News

Minority in GLBT Community Generate Friction, Heat, with Racist Rhetoric in Wake of Prop 8

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Nov 11, 2008

Among the expressions of anger, hurt, and doubt raised in the blogosphere and on the streets by the passage of Proposition 8, the anti-gay constitutional amendment that California voters approved last week revoking the right of gay and lesbian families to marry, a small minority have laid the blame for passage of the amendment at the feet of African Americans, who reportedly voted in favor of Proposition 8 at a rate of 70 percent.

As predicted, Barack Obama's presence on the ballot did bring more African Americans to the polls on Nov. 4 than had voted in years. But as some blogs are now pointing out--such as a Daily Kos item posted Nov. 7 that takes a look at the numbers and systematically picks apart the claim that African Americans were "to blame" for the amendment's passage--whatever the percentage of African Americans voting against marriage equality, the total number of votes cast by that demographic are too few either to have prevented Proposition 8 from passing or to have pushed the amendment over the top and to victory.

Other news items note that African Americans and members of the GLBT community alike have begun to point out the failures of the GLBT leadership, which, commentators say, did little to reach out to African American people of faith, unlike evangelicals, who systematically allied themselves with black churches and ministers.

For the vocal, angry minority who continue to blame African Americans, however, those considerations do not defuse their rage and disappointment.

Indeed, several news outlets reported that a gay African American was verbally harassed by whites at an anti-Prop 8 rally, with whites hurling anti-gay epithets at him.

Columnist Dan Savage, at his "slog" at Seattle newspaper The Stranger wrote a Nov. 5 item in which he exulted at the election of Barack Obama as President-elect ("I wept last night," Savage wrote), but went on to add, "I can't help but feeling hurt that the love and support aren't mutual."

Wrote Savage, "I do know this, though: 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."

Savage predicted that his comment, despite regretting the negative effects for people of all colors, would lead to something of a backlash, writing, "This will get my name scratched of the invite list of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which is famous for its anti-racist-training seminars, but whatever."

Added Savage, "Finally, I'm searching for some exit poll data from California.

"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."

Some reader comments posted at Savage's site were characterized as "racist" and "hostile" by a reader who wrote in to ask, "Mr. Savage, do you endorse the hostile, racist things some people are saying here?"

Savage replied, "Of course I don't endorse any of the hostile, racist comments posted here."

Added Savage, "And please note: My original post described black homophobia as a big problem for all gays and lesbians, whatever their color.

"This isn't about African Americans beating up on gay white men and women; African American gays and lesbians are the ones who suffer the most from African American homophobia."

Alex Blaze at The Bilerico Project posted a Nov. 6 story decrying that some in the GLBT community had made racist comments about the passage of Proposition 8.

Wrote Blaze, "It's not that African Americans didn't vote for Prop 8 in a higher percentage than the rest of the population--the exit polls indicate they did--it's that it's coming with an unhealthy dose of dickishness, asking us to stop engaging the black religious community (as if we ever seriously did), and instead.... Well, I don't know what the 'instead' is, other than possibly joining Republican efforts to disenfranchise minority voters."

Blaze added that, "many of these gays are attaching the 'Well, I guess I'm just not PC' to the end of their claims.

"...It's that same sentiment that we LGBT people are usually working against, 'I don't think the fudge packers aren't equal, so I guess that means that I'm not PC,'" Blaze wrote.

Blaze pointed out that while 70 percent of the black vote went for Proposition 8, similar majorities also characterized the votes of other demographic groups, such as voters over 65 years of age, Republicans, married heterosexuals, parents of minors, churchgoers, voters to whom the McCain campaign had reached out, voters who had voted for McCain (or, in the last election, Bush), and gun owners, among other groups.

Wrote Blaze, "Some of these groups supported Prop 8 far more than African Americans did, which makes me wonder why we're focused so much on race instead of any of these factors."

Noted Blaze, "Black people, like white people, are not a monolithic group, and LGBT people can make inroads by reaching out to African Americans if we try."

However, "Flapping our mouths about how we're not PC, how all blacks are homophobic, and how there's no use in reaching out to African Americans doesn't endear people to us, and there is work to be done here that hasn't been done."

Blaze also noted that, "religion is the overwhelming factor in Prop 8's win, in terms of organizing, funding, and voting.

"Since [religion is] not going anywhere, we have to take a more serious approach to religious voters.

"And, yes, their leaders make bank off homophobia, but we're going to have to be more creative."

Wrote Blaze, "No writing off fundies as idiots allowed--they get votes too."

