If A=B and B=C but C is not equal to A, then… WTF?
Call me a pessimist. As overjoyed as I was to see Obama become our next president (sane! also black. but SANE!), a part of me held back from celebrating with as much abandon as I really wanted to. This is because another part of me, long-bruised and sore, was tensing up, readying itself for another blow. Because, I realized even before Obama won, latent racists everywhere were about to lose their shit. I’m not talking about the Klan, here; they’re actually handling the whole thing pretty well, all things considered. I’m talking about the very white people, and some of the PoC and other members of oppressed groups, who voted for Obama. Who, I suspect, are about to gleefully declare that racism is now dead — whereupon they will immediately say or do something stupidly racist.
Unfortunately, the first direction from which I’ve been hearing this shit-losing stupidity has been from a group with whom I have a great deal of sympathy, especially recently — LGBTQ opponents of California’s reprehensible Proposition 8: the ban on gay marriage. Now, I hate that Prop 8 passed. I agree with its opponents that Prop 8 enshrines bigotry into California’s code of laws, doesn’t threaten “traditional marriage” (whateverthefuck that is) one bit, does threaten several thousand existing gay marriages, and should never have gone to a vote in the first damn place — it’s never smart to let a majority determine the civil rights of a minority. If the 1965 Voting Rights Act had been put to a popular vote, do you think Obama could’ve won on Tuesday? Do you think he even could have run in a country where poll taxes, literacy tests, and beating the crap out of anybody brown who dared to vote was still allowed? Some things, like basic human rights, should never be subject to the whims of the mob. But Prop 8 was, and the mob passed it.
But to hear some of the Prop 8 opponents talk during the post-game analysis, that mob was decidedly dark-skinned:
To be sure, this is not the media’s fault. But its reticence on the uneven nature of American progress is strikingly naive and delusional, especially given the overwhelming–though not singularly determinative–role that African-Americans played in supporting Prop 8 and denying other Americans their civil rights. While seventy percent of self-identified gays and lesbians supported the first African-American presidential candidate (according to the exit poll reported by CNN), seventy percent of African American voters approved Prop 8, compared to 53% of Latino voters, 49% of white voters, and 49% of Asian voters.
That was Shaun Halper of the Huffington Post. Losing his shit. He isn’t the only one doing this, but I’ve decided to focus on his article because it’s the most obvious example of a trend. (Read the comments to see just how angry Prop 8 opponents are at black people right now.) Halper doesn’t even seem to see the problems inherent in his logic. For one thing, although he qualifies it, the “overwhelming” role that he ascribes to African-American voters is not so much. AfAms made up 10% of the CA electorate according to exit-poll estimates, in part because California allows early voting and that seems to favor PoC and poor voters, who have less flexibility in work schedules and fewer transportation options to get to the polls. Halper notes that 70% of that 10% — 7% of all voters, in other words — went Yes on 8. This does not equal “overwhelming”, at least not in my book.
For another thing, African Americans constitute only the third largest minority group in California. According to the US Census Bureau, they’re about 6% of the population. Asian Americans make up roughly double their numbers at 12%, and Latinas/os equal both of the previous two groups combined times two, at 36%. A slight majority of Asian Americans voted against Prop 8, as Halper points out, but a greater majority of Latinas/os voted for it. At possibly six times the number of AfAms at the polls, that Latino/a vote probably had a lot more to do with Prop 8 passing than the black vote did. Yet Halper saves his greatest ire for blacks.
Why? Why attack the 7%, instead of the other 93%? The margin by which Prop 8 passed was pretty slim, true, which means that every person who voted for it made a difference. And the AfAm vote might’ve carried the day if it had been oriented the other way, true. But the proportion of Californians aged 65 and older who voted yes was pretty high too (and also much larger than the pop of AfAms), and Halper isn’t excoriating old people. Ditto middle-class Californians, people who didn’t finish college, Mormons (and the Mormon church poured millions into getting Prop 8 passed, which probably had even more impact than that 7% of voters ever could), and probably a number of other demographic breakdown groups. So why does Halper point the finger mainly at black people?
It seems to be because Barack Obama identifies as black. Halper notes that LGBTQ voters supported Obama, and therefore he expected black voters to support No on Prop 8. But what does one have to do with the other? Halper seems to think the vote should have been a simple tit-for-tat on the sole basis of identity: if LGBTQs support AfAms, then AfAms should support LGBTQs, Q.E.D. But does Halper not realize the black guy never supported gay marriage in the first place? (Though he did also oppose Prop 8, note.) By voting for Obama, all those LGBTQ voters in essence supported a candidate who will make their struggle for marriage equality harder. (Granted, there was no better choice that had a chance.) So what did Halper expect? His whole “but we voted for you!!” reasoning makes no sense.
At least, it doesn’t until you realize that Halper’s rage is based on several erroneous assumptions. First, the notion that black people voted for Obama because he was black, not because they agreed with his policies. Also, the idea that white people who voted for Obama did so solely due to some kind of mass upwelling of white guilt — a kind of one-time “sorry ’bout that whole oppression thing” gesture. A favor, maybe. And thirdly, Halper assumes that black people are somehow inherently radical, pursuing an agenda far to the left of average (e.g., white) American politics. He must think this, if he believes a vote for Obama somehow represents a vote for liberal progressivism. I like Obama, but the man’s a centrist, no more progressive than Bill Clinton was (which is to say, not very). Why is Halper ascribing so much leftism to Obama and Obama’s black supporters? Because they’re black.
This is Republican thinking. It’s probably what caused the party to dismiss PoC in this election and instead target “real” Americans. It’s also racist thinking, in that it diminishes the complexity of the African-American community to something that can be bought and sold with a single simple coin — in this case the shiny golden-tan complexion of Obama, token of (apparently) white guilt and black radicalism. Given this thinking, it’s not surprising Halper is so angry. In his eyes, he and his fellow anti-Prop-8 activists dug deep to give us that coin, and all he wanted was a little change in return. (Change! Get it? Ha ha… okay, sorry.)
But more importantly, Halper’s thinking is just stupid thinking. If white guilt/generosity was the prime factor in electing a black president, Shirley Chisholm or Jesse Jackson would’ve done it decades ago. If black people simply wanted a black president, Alan Keyes would’ve done better in the Republican primary, and Cynthia McKinney would’ve won a greater percentage of Tuesday’s vote. And if the black community was as radically left as the Republicans would have us all think, I think most of us would’ve scorned the centrist Obama.
And the stupidest assumption underlying all this stupid thinking? The notion that LGBTQs = white.
Now, let’s pause here to consider that last point.
Whether you subscribe to the 10% theory or not, it should be blatantly obvious to anyone who actually interacts with it that the LGBTQ population is as racially diverse as, well, the human population. Certain cultures may do a harsher job of suppressing overt self-identification as such, but everybody knows they’re out there. Some of that diversity showed in the marketing campaign used by the Prop 8 opponents — though not much, from what I saw. Frankly, between those ads and the characterizations of people like Halper, which pit LGBTQs against PoCs as if the two are diametrically opposed, I get the distinct impression that LGBTQs are mostly white and well-off. Again, I’m aware that this characterization is false. LGBTQ couples in CA actually earn less household income than straight couples. But what we’re dealing with here is perception vs. reality.
Halper and others who are jumping on the blame-the-brown-people bandwagon seem to be ascribing the problem to religion, and subsets within the black community which have historically been “culturally anti-gay”, such as Caribbean Americans. I don’t disagree that this is part of the problem. Black churches have fallen prey to the same political manipulation as white evangelical churches in the past 30 or so years, and as a result they’ve become a lot less Christianlike in their acceptance of gay people than they used to be. (The political manipulation of churches is a rant for a different day, but I highly recommend David Kuo’s Tempting Faith on this subject.) But I think Halper is overlooking another part of the problem, in part because he’s perpetuating it. He didn’t start it; LGBTQs have been positioned as the antithesis of AfAms for a long time now, by many within both communities. Unfortunately this becomes a problem when, as the No on Prop 8 people did, gay marriage is presented as a civil rights issue.
