Monday, November 10, 2008

The Black-Gay Blame Game

I have seen a lot of articles on the black/gay blame game regarding the passage of proposition 8 (the ban of same-sex marriage). African-American voters made up 10% of the exit polling in Califonia, and a large percentage of black voters were in favor of prop 8. From these facts it can be easy to point fingers and assert the black community is homophobic, or the gay community is racist and didn't court black voters. I think both of those assertions have validity but one cannot paint a broad brush on any group of people.

I think what people are failing to realize is that the color of ones skin does not influence their decision at the voting booth (unless the vote has to do with rights and protections based on those characteristics). Likewise, ones sexual orientation is a characteristic of the individual, that individual may be open to racial diversity, or be a racist as well. The idea that blacks and gays are "progressive" is spoken of as a matter of fact. Both groups do vote overwhelmingly in favor of the democratic party, but that does not mean they are socially progressive. Sure, there are many blacks and gays who seek true equality for all minorities, but there are equally as many who are apathetic to the other side or outright opposed.

I think there are 3 reasons prop 8 passed among blacks. 1. I think black people are heavily influenced by their churches, and more outreach/holding churches accountable for politicking is apropos. 2. I think the "No on 8" campaign didn't properly court African-American voters, they failed to show enough diversity in their ads, and within their staff and to reach out in communities of color and counter the lies being preached at the church. 3. I think as with the Latina/o community there is an element of "machismo" and homosexuality is seen as a weakness among a culture that has typically been on guard and protecting itself due to societal ignorance and bigotry.

This is my take, and I know it is a controversial subject. The fact is blacks and gays are both groups that have been subject to discrimination. We need not draw comparisons between the struggles because they are radically different. The fact is both groups should come together and seek to lift ourselves united out of the oppression we face. We are both subject to bigotry by the same forces, it is just being twisted in different ways. Lets be united to create change and truly be "progressives" because whether "gay, straight, black, white - marriage is a civil right." Blessings for a brighter future.


Riverwolf, said...

I'm just not sure how to feel. I don't want to point fingers. And regardless of which "groups" supported Prop 8, the fact is that the majority of voters approved it, white, black, Latino, whatever.

But the campaign played to religious bigotry, homophobia and ignorance--all which still exists in certain religious and minority communities.

And I'm just so tired of waiting until everyone "catches up" with us. Will they ever? Did this country wait until all white people were ok with blacks to institute civil rights?

Renee said...

think as with the Latina/o community there is an element of "machismo" and homosexuality is seen as a weakness among a culture that has typically been on guard and protecting itself due to societal ignorance and bigotry.

You had me until right there. I think that it is a false notion that blacks and Latin@ alone believe in hyper masculinity. It is exists in whites as well. One look at the white action figure, blow 'em up movies is enough to attest to its existence. POC are no more attached to masculinity than anyone else.

That said I do agree that conversation needs to start happening. There is a lot of hurt on both sides and right now it is quite the open wound. But if we believe in the cause of justice we need to remember that turning the other cheek in forgiveness is the first step forward.

Queers United said...

Riverwolf- I understand the hurt and frustration and believe me I am saddened as well. One has to feel baffled that an oppressed group can turn around and vote for the denial of another groups rights. I think what is important to understand is we can't say the black community supports prop 8. Likewise we can't say the same about Mormons. It is those blacks and Mormons that are part of churches preaching against same-sex marriage that were influenced. We need to do a better job of reaching out to faith groups and educating them that this is a human rights issue and regardless of one feels about marriage it is wrong to take away rights.

Renee - I definitely believe every society has a "macho" element to it. I think a lot of it has to do with ill treatment by members of society as well as socioeconomic status. There are many blacks, whites, and latinos, who don't embrace the "macho" side. I think one would be more likely to find that sort of thinking pending on socioeconomic and geographic location, but there seems to be a sense of it existence in the communities of color because they have been disenfranchised and forced to fend for themselves. Not an expert by any means but thats how it seems to me.

Protest Prop 8! said...

