Sunday, November 16, 2008

More on Prop 8 Racial Scapegoating and Hypocrisy

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.

*For exit polling fun, here's where the race-baiting numbers began. But Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight dot com has a much better—and less blame-y—version of the numbers.

Lastly, I was recently on KPFK radio discussing the Prop 8 fallout.

Photo: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times


Steven James Jerardo said...

No hipocrisy. It's game over, gay marriage is dead and it is now illegal in California. Thank God.

Raymond Leon Roker said...

Steven--why so against it? Regardless of where you stand, and for whatever reasons, why stand in the way of other humans and their happiness? So long as it doesn't impact or harm you, which gay marriage wouldn't.

Liz said...

I would disagree a tad with the assessment that it is reductive to point to homophobia as reason for prop 8's failure.

It is reductive to point solely to the homophobia within the black community, yes, for Korean Americans, Latino Americans, white Americans, and particularly the Christians among them who regard the Bible literally are equally to blame.

However, how else would you characterize the basis of even the religious intolerance? The recourse or rather cowardly, and I would almost daresay blasphemous, retreat to particular passages in the Bible - Sodom and Gomorrah, e.g. - is specious for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the pick & choose approach of Biblical literalism.

That said, I am in firm agreement that this racial scapegoating must stop. While I understand the disappointment that some in the LGBT community may have experienced in having a community so closely/symbolically associated with civil rights play a part in the deprivation of their own, it is absurd to scapegoat the black community. It is indeed a classic instance of dangerously misdirected anger.

OK. I'm off my soapbox now. :)

Derrick said...

You know Raymond, there's a town hall meeting taking place on Saturday November 22, at LA Trade Tech if you're in town and interested in attending. I have all the information posted on my blog. Here's the url:


danielle said...

i also agree that the racial scapegoating needs to be stopped. funny thing is, my best friend who is mexican - first thing she said when prop 8 passed was it was because of latinos in california.

it's easy to point fingers to certain groups and generalize if you don't really scrutinize what's going on.

but i also tend to agree that homophobia is tied into religion. one of my very good friend's mom (they are white) told her to her face that gay people should not allowed to be married. they are extreme christians, and her parents tried sending her to christian workshops to make her "un-gay".

everyone is just trying to point fingers but in the grand scheme of things i agree with jon stewart that the *progression* of america is in the direction of gay marriage to become legal. this is our generation's equal rights battle.

*listening to your kpfk interview* :)

JD said...

Absolute hypocrisy. In fact, I edited Wikipedia's Prop 8/"demographic" section because it blamed blacks for Prop 8's passage. However, I didn't have a reference to cite to until I found your page. I hope you don't mind that I cited your article to wikipedia.

Rather than equally dividing blame among all yes-on-Prop. 8 voters the privileged white gay community has directed their resentment at a demographic that comprised only 10% of the electorate. Notably, the white gay community is not voicing anger at the 82% of Republicans, the 81% of white Evangelicals, or the 65% of white Protestants who voted yes on 8. Yet, each of these groups accounted for a higher electorate percentage than that for blacks. The percentage of the white evangelical electorate alone accounted for over 1.5 times as many votes as that of the black electorate.

Is this white gay backlash at the black community inspired by fuzzy math, blatant racism, or both? African Americans alone are not responsible for the homophobia that pervades society as a whole. Check the statistics –
Demographics voting YES on Prop 8:
84% of weekly churchgoers – 32% of electorate
82% of Republicans – 29% of electorate
81% of White evangelicals – 17% of electorate
70%of African Americans – 10% of electorate
65% of White Protestants – 29% of electorate
64% of voters w/children in household – 40% of electorate
64% of Catholics – 30% of electorate
61% of age 65 and over – 15% of electorate
60% of married people – 62% of electorate
59% of suburban dwellers – 51% of electorate
58% of non-college graduates – 50% of electorate
53% of Latinos – 18% of electorate
51% of white men – 31% of electorate

CNN ELECTION 2008 results/polls
Edison Media Research Exit Poll

These results indicate that race was just one of many factors, such as religious ideology, political affiliation, age, education and family status, that contributed to determining a voter’s position on Prop 8. Yet in the minds of the white gay so-called liberals, African Americans are the enemy in the gay marriage battle.

Moreover, before venting negative emotions at black people for not fighting hard enough for your causes, a white, middle to upper class LBGT individual should question how much he/she is dedicating to racial and socioeconomic justice-related causes. If the answer is ‘not very much’, then it may be time to begin self-reflection and to end accusations that African Americans are hypocritical with respect to gay marriage.

The white, gay elite fail to recognize that the fight for gay marriage is not analogous with the black struggle for equality. Gaining the right to marry has no bearing on critical issues concerning racial and socioeconomic hierarchies that disproportionately impact blacks.

For example, the government disproportionately detains, arrests, prosecutes and incarcerates blacks. One in three black males is under some kind of criminal justice supervision, whether on probation, parole, or incarcerated. Blacks have higher rates of poverty, unemployment and are more likely to receive less pay for the same jobs as whites. A disproportionate number of black children are forced to attend substandard schools and thus receive less opportunities for educational advancement. Many African Americans, justifiably, may be more concerned that too many people are living in decrepit housing projects and struggling to find jobs while being ostracized by mainstream society, than they are about the narrow issue of gay marriage.

Furthermore, contrary to the views of white gay “civil rights” activists, gay marriage is a moral and religious issue rather than a civil rights issue. People did not vote yes on 8 because they were intending to strip others of fundamental rights, or to express hatred and bigotry. People voted yes on 8 because the traditional concept of marriage as between a man and woman, ordained by God, has been a cornerstone of the puritan, Judeo-Christian culture that has persisted throughout U.S. history. Blaming blacks for our society’s moral values that stem from deeply engrained religious conservatism is misplaced and inaccurate.


A middle class white lesbian, highly disappointed in my counterparts.

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