It is. I want to emphasize this: it is. But it isn’t the same as the civil rights issues that have long been the focus of African American efforts, and I think many (white) gay-rights activists fail to recognize the nuances. It’s important to remember that the right to marry whom one wanted — racially at least, per Loving vs. Virginia, the case often cited by gay marriage advocates — was never a significant concern of the Civil Rights Movement. That right was fought for in the courts, not the streets, and by predominantly-white organizations such as the ACLU. It’s not clear whether there was ever popular support for interracial marriage within the black community — most AfAms still marry other AfAms, after all, and even now there’s a ton of ambivalence in the community about whether interracial marriage is a good thing. So back then, civil rights leaders understandably chose to focus their energies on more clear and present dangers such as the right to vote, the right to a decent education and livelihood, and the right to not be killed with impunity for stepping above one’s station.
So I have to wonder why the No on 8 people chose to present this as a parallel of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. To my mind, this helped trivialize their desire to marry, particularly among older blacks who remember when being able to marry white people was the least of their worries.
Let me tell you — when I talk with my parents about this issue, they get pretty vehement. Not about the immorality of alternate lifestyles — neither of them really cares about that — but about the arrogance and gall of LGBTs for “riding on the coattails” of the black civil rights struggle. Keep in mind that people of my parents’ generation have witnessed other groups do the same thing and benefit from it: c.f. white women, who were the primary beneficiaries of Affirmative Action, and Asian immigrants who arrived after the 1965 Immigration Act, many of whom were praised as a “model minority” and thus used in an attempt to bludgeon other PoC (including unsuccessful/activist Asian Americans) into silence on issues of racism. In my parents’ lifetimes and in their respective cities — Mom lives in the Deep South, Dad’s in NYC — black and Latina/o neighborhoods have deteriorated or gentrified since the Civil Rights movement, while gay neighborhoods now thrive. And of course, they’ve seen people like Halper equate “gay” with “white” for years. So is it any wonder that now they shake their heads at yet another group of white people (e.g., poor whites, white women) who seem to forget that white privilege still benefits them, however much their other identities suffer oppression?
So although it’s clear to me, as a younger African American who grew up post Jim Crow, that what LGBTQs want is only fair and right, I’m not carrying around all this baggage. Given that so many African Americans are, I think it’s foolish for gay rights activists like Halper to frame things the way they have: us vs. them, white vs. black, our marriages vs. your struggle for survival, No on Prop 8 vs. an Obama vote. Not only is this strategy divisive and wrong, we’ve seen now that it’s just plain unsuccessful. Time to try a new tactic.
Now. All that said.
I’m angry with and ashamed of black Californians right now because of that 70% vote. There is a problem with homophobia in our community, and that has nothing to do with stupid tactics on the part of gay rights activists — or manipulation on the part of Mormons, Republicans, etc. The plain fact of the matter is that we need to recognize the divide-and-conquer strategy when we see it, and we need to start treating other groups of oppressed people as allies, not as upstarts come to bask undeserved in our Civil Rights glory. We don’t have to like those other groups, or approve of what they do, but we need to acknowledge unfairness and fight injustice when we see it. This crabs-in-a-barrel syndrome needs to stop.
Nor do I mean to deny the very real anger GLBTs must be feeling right now towards everyone who voted for that dumbass law. I’d be mad too in Halper’s position, and I’d be looking for someone to blame. All I’m saying is that I’d blame 100% of the people that voted for Prop 8, not 7% of them. And I would try to understand why that group voted as it did, rather than simply dismissing them en masse as ungrateful, culturally-flawed wretches. That’s an oversimplification bordering on stereotype. And it sure as hell does nothing to solve the problem, so that the black community will vote more favorably the next time Prop 8 is challenged.
Because I’m sure there will be a next time. And when that time comes, I believe Prop 8 will fall, because it’s discriminatory and I believe — I hope — that the politics of hate and fear are finally on the wane in this country. To Shaun Jacob Halper and others who feel as he does: I will work to help make this happen in spite of you, because I think your cause is right even if your strategy is wrong. Hopefully one day you’ll feel the same way.
ETA: Other people are talking about this. There’s a good roundup of links here.
Daughter of ETA: Uh, and I fixed Shaun Jacob Halper’s name. Sorry, that’s what happens when you drink and blog.
63 thoughts on “If A=B and B=C but C is not equal to A, then… WTF?”
Most of what you wrote, I’d never even though of, but I agree completely. I definitely feel a twinge of upset deep down when I read/hear someone compare gay marriage to the civil rights movement, because it trivializes what blacks went through. There are similarities, yes, and this is a basic humans rights issue, yes – but the struggles is very, very different and incomparable.
Still though – I too am angry about it – mainly because of the homophobia that plagues our culture maybe even more so than others. That, and the obsessive “You need Jesus.” definitely overwhelmed the black vote. I wish they could see past that and realize that no matter what they feel themselves – they have no right to make determinations on the lives of others.
I hope the legal actions being taken can stop it, and I hope something can be done about the passings in Florida and Arkansas as well.
Speaking as a Q, I’m dismayed at fellow Qs that fall for this blame the other garbage, especially as these same white rich male gays (they always seem to be the ones) are so quick to do what they blame blacks of doing which is aligning with the oppressors to take an easy shot at an oppressed minority. There is so much wrong with Prop 8, but we should never take our eyes of the real enemy, the rich white male conservative christians who put it on the ballot, funded the lying ads, and played these divisive games to prevent secular marriage in the Churches.
There is a problem with homophobia in Black churches, based often around the idea of emasculation of the black man, and there are direct and obvious parallels between this struggle and the struggle for civil rights for every minority, but we will never be able to make that obvious if our rich white male gays decide it’d be easier to blame the blacks than use that frustration for constructive means.
Besides, if the rich white male gays are so dismayed at the blacks, maybe they should have funded a few more ads that really pointed out that the same groups denying the personhood of gays are the same damn churches that have consistently denied the personhood of blacks. I mean, hello, mormons?
I disagree. We have our lynched (Day of Rememberence), we have our Freedom Marches (Stonewall), we have our denial of personhood, a white belief that we are dangerous to their property/family (black men will rape womenfolk, gay men will hit on me in bars fears leading to death and hatred of both).
There are, true, very important differences, only black homosexuals were kept as slaves, and only black or female homosexuals were ever disenfranchised and neither because of their homosexuality. Homosexuals also can claim specific oppression during the Holocaust in similarity to the Jews and placement in mental institutions for being open like feminists.
But the basic struggle is comparable in many ways and the main enemies are certainly the same damn white folks.
OMG, YES! It’s so frustrating to keep hearing these idiots. Thanks for writing this!
Eloquent, thoughtful, and well-argued! Thank you for an excellent post.
I’ve been baffled by this number argument — yeah, 70% against is bad, but it’s not THAT much worse than 49% against. NO racial category came out looking particularly pro-gay. It should be a sign of groups to reach out to, not a sign of “well, they’re hopeless, and they ruined our lives!”
Fingers crossed for the future.
It seems to me that the finger-pointing at African American “Yes” voters is just another instance of singling out people who aren’t supposed to count. Usually, this happens when Democrats win office — you can usually count on some idiot pundit to point out that without the African-American vote, the Democrat would have lost, as if to somehow delegitimize the victory. George W. Bush would never have been elected president if white males didn’t vote, but you never hear it put in those terms.
