Friday, November 14, 2008

Prop 8- Blame the Black Folks ?

A black heterosexual's musings...

So much for that racial harmony everyone was going on about in the wake of the Obama election. On Nov. 4th, while Obama won handily, several initiatives were passed throughout the nation that discriminate against the gay community. Key among them, in California Prop 8 won by a narrow margin of 52% to 48%--banning gay marriage in the state. The reaction from much of the gay community--specifically the white gay community--has been an eye opener for those of us of color on the progressive left.

It seems, according to an exit poll conducted by McClatchy newspapers, that a whopping 70% of black voters in California voted for Prop 8. And armed with those numbers, some have gone on the offensive. The mostly white-faced LGBT community accused blacks of "betrayal." Who even knew we had a treaty? Blacks were declared "bigots," en masse. Because what happens in California speaks for black people everywhere it seems. The news media pushed the narrative: an oppressed group after gaining power (allegedly through one man) had turned into the oppressor. Even the normally sensible types like John Stewart, Bill Mahrer, Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann didn't deviate far from the storyline, though some cautioned about playing the blame-game. Once racially harmonious liberal blogs turned vicious, as white gays bitterly complained they had just done blacks a "favor" by electing Obama. Seems the gay white community wasn't choosing the right guy for the job, or someone that better suited their own interests, but just being charitable to ungrateful black folks. Black people, the black community, black puppies and anything generally black were dissected for their blind religiously based homophobia. Log-cabin-Republicans (that' a political identity problem for another post) who had crossed over to Obama like Andrew Sullivan, brazenly attacked black America and was cheered on by white gays in an almost lynch mob type atmosphere. Things became so out-of-control that a white gay blogger proudly claimed he had informed his father he was no longer a "nigger lover."

It seems that some have decided that though they don't like people scapegoating gays in California--it is okay to scapegoat an entire race of people when things don't go your way. And in the midst of all the finger-pointing, very little sensible discussion has taken place. What follows below are a few thoughts I have been pondering on...

Exit Polls are Always Right?

Funny. Just before the elections, the word on a lot of liberal blogsites was, "don't trust exit polls." What, after the infamous 2004 "Kerry wins by exit polls but loses the election" fiasco, it was decided this method of data collecting was extremely faulty. After all, no one records their race when they vote. The Diebold machines are faulty, but, so far, they aren't seeking your ethnic/racial identity. When you hear how any demographic group votes, you're relying on an exit poll--where questions are asked of a sample of exiting voters and then extrapolated. So when McClatchy released their exit polls, one would think there would have been someone cautioning these polls accuracy just as they had done the day previously right? Uhh... wrong. It seems that in this case exit polls are divine in their accuracy. No one needs question them. Not a single of those pointing fingers bothered to even ask how a similar anti-gay measure passed in Arkansas, but only garnered 50+% of the black vote. It seems black voters in Bible-thumping religious Arkansas are much more liberally minded about homosexuality than blacks in California. And everyone seems fine with that. Do I know for certain the exit polls were wrong? No, of course not. Could the exit polls be right? Certainly. But in light of all the doubt heaped upoon those same polls only one day prior, it's amazing that that same polling methodology is now adopted without hesitation. It seems that when it comes to black folks, as is usually the case, we aren't afforded the benefit of the doubt.

The Black Population in California Must be Massive!"

Given the way so many were willing to toss the carcass of gay-marriage in California at the feet of black people, one would expect blacks must make up a majority of the state., again. Blacks make up just close to 7% of California's overall population; and a magnificent 10% of all California voters. So that means Prop 8 could not possibly be passed by black people alone--but was propelled by the votes of millions of whites, Latinos and Asians. But the finger-pointers demand, what about those holy exit polls? 70% they scream! 70%! Well if you believe in those things.... 49% of Asians voted for Prop 8; Asians account for almost 13% of California's population, and 12% of the state's eligible votgers. 53% of Hispanic voters helped pass Prop 8; Hispanics account for over 36% of California's population, and 14% of voters overall. And for the really big number, just under 50% of white voters helped pass Prop 8--a group that makes up 43% of all Californians, and accounts for a staggering 63% of all voters. So this means, even if all black people in California had voted against Prop 8, it would have *still* passed. The numbers just aren't in our favor--even if the blame seems to fall there.

Race Tells Us Everything!

I realize we are a race-obsessed culture--all pretenses of "transcending" race and living in a "post-racial" society aside. But why did everyone find it necessary to break down this entire vote by race? Why not regions people live in? Why not by people who attend certain churches or belong to certain religious denominations? How about strictly by gender? Heck, why not by bald men vs. men with long hair? The break down could have gone any way. But the media and many in the white community decided that race was the way to go. And as is typical with white America (gay or straight it seems) when a black scapegoat is found close to the crime, the case is closed. Just get a rope. The fact that race was the chosen factor to be highlighted, and that so many seized on it so eagerly says quite alot.

The White Gay Community and Black Community are Friends...Right?

