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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Prop 8 Blame Game in Black and White

By Steve Charing

When compared to previous ballot initiatives in the U.S. that amended state constitutions by limiting marriages to a man and a woman, Proposition 8 was a squeaker. With a relatively thin margin of 4 % California turned back the clock on their Supreme Court’s edict and banned same-sex marriage.

Yes, it was close compared to the blowouts in the other states where gay marriage was put to a vote, and California’s passage is arguably the most disheartening to gay activists and their allies. Since the California Supreme Court ruled in May that gays and lesbians cannot be denied the right to marry based on the state’s Constitution, some 18,000 couples tied the knot. The legal status of their marriages are unclear at this point.

The recent vote sparked angry but largely peaceful demonstrations particularly in Southern California. Gays, lesbians and allies marched in the streets and protested the role of the Mormon (hardly the vanguards of traditional marriage) and Catholic churches for their oversized monetary contributions to fund anti-gay marriage advertising, often using scare tactics to win votes. Some protesters turned their anger on various Mormon Church buildings.

As the demonstrators marched, the blame game began in earnest. Gay activists not only targeted the aforementioned religious organizations and their followers, but also African-Americans for voting "Yes" on Prop 8 by the margin they did.

Blacks blamed the "No on Prop 8" leadership for failing to adequately market their message to people of color.

Southern California gays accused San Francisco gays for not turning out to the polls in higher numbers.

Even Elton John was blamed for arguing the term "marriage" in the context of same-sex couples was a turn-off to voters.

Yes, there has been more finger pointing than a Three Stooges film festival.

There is sufficient blame to go around. With the election of Barack Obama as the backdrop, African-Americans in California voted for Prop 8, i.e. for the ban on same-sex marriage, by the widest margin of any group: 70%-30% (Hispanics supported the measure by 53%-47% and Asians and Caucasians opposed it by 51%-49%). That plus the higher turnout of blacks voting for the African-American candidate was seen by some as the reason for the measure’s passage.

But according to Nate Silver, the proprietor of the exceptional political numbers-crunching website fivethirtyeight.com, the black vote did not swing the results of Prop 8 one way or the other. "At the end of the day, Prop 8’s passage was more a generational matter than a racial one," wrote Silver. "If nobody over the age of 65 had voted, Prop 8 would have failed by a point or two." Blacks accounted for only 13% of the total vote.

One can argue that the 2-point plurality by white voters against Prop 8 was too narrow to overcome conservative ethnic groups, and that allowed it to pass. It is interesting that in the aftermath of the election a group called "Join the Impact" was formed in a matter of days. It organized the recent nationwide protest of the Prop 8 debacle. This protest covered some 300 cities around the country and garnered some one million demonstrators.

Imagine if such a visible nationwide show of unity was formed prior to the election. Call it "United for Equality." Think of the impression that would have been made on the general population as well as California voters by hundreds of thousands of gays, lesbians and supporters of all stripes peacefully waving placards.

The speeches by activists, politicians, couples and clergy would have helped make the case and could have influenced those who were on the fence. Even if such an event was held just in California before the election, how things may have turned out differently.

This is all Monday morning quarterbacking to be sure. What we don’t need is to blame the failure to achieve marriage equality in California on race.

But we should address the race issues that have been embedded in the gay community for too long. African-Americans have rightly pointed to examples of racism on the part of white gays and lesbians.

White gays are correct to assail the homophobia emanating from the pulpits of conservative black churches. Consequently, the weakest link within the Democratic Party when it comes to equality for gays and lesbians are that many African-American elected officials are not on board with our cause based on their religious beliefs, which stifles progress.

This is an incredibly complex and delicate problem, and it’s not just religion-based. While many socially liberal African-Americans may be otherwise supportive of our goals, they often resent the comparison of our quest for equality to the civil rights movement. And black gays and lesbians must endure the dual cultural experiences of both homophobia and racism.

What is needed is a dialogue to find common ground and try to end the divide. That won’t be easy, but it’s worth a shot. Blacks and whites need to reach out and come together.

The spirit of Obama’s election should help. Hope is great but action is better. And it’s better than simply pointing fingers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

“You nigger”, one man shouted at me. “If your people want to call me a faggot, I will call you a nigger.”

Aunt Charlotte, a slave from birth, and my father’s grandmother daily responsibilities were to wash, dress, and sexually satisfy Mr. Thomas, a burly Irishman, and his frail, English wife, Julie.

Who better to perform such servile, filthy, and godless tasks than an African woman plagued with dark skin, the mark of Noah’s curse on his son Canaan’s lineage, after Canaan had incestuous sex on the Ark with his mother, Noah’s wife?

Charlotte’s skin color alone was proof she was a descendant of Ham, the son of Canaan, and therefore a deserving reciprocate of her ancestor’s wrongdoing, and worthy of all Christian distain and abuse.

Cursed by God through Noah to be a “servant of servants”, who was - apart from God’s love - without any sexual shame, moral taboos, or apprehension, even eager and enthusiastic to sexually satisfy both spouses to completion, Charlotte was best suited to perform the unholy sexual acts, the perfect personification and rationalization for sexual expediency and slavery.