Similarly, as you said, lots of demographics voted Yes on Prop 8, including older voters, white males, and (I’m guessing, but it seems safe) people who go to church at least once a week. But it’s taken for granted that those people have a legitimate say in what happens in our country, so you don’t hear “well, if they hadn’t turned out, we would have won.”
Great post! I just linked to it.
I do have one nit-pick, however — his name isn’t “Jacobs.” It’s “Halper.” (“Jacob” is his middle name, it looks like.)
D’OH!! I’m not sure how the heck I completely conjured up a different name for that guy. Thanks for noting it; I think I’ve fixed them all now.
but is it really “homophobia”? Is it fear? I dunno.
There is responsibility for everyone in this, but everyone doesn’t want to accept their part of it.
I can accept my part, but I, too, wasn’t outreached to to go into my churches and talk to people. I mean, a straight Christian woman would be a natural ally, right? So, how do we fix this?
While I agree that there is a lot of similarity between the gay civil rights movement and the black civil rights movement, I also agree with the author of this post that equating gay marriage with the whole of the black civil rights movement is neither accurate nor productive.
Getting gay marriage may be necessary for full equality, but it’s a second or third generation right, after things like not getting institutionalized or losing your job. Comparing marriage to getting the right to vote or anti-lynching laws trivializes the life-or -death stakes BOTH groups have played for at different times.
If you want to reach homophobic AfAm communities, compare gay marriage to some latter-stage struggle in the black civil rights movement. And educate people about some of the struggles of the early gay rights movement.
True, I think that for their part No on 8 realized the former with the Loving v Virginia, but that just made it seem trivial. I think you’re right about educating about the shared history and certainly about the shared enemy. If we in the queer community can share our lynched, especially those in the community (queer community should immediately be smacking themselves for attempts to alienate trans people given their disproportionate number among the recent lynched). I think it’s probably in our best interest to really relate to the general african american and mexican communities that the same people most strongly fighting against racial equality and trying to attack black masculinity are the ones leading the fight against queers.
Given that it is my article that you are unfairly critiquing, let me respond directly to you:
Given that you take my words out of context, I have to assume that you didn’t actually read my article in its entirety. You also fail to represent my actual argument. So let me just add the crucial lines that you forgot to quote:
I write IMMEDIATELY after the quote you cite: “But the failure to defeat Prop 8 does not lie with the Black community or any other minority. It is the gay community who has failed to build coalitions with other groups. Wake-up call to gay leadership: We must form institutional alliances with other minority communities and start supporting each others interests. We are not going to see these groups support our right to marry if we do not make an active effort to support them as well. ”
Also: “The Obama victory was undoubtedly historic and groundbreaking, but it has come at a price: the aggrandizement and intensification of hostility between Blacks and gays. The irony is as ugly as it is heartbreaking.”
I also write, in the quote you cite above, that the role of the Black vote was “not singularly determinative.”
I actually bemoan the tensions between these two minorities. Don’t use my piece as your example for unfair blame of the Black community.
I would recommend that your readers read my post and judge for themselves. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shaun-jacob-halper/why-some-americans-dont-h_b_141830.html
Thank you for this post.
It’s a setback, it’s not permenant! keep on pushing, legistlation can be repealed and expunged. I am a straight black woman, and feel that everyone should have the same rights. Yes i am a practising christian, but that does not stop me from supporting your cause anyone who disagrees is a prize idiot!
How many slave uprsings were there before emancipation? even when slaves were killed and crushed, did they ever think that they should stop? let bigots try and dehumanise you, it will feel all the sweeter when you get section 8 overturned. believe it you will. all the best from england, come over here and get married, we can all do it over here. it’s terrible that you can’t do that in your own backyard though.
“And the stupidest assumption underlying all this stupid thinking? The notion that LGBTQs = white.”
YES. This has been a problem in LGBTQ organizing from the get-go – when white Qs see Q issues as centered on white existence, then it’s really easy to assume the people of color are 1) straight and 2) homophobic.
I’m really having trouble seeing how the blame can be targeted anywhere other than at the Mormon Church for funding this travesty…
Just to say that quite a lot of us in the queer community are *furious* at the racism we’ve seen. There has been a lot of backlash on the web today and lots of people posting proper analysis of the stats.
see here: http://bcholmes.livejournal.com/420826.html
No mention that some of the whitest counties in Southern California were the top three vote getters in support of 8. Alas, that’s where the biggest celebrations are going on right now.
A lot of emotion and still some shock in California b/c I think that many people were shocked that it passed because earlier on, the polls were more favorable but that’s the danger in California because the opposition puts their advertising on blast the last month or so and that’s what caused the polls to slip against it all the way up to the election day. Actually, a similar strategy was used to defeat a strong reform initiative for the state’s three-strikes law.
And I think there should have been more outreach by the GLBT communities in support of the efforts that their members who are members of these communities that include Black, Latino and/or older-generation folks. They didn’t have to lead the charge and shouldn’t but when their members who belong to these communities needed their support to do their work, they should have been there right alongside them.
I was at an event and spoke with some gays and lesbians who are Black and Latino who did do a lot of organizing on their own against 8 and outreach (and I think they were successful in some respects) and are caught in the middle of all this. Being marginalized by different communities but still trying hard is very difficult. Organizing beginning the next day after 8 failed to do the work within their communities that they feel is the next step. And not really getting much assistance or support from the larger GLBT communities. This organization within communities done by these individuals and groups has very little mention in the MSM.
Thanks for responding, and welcome to ABW. And thanks for linking your article again, although it is actually linked in the text of my post. The link is right below the quoted material, if you missed it.
I’m glad that you did acknowledge the need for coalition-building, and I did note that you qualified yourself on the notion of blacks being primarily responsible for the passage of Prop 8. But the fact remains — the only group you singled out for repeated mention in your article was African Americans. This automatically places a heavy degree of emphasis on that demographic group’s role in the passage of Prop 8, as I’m sure you must realize. Especially when you choose to mention blacks rather than the (six times larger) Latina/o vote. Or the (three times larger) 65+ vote. Or the (who knows how big) middle class vote.
As far as I can tell, you singled out African Americans for discussion because AfAms have struggled for civil rights themselves. This is logical, although it dismisses the civil rights struggles of Latina/os and Asian Americans. But then you started harping on the fact that the black voters in California were there to vote for Obama. How does voting for Obama have anything whatsoever to do with civil rights? I suppose this connection makes sense if you assume that those black voters turned out to vote for a black man, any black man. But what the vote on Prop 8 reveals is that those black people were there to vote for a presidential candidate whose platform they agreed with, who just happened to be black.
This seems to have surprised you, given how you focused on the black vote in your article. Which is the point of my article, if you’ve read the whole thing. (It’s long-winded and rambly, I know.) It should not have surprised you. I think what happened is that you ascribed to the politics of race as framed by white conservatives, and those politics failed you — as they failed the Republicans on Tuesday. As, sadly, they may have failed the No on Prop 8 supporters.
So I wish you’d speak to that rather than complaining that I’ve mischaracterized you, because I believe these kinds of assumptions on the part of gay marriage supporters help to exacerbate the tensions that you bemoan. The way to eliminate those tensions is to confront these assumptions, on both sides, so that the two groups — (non-gay) blacks and (white) GLBTQs — can start to understand each other. So I’m sorry that you feel I’m “unfairly” criticizing your article, but IMO there’s nothing unfair about it. These conversations need to happen.
Thank you for correcting your egregious error of charging me with blaming the Black community for Prop 8, which I do not.
Now, let me answer some of your charges, which are based on a flawed reading of my article. In general, let me say, you are happy to read assumptions into my words that I am not making. I will make a few comments, but I think my part of this conversation will have to end here. Thank you for taking the time to read my article and discuss it.