At Rod 2.0 a Nov. 7 story claimed that, "Unfortunately the 'blame the blacks' meme is being commonly accepted by some so-called 'progressive" gay activists."

The story said that a young man named Geoffrey, who joined the demonstration against Proposition 8 that took place outside the Mormon temple in the Westwood district in Los Angeles.

The Mormon church has come in for heavy criticism from the GLBT community for its massive funding for Proposition 2, funneling huge sums into California to sustain the Proposition 8 campaign.

The article contained a description of the incident by Geoffrey, who recounted, "It was like being at a klan [sic] rally except the klansmen were wearing Abercrombie polos and Birkenstocks. YOU NIGGER, one man shouted at [me].

"If your people want to call me a FAGGOT, I will call you a nigger," Geoffrey's account continued.

"Someone else said same thing to me on the next block near the temple... me and my friend were walking, he is also gay but Korean, and a young [West Hollywood] clone said after last night the niggers better not come to West Hollywood if they knew what was BEST for them."

Another African American man, A. Ronald, who attended the rally with his same-sex partner, carried an anti-Prop 8 sign and yet still was subjected to racial epithets, the article said.

A. Ronald also provided an account of his experience. "Three older men accosted my friend and shouted, 'Black people did this, I hope you people are happy!'" Ronald recollected.

Ronald continued, "A young lesbian couple with mohawks and Obama buttons joined the shouting and said there were 'very disappointed with black people' and 'how could we' after the Obama victory.

"This was stupid for them to single us out because we were carrying those blue NO ON PROP 8 signs!

"I pointed that out and the one of the older men said it didn't matter because 'most black people hated gays' and he was 'wrong' to think we had compassion.

"That was the most insulting thing I had ever heard.

"I guess he never thought we were gay."

The Rod 2.0 story noted that some racially insulting posts had to be scrubbed from the site's reader forum.

"At least a dozen racist comments have been removed from this blog since Tuesday, such as, 'Thank you Black people for denying gay people the same rights that you deserve and have', 'Black people make me feel like a piece of shyt [sic] when it should have been a night of celebration for all,' and the succinct, 'F--K you niggers.'"

Noted the article at Rod 2.0, "There is more than enough blame to go around--the homophobia of the black church, lack of outreach by mainstream LGBT organizations, reluctance by the Obama campaign, many blacks gays and lesbians in the closet, deep pockets of the social conservatives, take your pick--but it is a statistical fact that millions more whites voted for this initiative than blacks.

"You want to blame somebody, go to overwhelming white Orange County, Bakersfield or San Fernando Valley and blame them," the article continued.

"Or better yet, head up to San Francisco and blame the 50 percent of voters who didn't even bother to vote."

Continued the Rod 2.0 article, "Look, whenever the rights of a minority are put to popular vote, they almost always lose.

"But very telling indeed [is that] many white gays instantly revert to racism to explain Prop 8's passage.

"It's going to be difficult for gay groups to reach out to blacks with this mentality."

At the Huffington Post Pam Spaulding wrote in a Nov. 10 article, "The desire to scapegoat blacks for Prop 8's defeat has exposed the now not-so-latent racism in our movement."

The racist comments by a relative handful of bloggers and demonstrators has resulted in the potential for gravely strained relations between blacks and gays, Spaulding indicated, writing, "The backlash is upon us, and it's going to get uglier unless our organizations step forward and say something.

"I have already blogged a lot about why the lack of effective communication (and I'm not even talking about outreach on gay issues to socially conservative blacks) between white people in general and people of color," Spaulding wrote.

"That dearth of understanding and mutual respect for difference, and lack of desire to seek common ground through personal relationships ultimately leads to what we are seeing here."

Added Spaulding, "You know what? This reminds me of the Freeper reaction to Condi Rice making mildly positive comments about Barack Obama's speech on race--all of a sudden she became a wild-eyed Trojan Horse Black Radical in their eyes, when nothing of the sort occurred."

Spaulding went on, "Discussing the whys and hows of human nature when it comes to these biases shouldn't be such a difficult matter, but it is.

Added Spaulding, "We all need to play a part, and share in the responsibility to achieve equality for all.

"Civil rights is not a zero-sum game; there is enough shared blame for the debacle that is Prop 8, and it cannot be undone.

"We have the choice to educate or alienate going forward."

Spaulding wrote that so far, only Wayne Besen, the highly vocal critic of the so-called "ex-gay" movement and executive director of Truth Wins Out, had stepped forward to call for an end to the polarizing racial rhetoric being spouted by a minority within the GLBT community.

Spaulding cited a Truth Wins Out press release that contained a quote of Besen saying, "It is reprehensible to look for scapegoats and target innocent people with vile racial epithets."

