It's been disheartening to read the commentary around the passing of Proposition 8, as it relates to how the so-called black vote pushed the anti-gay marriage law over the line. If you haven't caught wind of this unfortunate thread, start with sex columnist Dan Savage who put its passage squarely at the feet of black homophobes (Yes, they might actually represent as much as *3% of the California electorate--so watch out). Maybe not surprisingly, Savage pulled his original column, probably after he realized he was helping to spark a race riot between blacks and white gays. Nice, Dan.
For a glimpse of the fervor (on all sides), just read some of the nearly 1200 comments on my HuffPo editorial. The most hopeful thing I can take away from this conversation so far is that it's a teachable moment for all sides. Clearly there were some issues surrounding race ready to spring from the GLBT community. The post-8 hangover probably revealed more than gay liberals would have liked in terms of their own intolerance. And there is no doubt—just like many, many other groups, races and cultures—a festering bigotry and lack of acceptance of gays inside parts of the black community. But to dumb it all down to homophobia is not thinking critically, since this has got much more to do with religion and generational differences. And, more importantly, it's completely counterproductive given the ink spent on this type of fighting when the winning of hearts and minds is more effective.
I came across this excellent open letter on Racialicious (Thanks, Diana). In it, contributor Adele Carpenter laid out some of the failures of this type of racial voter profiling. Carpenter does a great job showing how those eagerly attacking blacks for voting en mass in favor of 8 fail to look at how that same argument can be used against them. Here is one such examination:
"Californians live in a state that has one of the highest incarceration rates in a nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world. Studies have estimated that at any time, 40 percent of black men in their 20’s in California are under the control of the correctional system. Criminalization affects many LGBT people, in particular, those that may be experiencing addiction or who, lacking familial support, move to expensive cities where they may have a hard time accessing affordable housing and legal or living-wage work. I write from San Francisco, where, in the months leading up the election, I saw a massive mobilization within the queer spaces in which I spend time to get people to vote no on 8, but I saw little or no public discourse among LGBT people about very important state propositions: 5, 6, and 9—all of which potentially impacted things like funding for prisons, drug crime sentencing, or the trying of minors as adults in this state."
The entire letter is here.
Lastly, I was recently on KPFK radio discussing the Prop 8 fallout.
Photo: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times