First, why did I mention the Black community? Yes, other minorities, demographic groups, and (of course) white voters in general are also complicit in the passing of Prop 8. I admit as much in my article. This isn’t news. What is news and what is surprising is that the Black community voted overwhelmingly (70%) in favor of Prop 8 at rates disproportionate to the rates within other minorities and the general population. This is a significant statistic for those interested in gay rights.
Second, why mention that gays voted 70% for Obama? This is not a “tit-for-tat” observation, as you would have it. I did not argue (as you suggest) that Blacks should have voted against prop 8 because gays voted for Obama. The fact that the gay community overwhelmingly supported Obama does indicate, at the very least, that race did not get in the way of the LGBT community’s support for Obama. That’s not to say that some in the LGBT community aren’t racist: there certainly are racists among us too. On the other hand, Blacks clearly have privileged homophobia and/or religious concerns in their stance vis-a-vis Prop 8. This is a fact. I’m sorry if it’s hard for you to acknowledge, but opposition to gay rights is only based on either of these two things. That doesn’t mean that all Blacks are homophobic or that the passing of Prop 8 was do to Blacks. What it does mean is exactly what the statistic demonstrates and nothing more. I bemoan the fact that a statistic like this will inflame hatreds between these groups.
This is not a blame game. My larger point was to point out this disturbing statistic so that we can change it through my suggestion that gays make alliances with the Black community to mitigate this problem.
Third, did I assume that the gay community was white? No, I did not. Again, you are reading this in. I did not address the question of the Black community’s relationship to its own within the gay community. Whether or not I explicitly mention that I am quite aware of this fact, my argument remains the same. The vast majority of Blacks who voted on the proposition voted against it. The fact that Black gays also suffered is just further evidence of how bewilderingly contradictory such a level of opposition to gay marriage among non-LGBT Blacks is to both their History and their own interests.
Finally, you write of your parents’ anger “about the arrogance and gall of LGBTs for “riding on the coattails” of the black civil rights struggle.” But then you argue that, “we need to recognize the divide-and-conquer strategy when we see it, and we need to start treating other groups of oppressed people as allies, not as upstarts come to bask undeserved in our Civil Rights glory.” So tell me, given that, as you admit, many Blacks resent any comparison between the fight for gay rights and Black Civil rights, how do you propose that “we start treating other oppressed people as allies?” It seems to me that since the GLBT community sees its struggle as within a tradition of forcing the USA to live up to its promise of individual liberty (including the Civil Rights movement), but the Black community does NOT see it this way, that the problem resides with the Blacks and not with the gays. Regardless, acknowledging that gays have problems with specific constituencies, without blaming those communities, is not “stupid thinking” it’s strategic.
Sorry, in my penultimate paragraph I wrote “The vast majority of Blacks who voted on the proposition voted against it.” I should have said “in favor of it.” Mea culpa.
Not mention. My point is that you singled us out. You “mentioned” Latina/os in the paragraph I cited, tossing out their stats in passing and then moving on. But with the black stats you paused and lingered. The Latina/o vote favored Prop 8 too, and was far more damaging given the numbers involved, but that didn’t seem to bother you half as much as the black vote. That’s the one that hurt.
It’s that air of aggrieved hurt in your OP that I’m responding to; that sense of shock and anger that speaks of entitlement thwarted. It seems to me that you expected more of black people than you did of anyone else, and you believed you were owed their support. I may well be misinterpreting; please feel free to correct me if so. But this is what I’m questioning.
Pulling out these two items to illustrate my main point again.
You ask how do you start treating black people as allies, which I think is a constructive and wise question to ask. But you need to ask it of the right people. I can’t answer it — I’m black but not religious or homophobic, so I don’t get how “those people” think either. I also don’t resent the comparison between gay marriage and African American Civil Rights-Era struggles, maybe because both issues are academic for me. I think it’s a problematic comparison, as I explain in my post, but I understand why the GLBTQ community would use it.
So I think it might be helpful to start by listening to the people whose votes you want, and trying to understand their objections, rather than simply assuming you already know. For example, in the blockquote above, the first half, you state unequivocally and absolutely that het privilege/homophobia and religion are the reasons for black resistance to gay marriage. These are the “only” reasons, you say; there can be nothing else.
To which I say, bullshit. I’m a gay marriage supporter and I find your arrogant declaration annoying; imagine how an opponent or an undecided person might view your statement? I’ll tell you how: they would see you as just another arrogant white man demanding that the world bend itself to his wishes. Whether you’re gay or not wouldn’t matter; it’s the entitlement they’d react to. It triggers a specific set of responses that have become deeply ingrained in the years since the Civil Rights movement: fight back. Don’t budge. Don’t give the white people what they want. Let them see how it feels.
I have no idea how many black people feel this way, or how much of a factor it is — but I know that it’s a factor for some of us. You can dismiss that explanation if you want, but I think that’s a mistake to do so. You don’t know these people; that’s obvious from everything you’ve said thus far. You don’t know what motivates them, although you clearly think you know. After all, everybody thinks it’s fear and faith that motivated the white supporters of Prop 8, so you’re suggesting that black motivations are no different. Yet as you point out, the proportion of blacks who opposed 8 was much higher than among whites. Does this not suggest a fundamental difference in the two groups — white pro-8ers and black pro-8ers? They may both oppose gay marriage, but to me the different voting patterns suggest that they oppose it for different reasons.
It’s easy to dumb it down to fear and faith, but I’m not sure it’s right.
I think you realize that too, which is why your article focused so much on the black vote. It’s the one that frustrates you most, because you cannot figure it out. Hispanics are heavily Catholic and recent immigrants from traditionally anti-gay cultures; they’re easy. And nobody cares what the Native Americans think. (I’ve been looking for stats on them all day; it’s really amazing how there’s nothing.) Arab Americans? Jewish people? Pshaw. But those black people, man — everybody thought they’d be easy. And they’re not. And it’s driving everybody apeshit, because it’s scary to have a bunch of people that you don’t understand voting on something that’s so important to you.
But here’s the thing. You can understand them. Why don’t you ask some black people who voted for Prop 8 why they did it? Why are you coming here, responding to a blog post which clearly opposes 8, and picking a fight with me? You don’t need me — I’m not even a Californian. But if I were, I’d’ve been in the 30% of blacks who opposed the measure. So why aren’t you spending your energy talking to the other 70%?
For the same reason the No on 8 people didn’t, I suspect — because it’s easier to make assumptions about people you don’t understand, than it is to actually try and understand them.
So. There are blogs out there which are peopled with black Prop 8 supporters. Some of them are hateblogs, and that’s a waste of your time. But some of them are communities where you can have a real discussion, if you don’t roll up like a typical arrogant entitled white person and start telling everyone they’re homophobic Jesus freaks. I would suggest that you go there and sincerely ask them what the problem is. For many it will be fear and faith, yes. But not all.
I would also suggest that you consult black and brown GLBTQ people, since they’ve spent their lives negotiating the two communities and probably know both better than anyone else. They may have some better suggestions as to how you can ally with blacks and Latino/as. As I read through the postgame analysis of the Prop 8 vote, it seems as though there were some within the No on 8 network who suggested outreach to black churches, but this idea was never pursued (although outreach to progressive white churches was attempted). That sounds insane to me, but it makes me wonder how many PoC there were within the No on 8 leadership, and whether their voices were heeded by the white members. It sounds like they weren’t. So that’s a place to start too.
“We don’t have to like those other groups, or approve of what they do, but we need to acknowledge unfairness and fight injustice when we see it”.
to some people “I don’t like it, but your allowed to do it” makes no sense.
We can’t separate justice from beliefs. In other words, what is just is what I believe in. Big problem. If I believe gods law is just, then guess what, justice IS gods laws, as far as I see it.
The above probably the most important sentence in your long piece. We need to see the difference between liking someone and what a civil right is. We need to understand HOW that is fair and WHY.
