UPDATE: the openly gay president of People for the American Way, Kathryn Kolbert, has released a statement. It’s below the fold.
You could see this coming, and this is what I’m talking about when you ignore the elephant in the room. Rod McCullom of Rod 2.0 blogs reports on the escalation of the “blame the blacks” meme that has been swirling about the blogosphere and the MSM.
A number of Rod 2.0 and Jasmyne Cannick readers report being subjected to taunts, threats and racist abuse at last night’s marriage equality rally in Los Angeles.
Geoffrey, a student at UCLA and regular Rod 2.0 reader, joined the massive protest outside the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Westwood. Geoffrey was called the n-word at least twice.It was like being at a klan rally except the klansmen were wearing Abercrombie polos and Birkenstocks. YOU NIGGER, one man shouted at men. If your people want to call me a FAGGOT, I will call you a nigger. Someone else said same thing to me on the next block near the temple…me and my friend were walking, he is also gay but Korean, and a young WeHo clone said after last night the niggers better not come to West Hollywood if they knew what was BEST for them.Los Angeles resident and Rod 2.0 reader A. Ronald says he and his boyfriend, who are both black, were carrying NO ON PROP 8 signs and still subjected to racial abuse.Three older men accosted my friend and shouted, “Black people did this, I hope you people are happy!” A young lesbian couple with mohawks and Obama buttons joined the shouting and said there were “very disappointed with black people” and “how could we” after the Obama victory. This was stupid for them to single us out because we were carrying those blue NO ON PROP 8 signs! I pointed that out and the one of the older men said it didn’t matter because “most black people hated gays” and he was “wrong” to think we had compassion. That was the most insulting thing I had ever heard. I guess he never thought we were gay.
The backlash is upon us, and it’s going to get uglier unless our organizations step forward and say something. The desire to scapegoat blacks for Prop 8′s defeat has exposed the now not-so-latent racism in our movement.
I have already blogged a lot about why the lack of effective communication (and I’m not even talking about outreach on gay issues to socially conservative blacks) between white people in general and people of color. That dearth of understanding and mutual respect for difference, and lack of desire to seek common ground through personal relationships ultimately leads to what we are seeing here.
More below the fold. On the matter of the blame game, Alex Blaze has an excellent post over at Bilerico that tries to poke at the anger directed at the black community (as you read above, it didn’t matter if you were black and gay — it was hurled at him because he represented The Other regardless of his allegiance to the gay community).
But I’m wondering why these folks are so caught up in the black voters, who obviously can’t ever be persuaded on this issue because… well, because. There are so many other groups in the exit polling that voted for Prop 8 overwhelmingly (as in, more than 60%):
* The elderly (65+)
* People who decided for whom to vote in October (but not within the week before the election)
* People who were contacted by the McCain campaign
* White Protestants
* Those who attend church weekly
* Married people
* People with children under 18
* Gun owners
* Bush voters
* Offshore drilling supporters
* People who are afraid of a terrorist attack
* People who thought their family finances were better now than 4 years ago
* Supporters of the war against Iraq
* People who didn’t care about the age of the candidates
* People who are from the “Inland/Valley” region of California
* McCain voters
Some of these groups supported Prop 8 far more than African Americans did, which makes me wonder why we’re focused so much on race instead of any of these factors. In terms of predictive value, religion, political ideology, and being married with children tell us much more about how someone voted on Prop 8 than race does.
From which we can infer three things. First, breaking the statistics just along racial lines is an overly simplistic way to look at the results. Black people, like white people, are not a monolithic group, and LGBT people can make inroads by reaching out to African Americans if we try. Flapping our mouths about how we’re not PC, how all blacks are homophobic, and how there’s no use in reaching out to African Americans doesn’t endear people to us, and there is work to be done here that hasn’t been done.
Second, religion is the overwhelming factor in Prop 8′s win, in terms of organizing, funding, and voting. Since it’s not going anywhere, we have to take a more serious approach to religious voters. And, yes, their leaders make bank off homophobia, but we’re going to have to be more creative. No writing off fundies as idiots allowed – they get votes too.
It saddens me that there is so much work to do to heal these wounds on both sides. As I’ve said, being a triple minority is a challenge because we are often rendered invisible by each tribe we belong to when our existence becomes inconvenient or challenges their biases.
You cannot continue to ignore this elephant in the room. What is painful is seeing the how easily I am marginalized in any of the identities I inhabit. There is nothing to gain in slicing our movement up in this manner because we’re all hurting. Reading through the comments of my posts (here and here) about the outcome of Prop 8, it’s pretty clear some of you either conveniently forgot my commitment to LGBT rights as a matter of self-interest or have never read my vast archive of criticism of homophobia in the black community. The knee-jerk response in the wake of the painful passage of the initiative was that fast and that irrational.