Added Besen, "We call on all GLBT people behave intelligently and act responsibly, so we can figure out--together--the best way for our movement to proceed and achieve equality."

Spaulding also cited a statement from the president of People for the American Way, Kathryn Kolbert, who said, "As a mother who has raised two children in a 30-year relationship with another woman, I fully understand the depth of hurt and anger at voters' rejection of our families' equality.

"But responding to that hurt by lashing out at African Americans is deeply wrong and offensive--not to mention destructive to the goal of advancing equality."

Added Kolbert, "Before we give Religious Right leaders more reasons to rejoice by deepening the divisions they have worked so hard to create between African Americans and the broader progressive community, let's be clear about who is responsible for gay couples in California losing the right to get married, and let's think strategically about a way forward that broadens and strengthens support for equality."

Kolbert's statement added, "The Religious Right has invested in systematic outreach to the most conservative elements of the Black Church, creating and promoting national spokespeople like Bishop Harry Jackson, and spreading the big lie that gays are out to destroy religious freedom and prevent pastors from preaching about homosexuality from the pulpit."

Moreover, Kolbert pointed out, "At a series of Religious Right events, demagogic African American pastors have accused the gay rights movement of 'hijacking' and 'raping' the civil rights movement."

Kolbert provided some historical perspective on the civil rights movement and its inspiration of--and partial rejection of--the GLBT equality movement.

Wrote Kolbert, "During a Cincinnati referendum in 1993, anti-gay groups produced a videotape targeted to African American audiences; the tape featured Trent Lott, Ed Meese and other right-wing luminaries warning that protecting the civil rights of lesbians and gay men would come at the expense of civil rights gains made by the African American community.

"It was an astonishing act of hypocrisy for Lott and Meese to show concern for those civil rights gains, given their career-long hostility to civil rights principles and enforcement, but the strategy worked that year.

"Eleven years later, however, African American religious leaders and voters helped pass an initiative striking the anti-gay provision from the city charter."

Added Kolbert, "In California this year, national and local white anti-gay religious leaders worked hard to create alliances with African American clergy... None of the Right's outreach to African Americans on gay rights issues in recent years has been a secret.

"Neither has polling that showed some deterioration in African American support for full equality.

"But there hasn't been the same investment in systematic outreach from the gay rights community."

Already there are indications that he racist rhetoric of a few in the GLBT community is leading to hard feelings among African Americans.

Wrote Jasmyne Cannuck, "To date, I have received several phone calls from Blacks, both gay and straight, who were caught up in Westwood around the time of that march.

"From being called 'niggers' to being accosted in their cars and told that it was because of 'you people gays don't have equal rights and you better watch your back,' these gays have lost their damn minds.

"But I know one thing, they won't bring that shit south of the 10 freeway."

Added Cannuck, "All I can say is that I wish that had been me in Westwood some gay called a 'nigger.'

"I keep bail money and a lawyer on retainer for exactly these types of occasions."

Cannuck, like some GLBT bloggers, pointed to the gay community's own leadership for the failure of the community to preserve its family rights in California.

"If gays want to blame someone for Proposition 8, they can start with their leaders-also known as the gay mafia, whose egos, white superiority complex, and misunderstanding of Black people's priorities for this election season guaranteed certain outcomes," Cannuck wrote.

Added Cannuck, "Keep it up and maybe the Black people will come to West Hollywood and hold a protest of their own--I'd be happy to lead it."

One white gay reader posted a comment at Cannuck's site that read, "I wish there was someone from the black LGBT community who could put their hurt and rage aside and calmly explain to the newly-hatched white haters (most of whom aren't haters but hurters) 'this is what you did, this is how it feels, this is why I'm hurt, this is why I'm angry, this is what you can do if you're interested in fixing this, and here's why you should be.'"

Added the reader, "Yeah, I know; there's a million different essays by distinguished black writers on the subject of racism--but not one written at a time when we just elected a black President and failed to beat back a try at reinstating discrimination against gay people."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


Comments

  • , 2008-11-12 10:46:29

    Always so jarring, isn’t it, when liberals get all emotional and accidentally expose their own racism, homophobia, sexism, and other ugly attributes - everything they use to try and demonize conservatives. Turns out that stupidity and ignorance knows no political boundaries, and even the most politically correct left-wing homosexual progressive can be as much as total asshole as any gun-totin’ sister-marryin’ "n*gg*r"-hatin’ Goober living in the most run down trailer in the bayous of Mississippi. And you liberals think you’re so enlightened and special. Funny, ain’t it?


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