When someone says they think something about their morals is more important than unfairness, that matters. ALOT.
I wonder, what ever happened to the 20 other states that have bans on gay marriage and I wonder if conservative white Christians feel any solidarity with the blacks who voted “Yes on prop 8”. I wonder if the other groups who voted “yes on prop 8” feel any solidarity with blacks. I’m guessing not…..I’m guessing they are in hiding now with whats going on.
(and if it isn’t clear, I’m an black person in CT who is for gay civil rights)
Thank you, nojojojo. It’s really good to remember that our respective health, safeties, and happinesses aren’t–and shouldn’t be–a zero-sum game (though I do have a certain degree of ire toward the Mormon church right now).
One observation: you write that “It’s important to remember that the right to marry whom one wanted — racially at least, per Loving vs. Virginia, the case often cited by gay marriage advocates — was never a significant concern of the Civil Rights Movement. That right was fought for in the courts, not the streets, and by predominantly-white organizations such as the ACLU.” The arguments that No on 8 folks were making were better designed for the courts precisely because, as you suggest earlier, this issue should have been fought out in the courts or the legislature. And that’s where most of LGBTQIs’ recent battling *has* taken place– in court, supported by the ACLU.
Clearly, the ground game on same-sex marriage outside the courts isn’t enough right now to convince a majority of Californians to uphold legal marriage for same-sex spouses. It’s hard to read that there was one (belated) Spanish-language ad asking people to vote no on 8, after a deluge of Spanish-language ads in favor of Prop 8, without coming to the conclusion that No on 8 could have reached out better to Latin@ people. I’d like a better sense of how LGBTQIs can do more effective, less appropriative outreach in communities of color without placing all the efforts of that outreach on same-sex-loving POCs.
And nojojojo, in the time I was typing and retyping, I missed your 11:42 p.m. post– I know it’s not your job to educate me on how to do outreach, and you’ve given me plenty of good ideas above.
Ok, I couldn’t resist and respond one more time. I think the arguments you’ve made in your last response are much more reasoned and convincing than the original analysis. I am certainly not trying to pick a fight, but when you throw around accusations of racism, well…hey, it’s insulting and I felt the need to defend myself. Regardless, I found your last response a fairer critique, though I still disagree. Thanks, regardless.
Second, I think we agree much more than we disagree. There are still points I disagree with you about, but I think readers will can make up their mind for themselves given the nature of the statistical facts about Blacks in this election and the anomaly of those facts compared to other minorities.
Finally, I will take your point to engage more opponents of Prop 8 and listen to their opposition. I doubt I will come to a different conclusion, given that I HAVE been listening for many years both inside and outside the Black community. I’m certainly open to surprises. But just out of curiosity: could you or anyone else provide me with any arguments against gay marriage that don’t stem from either religious principles (sometimes masked as “nature” arguments) or homophobia? Is there any real secular argument against gay marriage?
Well I’m Black and I live in SF. I am hetero and I voted No on 8 but not because anyone actually tried to get my vote. I can assure you if I had had no prior relationships within the LGBTQ community I would have been very likely to have voted Yes on 8 and not because of homophobia or religion but because it was confusing AND the Yes on 8 campaign did an excellent job of presenting their side (however false) it may be. I wrote 3 blog posts on the reasons why it wasn’t an effective campaign and why it eventually failed. Feel free to read for some insight.
I liked this post but I still think of the Gay Rights Industrial Complex as one of white upper middle class people – mostly men – who use gay as a handicap when it suits them. After all who are the persons running your GLAADs, your HRCs and populate the majority of the boards? Can anyone give me the name of one Black person and other PoC who are actually in charge and not a prop?
I think folks use the term “homophobia” way too much.
I also agree with Faith that outreach was negligible to certain communities.
I want to know who the Black GLAAD and HRC people are, too, so I can offer my services. It’s time to move on to solutions and building coalitions that want to work together.
As soon as that poll came out, I knew where this would end up.
I’ve pointed out that the numbers are based on a single, flawed poll, and been accused of “abusing math” and “denying the obvious”.
I’ve mentioned the ways in which the No on 8 campaign could have done a better job, both at outreach to communities of color, and in general (most ads against 8 never even mentioned the words gay or lesbian, and hardly any showed same-sex couples), and been told that I shouldn’t blame the victims.
I’ve said over and over that pointing fingers is useless, but all some people want to do is complain about how black people are the most homophobic group in the country.
And the result? I decided not to attend the protest at the state capitol today, because I was afraid of what might happen. I no longer feel safe in a large group of my so-called queer brothers and sisters if they’re mostly white–this despite the fact that November 5 was my 2-month anniversary, and I have no idea what the legal status of my marriage is now.
Andrew Sullivan and Dan Savage and friends can keep blaming the brown people if it makes them feel better. This black dyke is through.
Agreement and applause!
I know that I was the first person to comment on those numbers at the election party I was at, but that was mostly because I worked on the No on 8 campaign and was realizing that we had clearly not done as well on POC outreach as I thought we had. Those numbers show that *we* screwed up more than anything else.
But my (mostly straight white) friends decided that my comment meant that they could just blame the brown folks for the loss and move on. Because the brown queer girl said so, right? Ummm, no. Not what I said at all.
I’m furious that this is being used as a scapegoat and way to avoid looking at what us LGBTQ folks still have to make clear. Queer does not equal white. And homophobic bigot does not equal POC.
That’s the most terrible outcome of all this that I can think of.
Since the poll came out, or more accurately since the protests began, I’ve been hearing black people talking about it. There’s a real sense of shame out there — not just among the ones who would’ve supported gay marriage in the first place, but those who were ambivalent too. I think the protests, and the anger, are ringing a familiar note with them. They can *see* the people who’ve been hurt by this, and I think there’s an opportunity now to start some dialogues.
But instead I’m seeing racist comments, threats of violence, and rage all out of proportion to the vote or black people’s role in it. I’m afraid the opportunity will be squandered.
But worst of all, you’re not the first brown GLBTQ person I’ve heard begin to separate herself from the movement here. This is the most damaging aspect of all this — you need that support group, just as you need the support group of others of your ethnicity. Are there no places you can still go, groups you can still be part of, where you’ll feel safe?
So glad the hours I’ve spent on that post and responding to you haven’t been wasted.
Though I will point out one thing. I didn’t use the term “racist” in reference to the assumptions you made (both in your OP and in your next-to-last response), but that is what they were. That’s been my point all along: that people in the No on 8 network made assumptions about black people, racist assumptions, and thus avoided making any effort to bridge the gap there. That neglect — and the racism, which we can see, you realize — came back to bite them on the ass on Nov. 4. And now they’re making racist assumptions based on the exit-poll data that you and others have been talking about. They are indeed making up their minds for themselves, and among some of them (but thankfully not all), violence and racist insults are the result. Which is why it bugged me that you focused so much on the black vote in your article, to the exclusion of everything else. Did you not realize that when you do that — point to a minority group about which there is already so much misinformation and hate, and imply that they are the cause of new trouble — it’s irresponsible? A sentence or two qualifying that they’re not the sole cause of trouble doesn’t make up for the fact that they’re the only group you “called out”. Articles like this have triggered reactions like this. And reactions like Darkrose’s.
So rather than getting so upset because I said your words were racist, please recognize how much harm they’ve done, and maybe in the future consider that statistics are just numbers; they do not speak for themselves. In a contextual vacuum, people will ascribe all kinds of meaning to the numbers that may not necessarily be true. And in a racist context — such as a group which has failed to deal with its own racism — those “facts” will likely be interpreted in a racist way.
Lastly, I would like to point you toward Ampersand’s marvelous “How Not To Be Insane When Accused of Racism: A Guide for White People”, which I think might help you in the future.
