- The Washington Times - Friday, May 20, 2016

A civil rights activist who famously sat down at a race-segregated diner countertop says the comparison between racial equality and transgender bathroom access is ludicrous.

Writing in the opinion pages of the Charlotte Observer on Thursday, Clarence Henderson denounced U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch for making the comparison while announcing a lawsuit against North Carolina last week, challenging state law HB2, which regulates bathroom use on the basis of biological sex.

“Let us be clear: HB2 cannot be compared to the injustice of Jim Crow,” Mr. Henderson wrote. “In fact, it is insulting to liken African Americans’ continuing struggle for equality in America to the liberals’ attempt to alter society’s accepted norms.”

Mr. Henderson noted that civil rights activists routinely “stared down the nozzle of firehoses, felt the piercing bite of police dogs, dangled from trees after being strung up by an angry mob, all because of the color of our skin.”

“All of this and more took place after enduring 400 years of arguably the most heinous crime in history — slavery,” he wrote.

Mr. Henderson said there’s no comparison between the suffering of black Americans and the transgender community.

“In comparison, transgender individuals do not have to fight dogs, can shop anywhere and can use any water fountain,” Mr. Henderson wrote. “They are free to work, shop and ride the bus. And to my knowledge, they have not experienced 400 years of slavery and the ongoing fight for parity 151 years after emancipation.”

Mr. Henderson said the Obama administration’s pivot on the issue of transgender rights is an “obvious attempt to elicit an emotional response” in the 2016 presidential race, citing “lukewarm support for the supposed Democratic presidential candidate” Hillary Clinton.

“Throughout my life, I have noticed that even smart people say dumb things,” he concluded. “And you, Ms. Lynch, have once again proven me right. Well done.”

Mr. Henderson was one of four North Carolina A&T State University students who sat down at the racially segregated countertop at Greensboro Woolworth’s diner in 1960, sparking the civil rights movement and the quest to end segregation.

The Charlotte Observer last week ran an editorial defending President Obama’s mandate that schools allow restroom and locker room access on the basis of gender identity, or risk losing federal education funding.

The newspaper’s editorial board said girls must “overcome” the sight of “male genitalia” in locker rooms, should transgender laws be enacted, comparing their initial “discomfort” to white people being around black people in post-segregation America.

“This is what the Obama administration nudged the rest of the country toward Friday,” the editorial said. “Yes, the thought of male genitalia in girls’ locker rooms — and vice versa — might be distressing to some. But the battle for equality has always been in part about overcoming discomfort — with blacks sharing facilities, with gays sharing marriage — then realizing it was not nearly so awful as some people imagined.”

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