Dan Savage is pissed:
I’m done pretending that the handful of racist gay white men out there–and they’re out there, and I think they’re scum–are a bigger problem for African Americans, gay and straight, than the huge numbers of homophobic African Americans are for gay Americans, whatever their color.
Fair enough. I have no way of judging how much of a problem “gay racist white men” are for me. I don’t even have a way of knowing whether gays are more or less racist than straight people. Moreover, I don’t much care. But Dan’s logic basically only works if you see black people strictly as a group who’ve been shitted on. In other words, if you believe that racism is a singular and uncomplicated variable, that black folks aren’t effected by any other factors, than you’ll probably agree with Dan.
So, sure, you could look at this exit poll…
…and say, since the margin between for and against came down to 500,000 votes out of 10 million, If only we had gotten 100% of the African-American vote against 8, we would have had this in the bag. How dare They. But what if we had gotten 100% of the Asian and “Other” vote against Prop 8, which would have been an increase of 450,000 votes, and, like, 1% percent more of the white vote? What if we had gotten 75% of the Latino vote, instead of 47%? Or what if we had gotten 59% of the white vote against Prop 8 instead of 51%, the most achievable statistical increase? What if we didn’t put the outcome of gay marriage all on one group, and if we had gotten 6.5% more of the white vote (+409,500), 3% more of the Latino vote (+54,000), 2% more of the black vote (+20,000), and 2% more of the Asian and Other vote (+18,000)? Or any combination therein?
Answer: gay marriage would be legal today in California.
It was deeply heartbreaking to see California come out to support such clear bigotry in denial image of love. As many of you already know same sex marriage has been legal in Canada for a few years now, and it has caused no disruption in our society. It is my belief that by affirming the right of all to marry, it has helped to make us more inclusive and accepting of others.
When I went to various GLBTQI blogs to express my sympathy at the passing of PROP 8, I was horrified to discover that it was being blamed on blacks. Once again the divide and conquer tactics of the ruling elite have prevailed to divide marginalized bodies from each other.
The blame game has begun, and clearly it is all the fault of the blacks.
Factually Unsupported Myth #1: CNN’s 10% Black exit poll sample accurately reflects the actual distribution of voters on Proposition 8.
Each and every argument I’ve read since Proposition 8 passed that lays blame on Black people — whether only like the worst of the haters or even primarily — for the passage of Proposition 8 starts with CNN’s exit poll statistics about Proposition 8 at its foundation. Yet anyone who knows anything about the demographics of the State of California – or anyone who spent ½ as much time looking up actual data as ranting all over the free world about what “Black people” did “to gay people” (as if those groups are wholly separate, telling you a lot about the racism that underlies the argument) would know that 10% simply defies reality, unless a million or so Black folks snuck into the state just before the election so they could say they cast their vote for Barack Obama on sunny California shores.
But even if you are not like me, not an actual resident of the state and willing to do my homework before spouting off, it did not take any study to figure out what was the problem. Indeed, if you read CNN’s own explanation of its exit polling/projection process, it is clear that CNN makes no claim that the distribution of folks which it exit polled about Proposition 8 was necessarily reflective of the actual racial percentages of the California electorate who voted, not even in those places that CNN actually exit-polled in. From CNN’s own website about its methodology:
The process of projecting races begins by creating a sample of precincts. The precincts are selected by random chance, like a lottery, and every precinct in the state has an equal chance to be in the sample. They are not bellwether precincts or “key” precincts. Each one does not mirror the vote in a state but the sample collectively does.
The first indication of the vote comes from the exit polls conducted by EMR. On the day of the election, EMR interviewers stand outside of precincts in a given state. They count the people coming out after they have voted and are instructed to interview every third person or every fifth person, for example, throughout the voting day. The rate of selection depends on the number of voters expected at the polling place that day. They do this from the time the polling place opens until shortly before it closes.
What’s missing from this picture?
CNN has left us without a critical piece of information necessary to establish the validity of its sampling on Proposition 8: precisely where the network exit polled in California. It simply says that “the aggregate sample is accurate” but has not provided they key piece of information necessary to actually prove it.
This matters for a reason. Specifically, in a state where different demographic populations are reasonably-evenly spread throughout a state, which does not also have dramatic divergences in political ideology which depend on where you live within the state, CNN’s methodology might permit it to make a truly accurate statement about the percentage of voters in total who voted on a measure state-wide.