This interpretation of Genesis, Book of Numbers, Chapter 12 by Jewish scholars working about the sixth century AD marked the first time in human history that dark brown skin was condemned as something dreadful brought about by an act of revenge in God’s name.

Shrouded in time, history, and hypocrisy “The Curse of Ham” was the basis for 200 years of slavery in the south, and another 100 years of Jim Crow throughout America. It is the religious foundation for racism in the modern world.

On November 4, 2008, America elected Barack Obama, the first black president.

That same day California voters by a margin of 50.4 (1,317,125) percent to 49.6 (1,296,319) percent passed Proposition 8 to amend the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriages.

CNN first reported their exit poll revealed that 70 percent of African Americans voted in favor of Proposition 8.

The Associated Press picked up the story, and then the Los Angeles Times seemingly confirmed it by reporting, “Seven in 10 black voters backed a successful ballot measure to overturn the California Supreme Court’s May decision allowing same-sex marriage, according to exit polls for the Associated Press.”

The much read gay sex advisor, Dan Savage turn pop sociologist repeated the message on Slog.

In his blog The Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan, of the Atlantic Monthly using extrapolated exit poll data suggested that the added black and Latino voters that resulted from Barack Obama being on the ballet provided the necessary votes to pass the measure.

Then all hell broke loose.

The next day white gays from all over the country blamed blacks for defeating Proposition 8.

Shanikka, a blogger on DailyKOS explained why the “Blame the Blacks” was an uninformed assumption, and a day later found 1,800 “racist scapegoating” comments in response. She spent two days reading their “racist vitriol” rage.

At the November 6th marriage equality rally in Los Angeles outside the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Westwood, California, one black gay man named Geoffrey was reportedly called a nigger twice that night by white gay protesters.

“It was like being at a Klan rally, except the Klansmen were wearing Abercrombie polos and Birkenstocks”, he said. “You nigger”, one man shouted at me. “If your people want to call me a faggot, I will call you a nigger.”

On the very next block near the Temple someone shouted nigger at Geoffrey again.

While still walking with his gay Korean friend another white gay man shouted at them that “after last night the niggers better not come to West Hollywood if they knew what was best for them.”

On Pam’s House Blend, Pam, an African American lesbian reported that two black gay men carrying “No On Prop 8” signs were also subjected to racial abuse.

“Three white older men accosted my friend and shouted, "Black people did this! I hope you people are happy!” one of the men explained, while a young white lesbian couple with mohawks and Obama buttons joined the shouting, and lamented they were "very disappointed with black people", and "how could we" after the Obama victory.

White gay rights leaders just assumed that blacks would see their right to be married as the same as, and equal to the black Civil Rights Movement, so the black vote was thought to be in the bag.

Never mind that the Mormon Church poured more than $16 million dollars into passing the measure, or that according to the Colorado Independent.com, Focus on the Family pumped $539,000 in cash and another $83,000 worth of non-monetary support into the measure, or that Elsa Prince, an auto parts heiress, and longtime fonder of conservative social causes, who sits on the Focus on the Family board, contributed another $450,000 to pass Proposition 8.

Never mind the measure was supported by the Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, a group of Evangelical Christians headed by Jim Garlow and Miles McPherson, the very conservative American Family Association, the National Organization for Marriage, and California’s largest ministry, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church.

Never mind that 65 percent of Catholics, 64 percent of people over 65, 53 percent of Latinos, 49 percent of whites, and 49 percent of Asians, supported the measure, not to mention that blacks make up only 6.7 percent of the state’s population making virtually impossible for blacks to pass the measure by themselves, even if they all voted for it, or that the organizational efforts to reject the measure was absolutely dismal in comparison the efforts to pass it.

Jeremy Pittman, the national deputy field director for the Human Right Campaign (HRC), the largest gay rights group in the country said his organization raised $2 million dollars from donors and donated $237,409 in staff time to defeat Proposition 8.

Depressed, Andrew Sullivan noted that the Mormon Church’s “hefty proportion of the $16 million the Prop 8 campaign had raised - compared to the $10 million for No”…HRC was, once again, not exactly on the ball in the biggest civil rights struggle in the history of the gay movement.”

There was very little outreach to black communities, few black faces in that outreach, and no reason given why blacks should unconditionally vote against the measure other than they just should, because blacks should know what discrimination is like.

Accusing black people of being against civil rights for gays is like blaming a rape victim for not being immediately sensitive to other rape victims.

The rape victim is always consumed in her own rape. Not until later, after a period of leveled emotions and education does she become concerned about the victimization of others, particularly when her rapists are now the rape victims she is supposed to be concerned about.

White gays could never be called pro-black any more than Blacks could be called pro-gay. Each group has similar experiences, but not the same experiences, and neither, but on rare occasions have ever supported, or even very much liked the other.

Color, sexuality, socio-economic circumstances, and belief in the Old Testament separate gays from blacks.