I totally agree that these are radically different struggles. What are the tools we can work on to educate black and other minority voters?

Mixed Poet said...

What this discussion needs is an understanding of intersectionality. Among the largest coalitions fighting against Prop 8 in Northern California was a coalition of mixed race, gay folk of color, interracially married people of all races, and white parents of mixed and nonwhite children. So, no Blacks did not defeat Prop 8 and no Blacks are not more homophobic than everybody as a group. The NAACP has spent money filing legal briefs in support of gay marriage.
Rates of anti-gay violence like violence against women do NOT vary by race or class.

Straight people as a group ARE homophobic, black or white, yellow or purple. White people ARE racist as a group, gay, straight, or bisexual. Men, regardless of sexuality or race, ARE sexist. That is the nature of oppression in its most basic terms. But we have to consider more.

There are plenty of Latino and Black gay people who are not homophobic. There are plenty of Asian and Native American gay people who are not racist. There are plenty of lesbians who are NOT sexist. The analysis needs to be more complex.

Isn't it likely that there were twice as many gay whites voting as Black gays voting? Isn't it likely that given the class differences between Black and whites that many more whites may have moved to California to be gay in peace whereas many of the Blacks and Latinos are straight people who have had to make choices about where to live based on economic need?

Queers United said...

I find it strange that you accuse whites and gays of harboring these prejudices but excuse other groups. It is dangerous to paint any group with a broad brush. Not all whites are racist, some blacks are racist. Not all gays are sexist, some straights are sexist. There are plenty of both in every group.

Ray Ray said...

Your points are well taken but I do think it's time to address homophobia in the black community. Right now the only quotes I've heard from black speakers in response to questions about this subject have been defensive non-answers that blame either white gays for being exclusionary or the No On 8 campaign for failing to reach out to blacks. There are kernels of truth in these answers, but they do not a) cop to the prevalence of anti-gay prejudice in the black community b) answer the question: Where is it coming from? Addressing these two points openly is the first step in building a bridge between gays and blacks. But the level of prejudice in the black voting community in California, which I assume is representative of the black community as a whole, must be addressed and acknowledged. This is about accountability, not blame. Prejudice is prejudice.

Allan said...

U.S. blacks ARE homophobic as a community. Especially "religious" blacks. There is no doubt about it, and if you choose not to believe it then your head is in the sand. U.S. gays are less racist than their heterosexual counterparts, and to compare this amount of racism (none is good, BTW) with the enormity of the institutionalized black homophobia is simply wrong, as in incorrect. Reality, history, and the evidence proves that black women, then black men, and Hispanics are simply anti-gay in every way (not every single person of course).

Black and Hispanic gay men are actually choosing to die because of the depth of their homophobia, because they won't even admit they are susceptible to HIV and AIDS. They refuse to set up testing, they refuse to get tested.

What ever gave you the idea that they would "ALLOW" gays to be full human beings? It won't happen when they have an entire industry (their churches) making a living from finding someone else to belittle and scorn. Victims victimizing someone else (us) in order to appear more than the lowest of the low. Same as gays who hate on transgendered people, effeminate gays, butch women, etc. "At least we're not as bad as 'THEM'." Truth sucks sometimes, but it's the truth nonetheless.

Queer john said...

Thanks for a reasoned and inclusive voice on this subject.

Queers United said...

Thanks Queer John I appreciate it.

Zahra said...

I think it's completely ignorant to say that African American women, then African American men, then Latinos are "simply anti-gay in every way." It also defeats the purpose of trying to build coalitions among ALL oppressed people to help us see we have much more in common that unites us than divides us. I am a heterosexual African American woman, but I came to this site to find protests against Prop 8 because I know that I have solidarity with queers of all kinds, as well as all other marginalized people. Calling us names and trying to belittle people's beliefs does not address the issue - it's just the flip side of the same problem, which is lack of love and respect for ALL people.

Zahra said...

One more thing... As I said, I am a strong supporter of all human rights, and that will never change. It bothers me that so many people in the Black community don't seem to consider gay rights to be an important issue - maybe in part because they are in denial about how many African Americans are gay, or they hold onto a literal understanding of the Bible... I don't know. I do think that more African Americans - gay and straight - need to speak up and say that we support equal rights for LGBT people.