That, however, is not an accurate description of the state of California, as anyone who lives here knows.
That narrow margin is what is leading pundits to speculate that the unusually large PoC vote made up the difference. Exit polls show that 49 percent of Asians (a nice surprise for me, actually; I would have guessed a cool 60 percent), 53 percent of Latinos, and a whopping 70 percent of African Americans voted Yes on 8, together easily representing the margin that put the proposition over the line.
Possible reasons include: general homophobia among PoC communities, Christianity, disinformation, and a reverse Bradley Effect. Re: homophobia, especially in the black community: you can never just look away from this explanation, but you can’t simply accept it, either. The African American community has been targeted over the years with many different accusations of prejudice and closed-mindedness, in part because this is an easy and safe way to attack African Americans who are perceived to have the moral high ground when it comes to discrimination. So I hesitate to hurl any accusations on this head, although a 70 percent come-down for a gay marriage ban is pretty breathtaking. I hope to hear a great deal about what happened there in the coming months from queer allies in the black community.
We’ve also seen this accuse-and-conquer tactic used in this election against Asians and Latinos when speculating as to whether or not they would vote for a black candidate, although the history of discrimination accusations against Asians and Latinos isn’t as clear-cut as that against blacks. It’s mostly been used in the past to divide the PoC communities from each other, which is what was going on earlier in this election as well. The answer to the will-they-vote-Obama question is pretty obvious now, but how this works together with voter turnout and Yes on 8 remains unclear. What I’m saying is: be careful with this one, especially while you’re still feeling angry and bitter.
I have felt for a long time that marriage is a union of two people who love each other, recognized by their house of faith. I have not believed it is a union that should be recognized by the state or by the nation. The union of two people regarding taxes, finances, property and legal access to each other in sickness and in health – that is the union that should be a matter of state. A civil union. And the decision on who gets to make that legal union in the eyes of the state should not be dictated by the beliefs of any church. That is unconstitutional, that is un-American.
Other countries that do not spell out a separation of church and state in their constitution, let them battle out bans and amendments, and evolve along their own path. But in this country? We have that separation for a reason. We were founded in this way particularly to stop religious persecution, to allow people to practice their beliefs, and be in peace and union with each other on the values that we share – democratic and representative leadership, opportunity, and the like.
So its been difficult for me to throw my whole heart into the demand for gay marriage, because it feels like a fight to integrate, to normalize ourselves into a faulty paradigm. That burning house metaphor.
That said, I try to always strike a balance between my ultimate vision of how things should be, and the right step in the moment. In this moment there are people who are satisfied with domestic partnerships, and then there are people who want what everyone else has, not a second class union.
I love so many gay people who are now married. Some have children of their own, some have children they adopted. Some are happy, some are struggling, like any married couple. But I see the joy they have at being able to live their lives as they have chosen. That is the opportunity that they wanted.
And when I hear those who would deny us the state benefits of marriage, and deny our right to be recognized by our church if we have one and the church is willing to marry us, I hear only hypocrisy and hate.
I hear people who fornicate, divorce, cheat, lie, steal, covet, eat pork, get tattoos, skip church, and all the other fun things in life, measuring homosexuality as an abominable and visible “sin”; making judgments, doling out punishment as bans on commitment. A loved one dissed her date the other night because he said gay sex was not real after asking her about a threesome. I see people of faith who can’t believe in legitimate and comprehensive love between gay people just because they don’t personally experience it.
Another narrative is emerging regarding Proposition 8 that many others and I fear will be used to harbor division. According to Associated Press California exit polling, which should always be taken with a grain of salt, approximately 7 in 10 Blacks and “more than half” of Latinos polled supported Proposition 8. Already the message boards on the San Francisco Chronicle are filling up with comments such as, “HIV infection rates are skyrocketing in the African American and Latino communities as they have made being gay a taboo…I guess sticking a finger in each ear and pretending that this issue doesn’t affect them is easier than having a frank and honest discussion about homosexuality,” and “Funny how these same people would feel if gays singled them out for some reason – selective sterilization, for instance.”
Blacks and Latinos are more homophobic, right? Categorically, unequivocally wrong.
What these polling numbers actually reveal is entirely different. They emphasize more the degree to which Blacks and Latinos were targeted by the Yes on 8 campaign, and more importantly, the profound lack of engagement between same-sex marriage supporters and the racial justice movement.