You know what? This reminds me of the Freeper reaction to Condi Rice making mildly positive comments about Barack Obama’s speech on race — all of a sudden she became a wild-eyed Trojan Horse Black Radical in their eyes, when nothing of the sort occurred. Apparently she needed to completely divorce herself of her blackness for the comfort of the denizens of the swamp, even though nothing had changed about her views on policy.
Discussing the whys and hows of human nature when it comes to these biases shouldn’t be such a difficult matter, but it is. I don’t have a problem opening the door, but I can’t walk through it alone. We all need to play a part, and share in the responsibility to achieve equality for all. Civil rights is not a zero-sum game; there is enough shared blame for the debacle that is Prop 8, and it cannot be undone. We have the choice to educate or alienate going forward.
My friend Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out shares the view that this toxic blame game needs to stop and we need move on. So far TWO is the only advocacy organization to step up to the plate.
Truth Wins Out today expressed its grave disappointment in those in the LGBT community who have emulated our bigoted opponents by scapegoating minorities. It has been reported that African Americans have been verbally abused and have had racial epithets hurled at them during Anti-Proposition 8 rallies.
“It is reprehensible to look for scapegoats and target innocent people with vile racial epithets,” said TWO Executive Director, Wayne Besen. “We call on all GLBT people behave intelligently and act responsibly, so we can figure out – together – the best way for our movement to proceed and achieve equality.”
UPDATE: People For the American Way’s president, Kathryn Kolbert, has released a statement about the situation. It’s lengthy and worth the read, as it is both informative and personal as she calls for a broad debate around race, civil rights and the LGBT movement.
The past 72 hours have brought an extraordinary range of emotions — great joy at the election of Barack Obama and defeat of John McCain, and sadness and anger at the passage of anti-gay initiatives in Florida, Arizona, Arkansas, and California. That sadness has turned to outrage at the speed with which some white gay activists began blaming African Americans — sometimes in appallingly racist ways — for the defeat of Proposition 8. This is inexcusable.
As a mother who has raised two children in a 30-year relationship with another woman, I fully understand the depth of hurt and anger at voters’ rejection of our families’ equality. But responding to that hurt by lashing out at African Americans is deeply wrong and offensive — not to mention destructive to the goal of advancing equality.
Before we give Religious Right leaders more reasons to rejoice by deepening the divisions they have worked so hard to create between African Americans and the broader progressive community, let’s be clear about who is responsible for gay couples in California losing the right to get married, and let’s think strategically about a way forward that broadens and strengthens support for equality.
I particularly appreciate the time Kathryn spends putting the focus on the real enemy — the religious right, the professional “Christian industrial complex” and its quite blatant courting and cultivation of the existing homophobia in the black church.
The Religious Right has invested in systematic outreach to the most conservative elements of the Black Church, creating and promoting national spokespeople like Bishop Harry Jackson, and spreading the big lie that gays are out to destroy religious freedom and prevent pastors from preaching about homosexuality from the pulpit.
In addition, Religious Right leaders have exploited the discomfort among many African Americans with white gays who seem more ready to embrace the language and symbols of the civil rights movement than to be strong allies in the continuing battle for equal opportunity. At a series of Religious Right events, demagogic African American pastors have accused the gay rights movement of “hijacking” and “raping” the civil rights movement.
The effort to stir anti-gay emotions among African Americans by suggesting that gays are trying to “hijack” the civil rights movement is not new. During a Cincinnati referendum in 1993, anti-gay groups produced a videotape targeted to African American audiences; the tape featured Trent Lott, Ed Meese and other right-wing luminaries warning that protecting the civil rights of lesbians and gay men would come at the expense of civil rights gains made by the African American community. It was an astonishing act of hypocrisy for Lott and Meese to show concern for those civil rights gains, given their career-long hostility to civil rights principles and enforcement, but the strategy worked that year. Eleven years later, however, African American religious leaders and voters helped pass an initiative striking the anti-gay provision from the city charter. (The story of that successful fairness campaign is told in an award-winning mini-documentary — A Blinding Flash of the Obvious — that is part of a Focus on Fairness toolkit produced by People For the American Way Foundation.)
In California this year, national and local white anti-gay religious leaders worked hard to create alliances with African American clergy; Harry Jackson was busy in both California and Florida stirring opposition to marriage equality. None of the Right’s outreach to African Americans on gay rights issues in recent years has been a secret. Neither has polling that showed some deterioration in African American support for full equality. But there hasn’t been the same investment in systematic outreach from the gay rights community.
I welcome this frankness. We have to move beyond fear and blame. Please read the rest.