Gays and Blacks (and Gay Blacks) Go to War

Did Obama’s campaign draw out the black vote and doom Proposition 8? Many gays seem to think so.

For gay Democrats, the election was a landslide that swept them up one moment and buried them the next. Enthusiasm for Barack Obama’s victory was overwhelming, especially after eight years of a conservative president who, at times, made gays Public Enemy No. 1. But then the results from Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that nullified the state’s recently declared right of same-sex marriage, came rolling in, and it became clear that one of the country’s most solidly blue states was about to give same-sex marriage the heave-ho.

Now the gay community supports African American candidates, supports civil rights, and what happens? They treat us the same way the country once treated them.

This unusual confluence of events has created a near-perfect study in what happens when minority groups are pitted against one another. As you can see from peeking in on gay and lesbian internet message boards, white gay people are railing against the socially conservative black vote that came out for Obama and may have boosted Proposition 8. Black gays, in turn, are accusing their white gay peers of viscous racism. On one message board on the gay blog Queerty, the conflict is unfolding in real-time. Here are a few excerpts.

No. 5 · Cam According to Exit Polls every ethnic group supported marriage equality, except African-Americans, who voted overwhelmingly against extending to gay people the civil rights once denied them: a staggering 69 - 31 percent African-American margin against marriage equality. I am starting to see a pattern. Large numbers of Jews were workers for Civil rights in the south, some were even killed and hung. Yet for years people like Farrakan and Sharpton demonized Jews. Now the gay community supports African American candidates, supports civil rights, and what happens? They treat us the same way the country once treated them. Using the excuse of morality and religeon, the SAME reasons once given for denying them the right to marry somebody of a different race. I have one comment for the Black Community. Since you are so religeous. How about a little bit of loving your neighbor as yourself? Posted: Nov 5, 2008 at 11:26 am

No. 9 · Paul Raposo What do you expect? That is the American Dream–get others to prop you up and give you a better life, and then look for another minority that you can walk all over. The joke in the seventies was, the first black president won't have to worry about getting shot by racists, because he'll find a mexican for VP. Guess who the beaners of the 21st century are. Posted: Nov 5, 2008 at 11:33 am

No. 15 · Ed I think we have endured enough. No gay/lesbian/trans/bi persons have it easy being visible and staying strong and proud in this culture. But I'm tired of my gay brothers and sisters being compared to the devil and being used to legislate bigotry. I don't want to hear how we could jeopardize this or that race if we raise our voices. So, I'm glad we have a democratic president who would stand up for all his citizens (except the gay ones), but it's just been clear to me that we are not wanted in the fold unless it's to run their campaigns, spend our money and produce slick advertisements.

Our notion that we can have a family and contribute equally, if not more, is continually being criminalized while the leaders who speak of change stand by and do nothing.

Shame on them all for their self-congratulation! Shame on the African-American communities and their churches for ignoring the lessons of history! Shame on my hetero brothers and sisters who didn't do a damn thing to fight discrimination when I'm the first in line if something deprives them of their rights!

And shame on us for feeling safe with our luxuries, zip codes and successes. Because right now this FAG is "Mad as hell and I'm not going to take it…" Posted: Nov 5, 2008 at 11:43 am

No. 33 · Alexa From another blog (no, I didn't write it, and I'm not black, but she says what I feel better than I could say it):

"It seems like the frame for the passage of Prop 8 is going to be "It's because Obama's candidacy caused increased black turnout, and the black community is homophobic."

Never mind that it was voters 65 and over who put Prop 8 over the top, or that one of the whitest institutions in America–the Mormon Church–funnelled millions of dollars from Utah to California to make sure that 8 passed. The parts of the state that went solid for 8 were the inland areas, which are overwhelmingly white.

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There's no question that homophobia is a problem in the black community, especially the churchgoing segment of said community. And even though I understand why Obama (and all of the other serious Democratic candidates) weaseled on marriage equality, that doesn't mean I'm not disappointed in him for not taking a strong stand against 8.

At the same time, I'm frustrated and angry by the rush to pin this defeat on African Americans. It wasn't a black group that put Prop 8 on the ballot, and paid the signature-gatherers and bankrolled the ads. Nor is it fair to say that Obama's have-it-both-ways position meant that black voters were going to march sheeplike to the polls and vote as Obama dictated.

Writing off an entire race as hopelessly unenlightened isn't going to help; in fact, a lot of the rhetoric I've seen in the left blogosphere tonight is only going to serve to reinforce the idea that "gay" = "white", and that the gay community only notices people of color when there's a comparison to the Civil Rights Movement to be made. And the Blame the Brown People push leaves those of us who are queer people of color marginalized by both of our communities. That's not the way to build a coalition, and it's not the way to win." Posted: Nov 5, 2008 at 12:11 pm

No. 52 · Jonathan I'm tired of trying to be politically polite. If they are going to vote away my rights based on fear and ignorance and prejudice, I'm going to give them something to be fucking scared of. Two years ago i was politically neutral. Today I'm a radical who is now on a mission to make them all pay for what they've done. The only thing that happened yesterday was it allowed me to see the amount of bigotry that still exists and know that when i walk down the street that every other person i pass thinks that I'm less of a human being than they are. Which really means, every other person I pass should duck. Good job guys, way to fuel our revolt. Any one else who is tired of being politically polite can feel free to e-mail me. Posted: Nov 5, 2008 at 1:15 pm