As Halper pointed out, he doesn’t fault blacks. He faults the failures of the LGBT movement itself:
But the failure to defeat Prop 8 does not lie with the Black community or any other minority. It is the gay community who has failed to build coalitions with other groups. Wake-up call to gay leadership: We must form institutional alliances with other minority communities and start supporting each others interests. We are not going to see these groups support our right to marry if we do not make an active effort to support them as well.
Did you even bother to read to the end of his piece?
Nice “analysis”. *cough*
Thanks for adding zero to the conversation Nidhi. We always appreciate it when people roll up on a discussion that’s actually going somewhere and introduce snark in order to derail it. I tell you, that shit never, ever gets old.
On a separate note, Shaun, I don’t think you need to throw out mea culpa’s and excuses for coming over here and having said discussion. No one is trolling you or berating you, so why the trepidation? Just respond and be respectful and people will do the same for you. (as they have been)
Thank you for this posting. What a fragile society we are. I do believe (I have to) that prop 8 will get overturned, but I fear that folks will be licking their wounds over this for a long time.
I dropped by after seeing the link on Stuff White People Do. I gotta say, this post was definitely a breath of fresh air. I don’t live in California, but I’m a west-coast queer and was pretty depressed by the ballot measures that passed. Not just in California, but in Arkansas, Florida, and Arizona.
I think people were most surprised by the passing of Prop 8 because California is supposed to be so liberal. People tend to forget that it’s the same state that elected Arnold Schwarzzenger. Oy vey. Meanwhile, the other laws that have passed get ignored, despite that they’re the same bullshit.
Anyway, back on topic. It’s nice to see a response to Prop 8’s passing that wasn’t full of blame and vitriol. I’m hoping the current appeals process will be fruitful – like you said, it’s a stupid idea to leave the rights of minorities to a popular vote. There’s a precedent there, at least. I think the opponents of Prop 8 were hoping that the popular vote would give everyone a chance to prove how far America has come in terms of accepting queers.
I think the white LGBTQI definitely has a bad case of privileged thinking, as well as some very irritating passivity. Who the hell ever waited around for an oppressive government to magically whisk them out of second class citizenship?
The queer community needs to stop blaming others and feeling butt hurt and betrayed. We need to actually fight to win.
Thanks for righting this. It was a good Sunday afternoon wake up call for me.
One thing confuses me about your argument. You keep bringing up religion as if the only reason black people would be opposed to gay marriage is religious. You also speak as if this isn’t true for any other minority or for any white people. Is the percentage of black people who are religious greater than white people? It may seem so, but is it?
For instance, let’s just say that in california there are 90% white people and 10% blacks (this is just an example, mind). Let’s say that 60% of white people oppose gay marriage or even oppose LGBT people in general because they are religious. That leaves 40% who are allies or potential allies. But 40% of an overwhelming majority seems like a lot of people.
If the same percentage of black people were religious, then 40% of them are allies or potential allies, but 40% of such a small slice makes it seem like very few black people are allies. But proportionally, it’s about the same.
I don’t know how the numbers break down in real life, but the point is that you’re assuming that SO MANY black people are against LGBT people and gay marriage, but it’s probably not disproportionate to the white population. So instead of thinking that you have to convince or fight against SO MANY black people who aren’t allies, just think of them the same way you would white people.
How would you approach a white person who opposed gay marriage? Would you be wracking your brain for “secular” reasons? Would you assume a white person is religious if they oppose gay marriage? I don’t. There are many and varied reasons why white folks are not on board. It’s the same for black people.
And for the record, I didn’t see anything unreasoned or unclear about the original post.
Also, see Naamen’s excellent post on why the No on Prop 8 campaign failed within POC communities.
Let me make this clear to Mr. Halper anf the other LGBT folks out there who are upset and blaming black people for the passage of Prop 8…
WE WILL NOT BE YOUR SCAPEGOAT!!!
I understand your anger and I share it as well. It is hard for me to understand how on one hand that this country could elect its first black/mixed-race president and then allow such a divisive piece of nonsense happen. But why single out black people? Why not go after latinos, most of whom are staunchly Catholic and we all know their beliefs about homosexuality. Why not go after white people–after all, they voted for Prop 8 as well.
By the way, just to put a nail in the coffin of that tired old tripe about black folks voting for Obama just ’cause he’s black–KNOCK IT OFF!!! That’s typically a racist point of view and doesn’t take into account that we black people actually THOUGHT about what the man stood for and whether his values were ours. We did our homework.
I, a black bi-female, voted AGAINST Prop 8, as did my parents and even my grandmother–a god-fearing, church-going black woman. I don’t know where that 70% number came from, but the black folks I KNOW personally also voted against Prop 8.
I’m going to diverge from ABW’s opinions just a little bit here, but even Mildred Loving, she of the Loving v. Virginia case, believed that the right to marry–be they another race or same gender–was a fundamental right. Frankly, as a woman in an interracial relationship, I don’t want anyone telling me whom I can love or whom I’m supposed to be with. I view interracial relationships, especially in regards to black women, as a feminist issue (and that’s a whole ‘nother topic of discussion).
I will say this–your campaign was LAME. The pro-Prop 8 people bombarded the airwaves with their commercials–there was practically a new one every week. And they were effective. They fell back on the oldest trick in the book–using kids to hammer the point home that gay marriage would be “taught” to kids. In the vernacular of the anti-gay contingent, “taught” is the equivalent to “recruit”. Get it???
Granted, there is homophobia in the black community that is rooted in our churches–one sad reason the rates of HIV/AIDS are so high, with some black men living on the “down low”. The interesting thing is that we’ve also always had gay and lesbian folks in our churches, or as the old people would say, “a little sugar in the gas tank”.
The bottom line is this–it’s the old “divide and conquer” technique and you fell for it. Instead of whining and looking for a convenient whipping boy, your community should be trying to bridge the gap and making common cause with the PoC members of your community as well as outreach. Besides, not EVERY black person voted for Prop 8, or did that fact somehow elude you in your quest to assign blame?
Much of what you say I agree with, except this:
This is not right.
This is the exact same kind of thinking that caused the No on Prop 8 people to ignore/avoid black communities — “those black people are all homophobic Jesus freaks, why should we bother with them?” You’ve just dismissed Latinas/os the same way. Most are Catholic, yes. But we do NOT know their beliefs about homosexuality, and to assume that we do is the same kind of racial stereotyping that I’m railing against in this looooong post.
Question: Will we, as African Americans, ever reach a point where we don’t have to look to other races as a means of validating ourselves? Even in our problems, a few wayward commentators seem to think we have to peek into the windows of White or Asian or Latino houses before we can roll up our sleeves and deal with the problems we face. For the sake of argument, let’s say that 95% of White people were homophobic; does that mean we shouldn’t still aggressively tackle the homophobic attitudes in the Black community? And if it doesn’t…then please explain to me the point of getting bent out of shape over what a scattered few may or may not have said to scapegoat black people? Since when did distracting views matter when our goal is the empowerment of our race?
I submit, as humbly as possible, that we fighting the wrong battles–and have been for several years. Hyper-sensitive Blacks who stand on the sideline pointing fingers at every off remark by people who may harbor a distorted racial view are not doing our community any favors. It may make you feel better to nudge your girlfriend and proclaim you “told such-and-such off” but while you are getting your ego boost, little Black girls are still getting shot by stray bullets from gang-bangers. It may have made superficial spokespersons in the Black community rejoice once Imus got fired, but the poverty rate didn’t decline in the Black community once Imus packed his bags.
I sometimes wish the NAACP had buried the R-word instead of the N-word because nowadays we have more Negroes running around looking for new folks to tag as racists than we do folks volunteering in the projects to keep kids off the street. We have become masters of petty beefs lately, a married couple arguing over what channel to watch on TV when our house is on fire.
