Immediately after Proposition 8 passed, the blame game began. And while it is perfectly legitimate to try and understand who voted for it and why, it is perfectly counterproductive to vilify those individuals and give them up for lost.
The blame in this case has been, by many, placed squarely on the shoulders of the black community, a larger percentage of whom voted for the measure than any of the other groups in California that people keep track of.
One of the first discussions I heard on the subject was on the Rachel Maddow Show. Maddow had Princeton professor Melissa Harris Lacewell on to talk about why so many African-Americans voted for Prop 8.
To their credit, both Maddow and Lacewell point out that the vast majority of people who supported Prop 8 were white. Lacewell argues that the people against Prop 8 never made effective arguments to the black community. Watch it and see if you can spot the glaring hole in their discussion.
Where is mention of the people who are both gay and black? Where are their voices in all of this? Where is someone like greling supposed to turn when confronted with hate from all directions?
I had been eagerly awaiting a response from my new favorite blogger, Monica Roberts at TransGriot. She was insightful as usual. In addition to pointing out the glaring lack of attention paid to the African American community during the campaign, she brings up the much larger issue of how invisible black GLBT people are within the GLBT rights movement.
It seems the GLBT rights movement has some of the same frustrating problems that steered me away from the feminist movement and frustrates the hell out of me working in nonprofits. Everyone talks about being “inclusive.” At best that usually means “consulting” with a few supposedly representative minorities. Until people from all backgrounds – racial, ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, whatever – are core voices in these movements and organizations, they will never succeed.
Perhaps more importantly, as Monica so wisely pointed out, the blame game is part and parcel of the usual divide and conquer strategy. When women, African Americans, Latinos, GLBT, and all the rest of the people who have been screwed to varying degrees by the current hierarchy get together – we can accomplish something. The only reason people like Dick Cheney still have power is that they have kept us mistrusting and fighting each other instead of them. Time to tell them to F-off with that strategy.
And here’s something interesting. A study of public opinion actually found that black Americans were more likely to support job protections for homosexuals than white Americans. So why is the black community supportive of job protections, but not marriage equality? The same reason the white community doesn’t support gay marriage – religion.
Another fascinating study (thanks for that Monica) is Say it Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud. In it, when GLBT respondents were asked about their experiences with black heterosexuals in four areas – families, friends, black heterosexual organizations, and religious institutions – only religious institutions showed more negative than positive or equal experiences.
Rather than create divisions between Americans or schizophrenia in those people who don’t neatly fit into some arbitrary groups, lets focus on the real problem. The movement for Proposition 8 was led by religious organizations. The support of Prop 8 in communities, black and white, always had religious justification. Just check out the commentary to this article on Black Voices. The problem is religiously based intolerance.
Now anyone who knows me knows how I feel about religion. I find it hard to belief that religion ever does anyone any good. But I grudgingly admit that religious organizations were crucial in the civil rights movement and in bringing support and services to poor communities.
People should never forget that the same bible that Martin Luther King took his strength from was also used to justify slavery. Conversely, Martin Luther King took a bible that had been used to justify slavery and turned it around to compel people to do the right thing. If that kind of change in attitude is possible, then so is a change in attitude towards GLBT rights. Now, play this video of Wanda Sykes, get riled up, and do something.