Speaking in Washington, D.C., as part of a three-day summit for the Young African Leadership Initiative, President Barack Obama used a question about anti-albino violence in Kenya to address the widespread and deeply entrenched homophobia in many African societies.
After saying that violence against people based on their skin color needs to stop, he went on to add:
“The same, by the way, is true for sexual orientation. I spoke about this in Africa, 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.”
He then said, alluding to the long history of imperialism and oppression in Africa by European powers:
“You can’t, on the one hand, complain when somebody else does that to you, and then you’re doing it to somebody else. 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.”
The remarks come after President Obama challenged his African counterparts to move progress on LGBT issues on a visit to Kenya, Ethiopia, and the African Union.
In response, Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, said:
“And this really is a hallmark of President Obama’s approach – lifting up voices and communities, challenging all of us to see the humanity in others and to recognize the human rights we all share.”