Yeah? Tell me who exactly decided that? White gays lamented about being betrayed by black people. When exactly was the last time white gay leaders came into the black community and did outreach? Is there some long history of Civil Rights struggle by an LBGT community often led by white faces and the black community? When did that happen? Which arrogant white gay guy woke up and assumed that black people were just "on the side" of the gay community, without any attempt to build bridges between us. In the case of the activism against Prop 8, even the outreach to the black community was lackluster. Gays of color had to warn and plead with a mostly white led LBGT activist community to pour monies into advertising in black, Latino and Asian communities. And when it came, it was too little too late--unable to compete with the right wing Mormons who had slickly couched gay marriage in sensitive issues of family for many minority communities where families are decimated by societal neglect. A mostly white led LBGT community can't just come along and appropriate the black struggle, and claim it as their own, without first making inroads with the black community. That won't be done by putting a few black faces in token roles, or hiding behind blacks to hurl vitrol. It will mean black led LBGT organizations will have to take the lead, and white gays will have to take the back seat, and follow.

The Gay Community is One Happy Colorblind Bunch...Right?

Racism permeates our society--at every level. Yet white gays, especially white gay males, have succeeded in deluding themselves into thinking they their community is free from racism. Enough members of the black LBGT community have written, protested and talked openly about the hostitlity, neglect and racism they experience from their white peers. And there have been clashes before between white and black communities over matters like gentrification as seen in the documentary Flag Wars. The fact remains that white gay males, despite what discrimination they face, are still very much white. As such, they benefit from and utilize their whiteness in this society as much as the next whit person. That is not erased by which gender they chose to be emotionally, contractually and/or physically intimate with. Witness the incident of the n-word being hurled at a Say No on Prop rally in California. What needs to be made perfectly clear is that when white males start pointing fingers at black people and hurling racial slurs, the black community doesn't see a white gay male--they just see a *white male.* And white gays can't just come along and appropriate the black struggle, and claim it as their own, without first making inroads with the black community. That won't be done by putting a few black faces in token roles. It will mean black led LBGT organizations will have to take the lead, and white gays will have to take the back seat, and follow.

The Black Community is Homophobic...Period!

I won't lie and say there's no homophobia in the black community. Homophobia like other forms of discrimination certainly exists in the black community as it does everywhere else. And even we heteros who may consider ourselves "enlightened," to struggle against it within ourselves--as every male does with sexism, or all of us do with racism. We are products of our socialization. It is a bit simplistic to insinuate these forms of bias are all exactly the same; but it is a bit disingenous to ignore shared commonalities. Yet black homophobia is complex and has to be understood in the circumstances of the black community. There are indeed black people who are anti-gay because of religion. For some, homosexuality is another attack on their notion of the black family--part of a long line of attacks that produces too many single mothers, absentee fathers and general mayhem. Gays marrying to them isn't a mere religious or cultural threat, but another blow to a black family already reeling from issues that range from poverty to purposeful societal neglect. There are black people who are anti-gay and are distinctly secular. Their homophobia might be based on a belief that being gay is part of white cultural colonialism, and relate it to other aspects of white hegemony. Others, striving towards masculinity in a white patriarchal dominated world, may view homosexuality (and any perceived aspects of deemed "effeminancy") as a part of white society's wish to stifle black masculinity and manhood. Still others are homophobic because they see a rampant HIV/AIDS presence in the community, and in fear lash out and blame closeted black males (the so-called "down-low" phenom), for what they see as men engaging in high-risk sexual behavior that endangers the lives of black women. Now, it just so happens, that nearly every one of these reasons on the face of it is ludicrous. Defining black masculinity by white definitions is a zero-sum game. The black family has always been complex in its dynamics. Homosexuality existed in black culture long before white cultural colonialism. And the down-low phenom is more urban legend than reality. Yet, how people feel, especially people who see themselves under constant attack, or suffer from neglect, by a white hegemonic system, must be taken into account. And it will take black leadership and members of the LBGT to state that things like gay marriage matter to them too, and discriminating against gays is also discriminating against one's family, friends and people in the black community.

But, enough of my ranting. In the wake of the dust storm kicked up by Prop 8, many others have addressed this better than I have. Some of their articles are posted below. Will update periodically.

Blogger Shannika single-handedly deconstructs the polling figures on Prop 8, and took the full (often racist) fury of white gays bent on the "black-blame-game."

Facts Belie the Scapegoating of Black People for Proposition 8

Writer and gay activist Jasmyne A. Cannick speaks on the divergent views and inerests of the black and white gay communities,.

No-on-8's white bias

A black hetero male who voted against Prop 8 speaks out:

Stop Blaming California's Black Voters for Prop 8

Jack and Jill Politics blog debunks the heavily racist talking points of the white gay right --Andrew Sullivan and sex columnist Dan Savage.

Stop Scapegoating Black Folk on Proposition 8

Rod McCullom at the Daily Voice documents the many articles by the black community--gay and straight--who were vocally outraged at the white gay community's scapegoating and blatant acts of racism.

Not one black LGBT couple in "No on Prop 8" Ads. Why?

Update from Nov. 25th

Political analyst David Binder has compiled yet-to-be-released statistics on the vote for Proposition 8 based on ethnicity and found that the percentage of black voters who approved the amendment is smaller than originally thought, Minter said. A CNN exit poll indicated that about 69 percent of black California voters marked “yes” on Proposition 8, but the new data indicates that about 57 percent of black voters approved the amendment, he said. The revised statistic would be similar to what exit polls showed for voting patterns for other ethnicities, such as white and Latino voters.


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