No. 57 · Carsen T. Shit…my parents have been celebrating, considering they know I am a lesbian, that is fucking disturbing. I just hope it will be found unconstitutional. But I really feel like shit, because since my friends and I have been a bit of a scorn to the Yes on 8 people in the SF archdiocese, I have been getting emails from kids out there who want to stay in the church and still be open about who they are. Now I feel that this will just push those kids away, it will be only a matter of time until the Catholic Church has just basically screwed themselves. I mean with out gay guys and girls, who is going to be the clergy? Posted: Nov 5, 2008 at 1:26 pm

No. 62 · msim Time is on our side, whippersnappers.

Jason Bartlett, a black gay man, has been elected, twice, in Connecticut.
It would have been impossible 10 years ago.

As for scapegoating African-Americans; I seriously doubt the black population in Arizona (3.8% as per 2006 Census Bureau) is responsible for the gay ban there.
Racists, like homophobes, are illogical bastards. Posted: Nov 5, 2008 at 1:48 pm

No. 66 · emb No. 33 Alexa (please, folks, read that post!): Thanks for sharing that. We're letting ourselves slide into the easiest villification, based on race. Fact is, while a majority of African-American voters wrongheadedly voted for 8, they're a minority of the voting population. If more voters of ANY color had opposed Prop 8, it would have lost. The fault lies, and our venom and action should be focused against, the Roman Catholic Church (esp the Knights of Columbus) and the Mormons. It was the concentrated resources (financial, physical, and psychological) of those organizations that crushed equality in California.

We need to organize and focus our attention on the tax exempt status of religious organizations that spend millions of dollars to pursue political agendas. That's hitting them where it hurts, and we need to hurt them.

At the same time, we can't expect that the majority heterosexuals are sympathetic to us. We need to educate them, through positive and negative direct action. Sitting around wallowing in easy racism gets us nowhere. Posted: Nov 5, 2008 at 1:57 pm

No. 71 · a. We have to look at the bigger picture. There is no doubt in my mind that gay marriage will pass in the future - the only question is when. More than ever before, young people feel able to come out, and their friends and communities overwhelmingly support gay rights - it is a matter of time.

Young people are not going to turn 30 and stop seeing their gay friends and family as equals. If there are communities that don't popularly support gay rights, we need to fight against the ignorance and win their hearts and minds, not condemn them for the color of their skin! How can anyone write off all black people as lesser because they voted for this?! Some of us are black, some of our partners are black, some of our most queer friends and families are black.

There are reasons why there is less support among parts of the black community for gay marriage. 1) Huge amounts of racism in queer communities that is only starting to be overcome - complete white-outs of boards and memberships of queer groups, tokenizing and discrimination in gay bars (and online message boards). I have seen this happen to my friends, who end up isolating themselves from the community and don't volunteer, therefore you don't see their faces as often fighting these battles. 2) It is harder to come out for many people of colour because the racism in the gay communities, and the homophobia in their ethnic communities, can leave them feeling completely alone. When your family and community keeps you whole in a racist world, how much harder is it to be open about something that may forever divide you from these people? 3) Let's remember where this religious bigotry comes from: white people. White people have pushed their anti-gay judeo-christian values on people of color around the world who were often far more accepting in their original cultures. When your people have been murdered and beaten and shut out from participation in society throughout american history, and the church has often been the center of the only community and hope you have, it is going to be harder to go against what you see as your religious beliefs, to support a cause that looks awfully white. 4) Division between white and black communities. If pro-gay white folks reached more out to non-white people, and fought together against racism, there would be less homophobia in these communities. It will take more than a few queer people to change a whole community, but this is already happening, I have seen this happen, and we can choose to make this the future.

Finally, we have voted in a black president who supports gay rights. He is against using the word marriage because he has to say that to get elected. If he really cared about preserving 'marriage' for straight people, he would not have been against prop 8. He speaks openly about bring the country together, gay and straight. Having this man as an emblem for the black community can only help queer folks of all colors.

Would you really rather see a future where a big majority of black folks don't support and maybe hate gay folks, but those black people just didn't vote? What kind of a life is that for their gay sons and daughters? They get to choose between their homophobic parents and the kind of gay community that would make the above comments? Nice. Posted: Nov 5, 2008 at 2:12 pm

No. 76 · Chris Let's put a proposition on the ballot denying rights to blacks and latinos and see how far that goes. There would be rioting on the streets. Gays are the last minority.

A straight man can kill his whole family, eat them and still be able to marry the girl of his choosing.

A straight woman can bludgeon her daughter to death with a textbook, cheat on her husband, even try to kill him, but still be able to marry the next day.

What's so great about straight marriage?

If you're so against gay marriage then DON'T COME TO THE WEDDING! Posted: Nov 5, 2008 at 2:49 pm