My dear brothers and sisters, simply put, it doesn’t really matter how many Blacks live in CA versus the exit poll result versus the percentage of Blacks who voted for Proposition 8–these are distractions. We have a problem in our community with homophobia and we need to deal with it. It doesn’t really matter how many in the gay and lesbian community want to use Blacks as scapegoats–if you think this is the only time we will be used as scapegoats, skim through history. Accusing a gay or lesbian blogger of racism won’t stop our cousin Tonya from spewing hateful, bigoted remarks during family reunions. We have become, in many ways, a unorganized basketball team arguing more with the fans than playing the game and trying to win. My advice: F*ck the distractions, let’s buckle down and solve the problems in community, one gentle soul at a time.
You have a right to be upset when you hear something that you think is racist. But waging a war on careless racial comments from your favorite recliner won’t help reduce teenage pregnancy in our community. Instead, take that anger and focus it on volunteering to help make our community better. Let those comments motivate you to volunteer to be a Big Sister or Big Brother to a troubled Black youth. We have problems in our community and we need all the help we can get. We can’t spare idle minded foot soldiers arguing with our allies over silly technicalities when we are deep in the trenches trying to win a war against HIV/AIDS, Black on Black crime, Rising Incarceration rated, Deadbeat Dads, Domestic Violence, etc.
We can’t afford this distraction. Not now.
I agree with you on one point, and one only: we need to do more work within our own communities on the issue of homophobia, as well as other issues. But as someone who’s already volunteered with Big Sisters and other organizations, helped my own mother escape a violent relationship, and done a lot of work on all of the issues you’ve cited, I think you’re being dangerously short-sighted.
Does it not occur to you that many of the problems in the black community are the result of systemic racism? We do not exist in the United States in a cultural and historical vacuum, and our problems did not develop all on their own. Attacking that racism *is* attacking our problems. Going after Imus may very well *have* impacted teen pregnancy; by raising consciousness about the constant disrespect shown to black women *both within and without* the black community, I tend to believe that a few more black parents realized they need to arm their daughters against this; a few more young black girls realized that entire industries have been built on their humiliation; a few more young black men realized that every “video ho” is somebody’s daughter, and that tossing around the n-word hurts us all.
You’re railing against these problems that are caused by unequal opportunities, generational poverty, low expectations, and believing in stereotypes. How do you propose to stop these problems, if not by raising expectations, restoring hope, addressing the causes of that poverty, and attacking the stereotypes? Please, I’d love to hear your alternative suggestions.
TBC, since you’re a first time commenter here, perhaps you’re not aware, but all that stuff you mentioned about taking our own communities to task for homophobia? We’ve done that. Repeatedly. It’s one of the themes of this blog. What doesn’t help is when people say “you should stop worrying about this unimportant i9njustice and focus more on the injustice *I* think takes precedence!”
Racism still exists and is still a huge problem. We still need to combat it. Homophobia is a huge problem BOTH within and without POC communities. BOTH. We need to combat it. The tools, words and approaches we use within our own communities vs. outside of them are often different. But the goal is the same. Still, don’t come and tell me that we should just quit worrying about all this racism stuff when really it’s black people who are the problem. That’s not only stupid and wrong, it’s kinda racist, too.
And to add one more thing: Christianity, isn’t even black people’s religion to begin with. It was foisted upon African slaves, not as a means of understanding or comfort, but CONTROL. That same Christianity that urged us ‘nigras’ to be content and accept that whites were meant to be over us, is the same one that has allowed homophobia in our community to florish unchecked.
However, the reason Prop 8 won has less to do with a certain ethnic group and a LOT to do with the serious lack out outreach by the mainstream gay and lesbian community. I find it rather ironic that the two groups that historically have been hostile towards blacks and latinos, are the same groups that managed to pave their way back into our good graces. The Prop 8 supporters had commercials that “showcased” (and that word is apt because they were indeed on display) black, white, latino and asian folks who looked like everyone else and who made it seem that it had nothing to do with homophobia and EVERYTHING to do with “protecting” kids from those “recruiting” gay folks.
The mainstream GLBTQ community, just like most mainstream progressive communities, has this nasty habit of taking us people of color for granted. Gloria Steinem in her op-ed hatchet piece tried to force black feminists to place sexism over racism during the primaries–even though both isms impact our lives.
And no, I don’t take back what I said about Catholics, because if we’re going to “go after” black people, then I think it’s only fair that we examine the attitudes of ALL the groups that supported Prop 8. Why it it our homophobia is out there for the rest of the world to see and point fingers at?
Yeah, I agree with many here that we’ve got some serious soul-searching to do within communities of color. I see the direct result of the black community’s head in the sand attitude in the hyper-masculinity of young black men who think disrespecting women is part of what makes them “a man”. When it becomes a point of argument that author James Baldwin was a black gay man–which he was–and yet we hide that history away. But again, I say STOP SCAPEGOATING US!!! There’s plenty of recrimination to go around and better yet, there’s plenty of opportunity to get things right.
I will admit that I am actually far more open-minded on the issue than my previous comment may have hinted to. In fact, if either of you can show me where pointing out racist or blatant racism in modern day times actually progresses our cause, actually helps the problem, I will be the first one on the front-lines, screaming the R-word until my voice falters. Show me evidence where in the last ten to fifteen years when the charge of racism solved a serious problem in our community, and I’ll take grab the the racism baton and rush to the finish line as hard as anyone else.
My point isn’t that racism doesn’t exist, my point is merely, from an objective and humble view, I don’t see the evidence that it helps our cause to waste foot soldiers in screaming matches. I’ve actually seen more evidence that the reverse is the case. Arguing about racist institutions have crippled us. It has made too many of us spend more time complaining about injustice instead of actually fighting it.
Quick point is the argument over the sentencing disparity on possession of crack cocaine versus powder cocaine. We have seemingly wasted so many years arguing racism that we forgot to fight the root problem, drug dealers in our neighborhoods. I recognize along with everyone else how messed up the laws are, and as a ex-con, it touches a sensitive nerve with me. But strategically, the argument is misguided. If the goal to solve the problem, charging racism hasn’t done a single thing. Joe the Dealer is still standing on the street corner, even though host of folks have been arguing for years that he deserves a lesser sentence once caught. Logically, I don’t see the point.
If something works, I’m down. If it actually moves the cause forward, I’m down. Show me evidence of a strategy that works, and I will be first in line to implement it. But, so far, all I see is evidence that it does more to make us feel better than tackle the problem. At some point, no matter what our strategy is, we have to step back, look at it objectively, and determine if it’s working to solve the problems or not. I submit, frankly, that I don’t see the evidence that “racist” cat-calls work.
But I am more than willing to take a look at any evidence I may have missed that shows it does work.
Wow. You aren’t seriously arguing that there’s no point in fighting/discussing racism. You are. Wow.
I can’t even start on this one. I don’t have the time to waste, and even if I did, I don’t have the willingness to try.
Yeah, I’m almost completely with Nora on this one, but to ignore your comment simply because of the inherent ignorance within it would be like ignoring racism, so I won’t.
well, one big instance where people pointing out racism caused a change is the civil rights movement. There are both large and small scale changes to cultures or people that happen when people point out racism and others take that to heart and change. Pointing out the racism inherent in denying people housing in good neighborhoods led to equal housing opportunities. Pointing out racism in media had led to individual creators doing something to combat it. This blog is one huge example, as for the past 2+ years I’ve been saying “RACISM omg stop” and many people have paused, reassessed, and said “you know, you’re right.”