Prominent LGBT organizations will point to enormous coalitions they have formed with other non-LGBT organizations in support of same-sex marriage, which usually include people of color organizations, church leaders, and community groups. But this is a top-down approach from both sides, and the hearts and minds of the constituents of these organizations will not be won by simply being told to support same-sex marriage.
While the same-sex marriage movement has always made welcome to other justice-oriented communities, the end result is always a correlative argument – that if we get same-sex marriage, it will benefit everyone because LGBT identities transcend all racial and gender groups. It’s not convincing enough in any communities with strong beliefs, regardless of the reasons, that marriage does not include same-sex couples.
The disconnect between same-sex marriage supporters and the racial justice movement is obvious to opponents of same-sex marriage, and thus easily exploited for electoral gain whenever the issue of same-sex marriage is raised on a ballot.
First of all, why not put the blame on white voters aged 65 and over, who voted 59% in favour of the ban? Or on whites who never attended college, who voted 58% in favour? It’s completely arbitrary to single out 10% of the electorate and claim their votes made the difference.
And then there’s this:
“I’ll eat my shorts if gay and lesbian voters went for McCain at anything approaching the rate that black voters went for Prop 8.”
As if the two are comparable. Obama isn’t a special interest candidate. No matter how teary-eyed queer people in America are about the significance of the country electing its first black president, the vast majority of them didn’t vote for him because he was Black. They voted for him because he’s a Democrat, and because he’s for civil unions and he’s got the best healthcare plan, and since gay men were just about wiped out by AIDS healthcare’s been a pretty big issue for the community.
Savage makes it sound like queer Americans did Black folks a favour, and now they’re entitled to call it in. It’s hateful, it’s unhelpful, and this kind of thinking could set us all back decades.
And this open thread on Stereohyped is an excellent snapshot of the diversity of black thought on this issue.
Edited to Add:
Forgot two great ones from yesterday.
But let’s pretend for a moment that there were no people of color in the U.S. Let’s pretend that this past Tuesday, all voters who went to the polls were white. How, then, would the election and the ballot measures have fared? […]
The ban on gay marriage would still have passed with 55% of the vote.
The ban on gay couples adopting would still have passed with 58% of the vote.
Prop 8 would have been defeated by only a small margin of 51% to 49%. […]
The ban on gay marriage would still have passed with 60% of the vote. […]
Two other interesting facts that I haven’t heard any of these critics mention:
* In Arkansas, 54% of black folks voted to ban gay couples from adopting versus 58% of white voters.
* In Michigan, 59% of black folks voted for stem cell research versus 51% of white voters.
(All links to back these assertions up are at Tara’s place.)
People criticizing the black vote in Prop 8 have forgotten a fundamental organizing principle: on any issue, people respond when they are spoken to. As an organizer, when a large block of people that I expected to vote my way based solely on principle don’t, I blame myself and my assumptions, which, no matter how logical-seeming, were clearly incorrect.
For example, logic would have said that all white women would have supported the African-American voting rights movement because of their own fight for suffrage decades earlier, but that wasn’t always the case. Why? Because white women were still white. They clung to the racial identity with which they were most familiar and which society told them to prioritize. They still had to go home to their white husbands, and white churches, and white children and claim a whiteness that ignorance said was threatened by the black vote.
See the parallel? Straight black people are still straight. That is the sexual identity that we, like most other straight Americans, have been told to prioritize and that is supposedly threatened by gay marriage. While assuming that black people should automatically support marriage equality may be right on the merits (gay rights = civil rights), it is actually illogical considering:
* the historic marginalization of people of color within the LGBT movement
* the lack of inclusion and diversity in many of the larger organizations that were channeling money into California
* the minimal and limited representation of gay people of color in the media
* the more extreme and at times convoluted views on marriage and gender roles passed down as a legacy from slavery
* and the large historical role of “the African-American church,” a stereotyped religious entity that is, at its core, theologically evangelical and conservative
Taking the African American vote for granted in this instance (and in any for that matter), presupposes that we live on a civil rights island, pray to Rosa Parks every morning, and are not influenced by the attitudes of the larger society around us. Don’t forget–some of our greatest civil rights icons of the 1960s were notoriously homophobic. That is the nature of American bigotry: it is selfish and separatist, causing many of our movements for freedom to be the same.