBPA founder Tanya Couch here.