Day Nine: Prop 8 and The Black/Gay Divide
OK. After having 24 hours to process Dan Savage's wrongheaded, finger-pointing column, reading infinitely more intelligent analysis about homophobia in the "black community," and organizing my own thoughts about the matter, I've finally decided to post my position on the Proposition 8 fallout.
As I mentioned yesterday, exit poll data broken down by race has shown that some 70% of African-American voters in California voted yes to Prop 8, a bigoted proposal to amend the California state constitution so that marriage is strictly defined as a union between a man and a woman. Gay whites, and supporters of gay rights, still reeling from the blow, of course began taking black folks to task across the blogosphere - some in patently racist terms - for our ironic complicity in this (given that, on the same day we realized our dream of electing an African-American president.) I have a few things to say about all of this:
- Proposition 8 and the entire family of anti-gay legislation that seeks to "protect" marriage is an outright assault on the principles that African-Americans helped establish during the Civil Rights movement.
- Just as I am pro gay rights, I am also inflexibly opposed to ANY form of blanket, legislated discrimination. I stood against Proposition 8, just as I stood and voted against Texas' Proposition 2 in 2005. Unfortunately for angry gay whites, African-American Texans couldn't be scapegoated then, as every single Texas county except one pushed it through.
- I find it interesting that suddenly African-Americans, roughly 13% of the US population, and less than 7% in CA, have become the targets of gay white contempt. Suddenly, it has come to light that our homophobia has gummed up the machinery of gay equality. This, of course, is bullshit given that organized homophobia in the US almost always has whites at the forefront.
- Thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex marriage is not federally recognized. There are only two states in which gays have a legal right to get married. Same sex marriage restriction amendments have been developed and passed in 41 states, including now, California. African-Americans aren't responsible for this.
- Thanks to the hard work that African-Americans and others have put in for well over a hundred years, the path to gay equality is infinitely shorter. Despite awful setbacks like Proposition 8, gay rights are crystallizing a whole hell of a lot faster than it took for African-Americans to realize SOME of ours. Like it or not, it would appear that black homophobes have already done a great deal of the heavy lifting.
- Whites don't have a monopoly on gayness. There are gay minorities also.
- Just as bigotry is bigotry, irresponsible journalism is irresponsible journalism. Savage's column got a lot of people riled up. This anger and disappointment quickly boiled over into unapologetic racism. After the shit hit the fan, Savage, having successfully let off steam, disappointingly ran for the same refuge in which bigoted pundits have been securing themselves for centuries: ignorance. From Savage: "Of course I don’t endorse any of the hostile, racist comments posted here. I stopped reading this thread, though, early yesterday afternoon; I couldn’t keep up." This, instead of writing another column which defused the situation, or even making his disdain for racism perfectly clear. Guess what, Dan? You are responsible for the tone of the comments left in response to your angry column. Just as you're responsible for helping to clean up the mess.
- Clueless, arrogant whites like Dan Savage seem to believe that African-Americans secured our rights by begging white people for them. Memo to Savage and his ilk: There was a whole hell of a lot more fighting, dying, demonstrating, petitioning, and sitting in than there was pleading. I'd thank you all to keep that in mind when you stupidly utter phrases like the following: "To the African-American community, my only recommendation is to remove the mote of bigotry in your own eye before you squawk too much about the oppression you experience by virtue of race." Those of you possessed of any amount of intelligence ought not to identify our multi-generational struggle for equality as squawking.
- I feel the need to say this: gay whites never struck me as seeming to have much of a need for black folks. It is, therefore, unsurprising that Prop 8 would engender in so many of them such hostility toward African-Americans. What I do find surprising is the willingness with which so many of them would fall for Divide and Conquer. While I do understand their anger, I find it regrettable that it manifests itself against us instead of the real enemy.
- Finally, it occurred to me that folks like Dan Savage aren't as concerned about exploring the overstated black/gay divide as they are using it as focal point from which to broadcast their hurt feelings. Yes, it's unconscionable that so many black voters supported Prop 8. It's ridiculous and it's ugly. However, it's just as unfortunate that white folks like Dan, instead of recognizing the complexity of the African-American community, view it as a simple ignorant monolith.