However, I do not appreciate people throwing around the label of "prejudice" in the Black community. I also believe that many Blacks are homophobic, JUST AS MANY WHITES ARE HOMOPHOBIC. But it seems that some people expect African Americans to be sympathetic to the cause of gay rights even though we rarely if ever see or hear any statement from the LGBT community regarding issues that disproportionately affect Black people. Where does this community stand on issues of felon disenfranchisement, the ever-expanding prison industrial complex, the fact that the military disproportionately recruits at schools populated by the poor and people of color, higher poverty levels among Blacks and Latinos? Where are your voices on these issues?

And on the issue of prejudice, it is also well-known that prejudice and racism are alive and well in the LGBT community, with people of color generally residing at the bottom.

You can't really expect reciprocity if you don't do any of the giving. To many Black people, it seems that the gay community just wants to take - as in stand on our shoulders to gain more rights for yourselves - without actually helping us address the issues that we are STILL struggling with.

Maybe before you go pointing fingers of "prejudice in the Black voting community in CA" (of which I am a part), you need to look at yourselves and ask what you have contributed to our struggle that makes you expect us to contribute to yours.

domesticgoddess said...

I think this years election had ALOT to do with race. That is why Obama won. I'm for gay rights myself but I don't see a lot from Obama. He "promises" change but I won't believe it til I see good change.

pinkchocolatesunshine said...

black people were not the reason prop 8 failed, let's get that notion out our heads. By sheer numbers, it is not possible.

i am a black woman, a Christian...the church plays a huge part in promoting intolerance of gays. many black men are living double lives married to women and sleeping with men. The black community, esp. the religious base has yet to have an intelligent conversation about homosexuality...and this needs to change.

Queers United said...

pink - Well any community could have tipped the scales, so its silly to point the fingers at blacks, latinos, whites, etc. If more than 51% of whites voted no, prop 8 also would have failed, so can we blame whites? No, it is silly. We have to as you say bring the conversation to the churches.

Anonymous said...

QU sez
" It is dangerous to paint any group with a broad brush."

after you post a shamelessly generalised portrayal of Blacks and Latina/o folks in an article.

conspicuously absent from your analysis are White people, who contributed the greatest number of votes to pass the damn thing.

Nice race baiting. Can you say: Spoken like a white middle clas gay dude who blames minorities for his problems?

- A Latina transwoman hacked off by gay racism and transphobia.

Queers United said...

Actually exit polls showed that white people voted no for the most part. But if you read the article you would notice I am saying we shouldn't race bait. We should bring discussion to communities of color and faith.

Anonymous said...

Some blacks who voted for and are in support of Prop. 8 are saying it is not a civil rights issue. I beg to differ. Remember separate drinking fountains? Separate toilet facilities? Separate schools? When you could not marry out of ones race? To you I ask, would YOU go back to those days?
Get the picture?????

Anonymous said...

YES: People of color who voted in favor of Prop of 8 should know better. They're a disgrace. No question about it.

But I wanted to say something about this blog entry, because this issue has been getting a lot of crazed-out media coverage that focuses on the sensational and leaves out any intelligent take on this problem. I was hoping that Queers United would help curb that general trend. I generally like Queers United a lot. I'm not trying to discredit all the different points made on this entry, or to give the impression that bigots don't exist in communities of color, or that there isn't room for self-reflection among POC. But I found this article very sad to read. I am a Latino gay man who grew up in the Dominican Republic and the South Bronx, and went on to work with gay people and people of color in Ohio, Michigan, and now in California. The Latino and Black communities are extremely diverse. Some of the statements in this entry felt too painfully general and stereotyped. Maybe it's just too hard to address the complexity of homophobia in any given culture in a brief commentary, and I should be glad that at least you are trying...

Anonymous said...

thank you zahra!!!

Mateo said...

I think Irene Monroe has written something more thorough about this topic

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