Blacks have always resented the gay ability to “hide” their sexuality when needed. It reminds them of “light-skinned” blacks, who pretended to be white to gain preference, and not be treated poorly like other black people. This is the reason why blacks never equated the struggle of gays to be accepted to their own Civil Right Movement.

Like many people, blacks believe gays are made, and not born. They think being gay is a “lifestyle choice”, like becoming a swinger. To them, when one chooses an alternative lifestyle, you are not asking for equal rights or civil rights, but preferential treatment.

Comparatively, blacks consider their economic problems to be a matter of survival - far more pressing to their lives than the right of gays to have the state recognize their assertion to get married, especially when many gays have either ignored the economic problems of blacks, or participated in keeping them in their lower class status.

It is like asking the rape victim to care about you being raped by someone else, after you raped her.

Then there is blacks’ belief in the Old Testament. Mired in the indoctrination of various Christian Churches for almost three centuries, a disproportionate number of blacks remain slaves, not to the loving, inclusive teachings of Jesus Christ, but to the misinterpreted musings, ravings, and tribal control issues of insecure men, who lived over 2,000 years ago.

As a result, much of the black culture is homophobic. In this case, people who are struggling to survive do cling to their religion to help them feel worthy and better about themselves. They may be poor or lower middle class, but they see themselves as closer to God – the truth and the light - unaware they have been played by teachings designed by authority figures to prevent them from leaving the fold, moving forward, and making their own decisions.

Clearly, blacks like all Christian, Jewish, and Moslem fundamentalist need to be re-educated. They are the Luddites throwing their boots into the machinery in an effort to stop progress and modernity.

Aunt Charlotte was a slave kidnapped from another country, stripped of all her culture, removed from all her very different, more open sexual traditions, forced to please two hypocrites, who were too twisted to take responsibility for their own actions.

The biblical “Curse of Ham” was used to legitimize her mistreatment. It was an excuse as the failure of Proposition 8 was an excuse for white gays to vent their ignorance, anger, and latent racism against black voters, who did not meet their expectations.

It is now ridiculous to argue who is the greater victim, blacks or gays. It is time to move forward.

President elect Obama won the election not by being divisive, blaming one group or another, but by giving contrition without penance.

Granted, Proposition 8 should be overturned by the courts, since a majority should never have the right to remove the rights already granted to a minority by the courts, but we still need each other, if not now, we will in the future.

You cannot gain the trust and cooperation of black people by demonizing them, and calling them niggers. This is not a good Idea. Nothing is less productive.

We need the unified strength of all people of goodwill to fight against politicians like Newt Gingrich, who firmly believes a “gay and secular fascism” is about to take over the country. He is not alone in that belief.

White gays need to bring more black gays and bisexuals into leadership roles in the gay community. Diversity is good. It adds to our creativity, intelligence and uniqueness. We learn from it. Black gays live both realities. They are the bridge between the gay and black communities.

Black gays and bisexuals need to both accept these roles, and challenge the homophobic teachings and attitudes in the black community. Stop going to a homophobic church. Boycott it. Expose it for what it is, and find other ways to communicate with church members on a personal level. Become important to others in your community by helping people improve their lives.

When you talk with other black people about homosexuality or bisexuality regarding the Old Testament know your facts. Simple things like: The Old Testament does not allow people to eat a ham and cheese omelet, to say nothing of barbeque ribs. It justifies slavery, sexual abuse, and racism. It demands that women while on their period cannot lay next to their husbands in the same bed.

If your children curse at you, you are supposed to kill them.

Women are not allowed to wear mixed fabrics like cotton and linen together, or even nylon panties with a mixed blend bra under a warm woolen dress, under a cashmere coat. Men cannot wear a cotton shirt, a silk tie, with a wool suit, cashmere socks, and leather shoes.

Note how absurd, outrageous, and contradictory the Old Testament is when it states for example that if a man sleeps with a pig, after the sex the man must kill the pig, or that it says nothing about women having sex with each other, but oral sex is a sin punishable by death, while men having sex with other men is called an “abomination”, yet the act only carries a very slight punishment, when the punishment is not ignored completely.

The gay movement should also be known to stand for racial justice. Talk about immigration and affirmative action, so all people, particularly gay people of color understand and feel comfortable belonging to a movement that also supports their other important concerns.

Gay people of color need to be more forceful in explaining to white gays why they have issues that are just as important to them as being gay or gay marriage. People will not understand you, or support you, unless they know you, and understand what is important to you. You must step forward and open your mouth. Even talk to your enemies. Think about contrition without penance. It worked for Obama.

It also worked for Aunt Charlotte. She did not die a slave. Mrs. Thomas died of tuberculosis. Afterwards, Charlotte continued to take care of Mr. Thomas, and he fell in love with her. On his death bed he left his plantation to her. She freed the other slaves, and to this day the property belongs to her family in Alabama.

She died a free woman at 103 years old as Charlotte Thomas surrounded by her grand children, their spouses, and their children, and the rest of the extended Thomas family.

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