Also, you make the same mistake that many who are not actually involved in anti-racist activism do by thinking that, because we expend effort in pointing out the racism aspect of a problem, like crack vs cocaine sentencing, that we ignore the root of the problem, like people doing drugs. Well, that assumption is complete bullshit. Of course people are attempting to address the root problem. But that doesn’t make the sentencing thing any less important because it is part of a systemic racism in the justice system. Period. That needs combating just as much as societal problems that affect all communities, like drugs.
It’s not either/or. You can fight racism AND fix things within the community that have less to do with racism AT THE SAME TIME. If you’re the type of person who has a hard time walking while chewing gum, I can see why this would be a hard concept to grasp. But that’s it in a nutshell.
Is this person KIDDING me?
Is this person trying to say that black folks can’t or don’t know how to multitask? Whee!!! Isn’t this the same idea as cherry picking what battles to fight and when to fight them? Isn’t that the same problem that PoC’s have when dealing with mainstream progressive movements–that our issues aren’t as “important” so therefore let’s relegate them to the bottom of the slush pile?
To be quite honest, I hadn’t heard the whole “black folks are to blame for Prop 8 passing” until I started doing my blog rounds this morning. If anything, I would think the white radical extreme fundmentalist groups, who have very public and popular mouthpieces like James Dobson and Donald Wildmon, should share the lion’s share of blame for their shameful (but well-planned and funded) scare tactics, especially the tiresome “think of the children!” meme, that led to Prop 8’s passing.
Thank you for the wonderful post and for continuing to encourage constructive discussion in your comment thread.
I have been following the fall-out from Prop 8, especially w/r/t the racial scapegoating for a few days now. I am dismayed that even on more academic sites, written by scholars, there has not been more critique of this magical “70%” figure. As most folks should know by now, that is based on an exit poll (google for more info on the problems, including lack of random sampling, with these) of fewer than 250 Black people. Other polls with better methodology have consistently shown figures that are not nearly as stark. Similarly, public opinion polling of people of color and other issues relating to LGBT rights (e.g., job discrimination, police harassment, health care access) also do not reveal Black folks to be more glaringly homophobic than other racial/ethnic demographics.
Moving beyond the idea of whether the “actual” figure is 70% or 50% or some other number, whatever the figure it is important to now have constructive and productive conversations about ways to move forward. In that regard, the scapegoating, religious bigotry, and dismissal of POC outreach is not helpful.
Actually the last few days is eerily reminiscent of the “Blacks vs Feminists” wars of the primary election season. (Seems like a lifetime ago now!!) We get similar failures to acknowledge intersectionality… similar footnoting of the roles played by POC within the movement…similar equating of feminist/woman [LGBT]=White…similar claims of postracialism…similar cries of “Reverse Racism!” (I have even seen OJ invoked on discussion threads on both topics in a strange racial variant of Godwin’s Law.)
This may not be what folks want to hear right now, but I cannot help but think that the margin of Prop 8 passing–despite (perhaps) less than ideal organizing against it and the large amount of money for it–means that there is an important crack in the door that should not be overlooked.
I actually decided to deal with the comments and article here with a detailed response here http://theblackcritic.com/?p=625 and here http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/11/12/5842/4312/361/659682 .
Still, after reading the responses, it seems evident that the central question is curiously being tap-danced around. May I see the evidence or the data which show personal “name calling” in the 21st Century helps to forward our cause and agenda? Show me the evidence–and not just emotional outbursts–and I’ll sign up to join the “You’re Racist” fan club alongside everyone else. Just show me the evidence that it works, that it makes a tangible or measurable difference. Anything else is a sideline distraction. Declaring your love for the R-word, misses the point. You can love your man but that doesn’t me he’s the right person for a healthy relationship. It’s a moot point. Show me the evidence that calling Don Imus or Michael Richards racists inched us forward in any real way toward equality and justice in America.
If you can’t find evidence, then it’s fair to conclude that we often use it–rightly or wrongly–because it makes us “feel” better, not because it actually works. Calling folks criminals doesn’t stop crime.
I actually already pointed out evidence, but you seem determined to ignore said evidence. I’m not sure what you want on the Richards or Imus front. Like, do you need to see a plaque somewhere stating “i, a white person, am better because I realized that don imus’ were wrong”? I mean, you’re basically asking me to quantify a social change without having access to data that would be useful, thus setting yourself up to ‘win’. But if you feel that calling out racism is pointless, then you’ve already lost. *shrugs* sorry.
But just out of curiosity: could you or anyone else provide me with any arguments against gay marriage that don’t stem from either religious principles (sometimes masked as “nature” arguments) or homophobia? Is there any real secular argument against gay marriage?
I am not sure if this is an argument against marriage equity that is “separate” from homophobia–it may be a further nuance about how homophobia may manifest in some African Americans.
Perhaps with no other racial/ethnic group has the experience of racial prejudice–especially racial violence–been so tied up in images of sexuality. Sexual deviance and sexual otherness has been used as a rationalization for all sorts of things in our oppression narrative: e.g., the hyper masculinity of Black males that makes them a danger to White women and prone to violence, and the oversexed nature of Black women that makes them prone to indiscriminate reproduction and makes it impossible for them to be raped. The other pole of caricatures–the sexless Black Mammy, Uncle Remus, and Magical Negro–has also been used against us.
So, assuming that this assessment is accurate, perhaps part of what is a unique aspect of homophobia with some Blacks is a psychological thing. I think many Black folks may be especially sensitive to not appearing to be “sexually deviant,” because this label has meant really bad things for us in the past. I think there is plenty of anecdotal evidence for this.
For example, it has become pretty well known that the Montgomery Bus Boycott actually could have had a different “face” from that of Rosa Parks, as there was a young woman who was arrested after employing the same protest strategy before the incident with Mrs. Parks. However, this young woman was unmarried–and pregnant. (She was also darker skinned, and there were other wrinkles to her situation, but that is a story for another day.) The thinking was that this was not a “respectable” figure to represent this fight.
If there is any validity to this theory, it should come as little surprise that identification with/acceptance of a minority group that the majority (White) culture has labeled as “sexually deviant” may be a huge hurdle for many who have this sensitivity to overcome.
This by no means excuses homophobia in our communities. What it may mean, though, is that the challenge for confronting homophobia in our Black communities involves, in part, addressing the wide range of healthy human sexuality. Ambiguous feelings about sexuality is, of course, a very American problem, as Jocelyn Elders and any number of other folks could attest to.
Thanks for this excellent post. I especially appreciated your point that interracial marriage was not a big Civil Rights Movement priority – obvious now that you’ve said it, but it hadn’t occurred to me. But also that you articulate the stupidity of the fallout from the passage of Prop 8 in such a clear fashion – I’m still stuck in “why are we still so stupid,” which is not so constructive.
Genius. You pointed out that it was inconsistent for gays to just single out black homophobia, but you did not apologize or let us off the hook either!
I responded to TBC on his website, but I wanted to C&P the response here.
I believe that the evidence you are looking for is not going to appear. This has nothing to do with whether or not there is merit or not in calling out racism. However, I do think that you want to see a statistically sound experiment or observational study on the usage of the word “racist”, and I don’t believe anyone has ever done that. Indeed, it would be nearly impossible to look at a “real life” situation, as that would require divorcing other repercussions from the charge of racism. To put it another way, that is like simply telling Don Imus “You’re racist” and measuring the results, as opposed to what did occur, which was telling him “You’re racist”, firing him, and THEN measuring the results.
I also think that a revamping of the strategy can occur without abandoning the usage of the term entirely. For example, I find it best to cite specific BEHAVIORS as racist, while separating the behavior from the person. A non-racist person may exhibit a racist behavior (in my experience, it is usually subconscious), and there is a tremendous difference between critique of an individual’s behavior and critique of the individual.
You are right that it is insane to do the same thing over and over again, but we have merely scratched the surface of what we are doing right now.
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