Guest Blogger

Our Choice on Prop 8 and African Americans: Reckless Carping or Productive Change?

Filed By Guest Blogger | November 06, 2008 8:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement, The Movement
Tags: African-American, Amendment 2, gay and black, gay marriage, Prop 8, race relations, scapegoats

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Cindy Rizzo is a long time Projector. She blogs at Personal=Political=Polemical.

IMG_0014.JPGLosing California has been a major demoralizing event for our community and there's no way to minimize that. Frankly I feel robbed--robbed of the opportunity to bask in the Obama victory, robbed of the opportunity to be excited about the Democratic majority in the US Senate and in my local New York State Senate, and robbed of the belief that there was real momentum building for a widespread progressive renewal in the US.

On Wednesday, the day after Election Day, I felt hung over, exhausted, depressed, angry, marginalized. And I knew that if I wrote anything about the election that day, I might regret it after I'd had a good night's sleep.

Not so with many in our community. Blog pieces and listserv posts were littered with angry invectives about the African American vote in California. These writers actually wondered aloud why they had to be accountable for their own attitudes on race when clearly African Americans were not equally accountable for their views on homosexuality. Ignoring over a century of historical context, they seemed to be saying, "Now, see, here are the real bigots."

I cringed when I read this stuff. I couldn't imagine a more damaging position to espouse. I hated that Dan Savage felt emboldened to talk about the black vote in this manner even though, as he joked, he'd no longer be invited to speak at NGLTF events because of that organization's commitment to anti-racism.

One of the only voices of reason in the blogosphere came predictably from Pam Spaulding, of Pam's House Blend, an African American lesbian who tried to explain how the African American vote, as lopsided as it was, did not cause us to lose Prop 8.

But really, what I find important here, beyond questions of cause and effect, is the fact that seemingly smart people in our community think that their careless emotional venting about race and homophobia is a good idea. At this time, I can't imagine anything that's less productive.

Instead of mouthing off capriciously to make you feel good, and to feel the righteous anger of the underdog, how about we look at this issue and we start to address it? What is it necessary to do to turn this around? Where do we begin?

Here are some modest suggestions:


  1. Strengthen the movement of LGBT people of color. Why? Because we need to support the multi-issue work that is at the core of the lives of people of color in our own community. People like Pam Spaulding or Alexander Robinson don't have the luxury of being gay one day and black the next. They live both realities everyday, and one of the most important things the LGBT movement as a whole can do is to lift up the individuals and the organizations that bridge both communities.

  2. Strengthen and support our straight allies in communities of color. We need to build on the good work of people like Alice Huffman at the California NAACP who took a courageous stand in favor of marriage equality early on. Some LGBT community leaders are already engaged in doing this, but more of us need to do more of it. We have to raise the level of visibility and support for our allies of color.

  3. Become a movement that stands for racial justice. Dan Savage can joke all he wants, but the work of NGLTF on race is critical. If we are not good allies ourselves, then LGBT people of color will walk away from our movement (many already have; witness the blogger, Jasmyne Cannick, who has been publicly critical of the gay movement in a way that is not usually that productive). And there will be little incentive for straight allies to speak up on our behalf. Yes, that means we have to talk about affirmative action. Yes, that means we have to talk about immigration, and not just the LGBT aspects. Yes, that means we have to talk about poverty and the legacy of Hurricane Katrina. I'm sorry, we are long past the era of gay tunnel vision. If we want allies, we have to be an ally.

Finally, let's get some data (some of which we may already have) about what this attitudinal divide is all about. Is it pure homophobia or are there underlying beliefs and issues that we can constructively address? Let's then put our best minds to work on education, message development and on cross-movement work. Sure, there are bigots of all kinds in every community. We saw that at the McCain/Palin rallies. But carping about black homophobia in a reckless and unhelpful way won't change anything. It just digs us deeper into the hole.

I'm sure there are people who will criticize me as just another voice on the left talking about racism, like Dan saw the Task Force as an easy target. But again, how productive is that? If we do nothing but vent, we can just expect the same results next election day.


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Black evangelicals would push Alexander Robinson into oncoming traffic as fast as you. He knows it and should come out and tell you specifically that there are indeed ignorant black people worthy of scornful criticism from us. Dan Savages sentiment for calling on that ignorance of the religious right adjacent to their own words for the need to heal and move forward are dead on right. The only thing he is coming up against are gay white men and women who attempt to be conciously and verbally politically correct while having no diversity at all in the family so often touted as the one they chose. You are full of bull. Stop defending hate and putting down gay people for attempting to fight it by throwing what they receive directly onto the faces of those that deserve it.

Ewe, I'm not excusing anyone's hate or bigotry. I said that there were bigots in every community and I also said that there's a lot of room for change if we work for it. Your outrage at African Americans or at me will not get this issue to move to where we need it to be. So keep calling me PC if it makes you feel better. But as for me, I'm gonna do what I can to change things for the next time around. Unless of course you think it's better to just lash out, do nothing and remain angry that we have no rights.

Cathy Kemelmacher | November 6, 2008 9:03 PM

Very well put and intelligent. Thank you. I'll be turning to you for guidance in the matter of where to put my energy and time and resources anyway, because I happen to be lucky enough to know you as a wise and compassionate person. It's wonderful to see you here at the Bilerico Project. Brava!

I think it's important to remember how many people of color DID vote against Prop 8.

And there is far more than Pam and Alexander as voices working on this. Alex, Michael, Terrance, Monica, Jason, Irene are just a quick few who post on this blog that come to mind.

The enemy is ignorance. The cure is outreach.

And leadership.

How many African Americans DID vote against Prop 8 ?

Exit polls say that 70% of the black vote was in favor of Proposition 8 and that African-Americans comprised 10% of the vote.

I'm not sure that exit polls are good for this kind of math, but it appears that even if no African-Americans voted in the California election, Proposition 8 would have still passed.

Total votes in favor of Prop 8 - 5,419,478
Total votes against Prop 8 - 4,908,887
(total vote 10,328,235)

estimated number of black votes - 1,032,836
estimated black votes in favor of Prop 8 - 722,985
estimated black votes against Prop 8 - 309,851

Estimated votes for Prop 8 without black votes - 4,696,493
Estimated votes against Prop 8 without black votes - 4,599,036

So it appears that even in no African-Americans showed up at the polls, Proposition 8 still would have passed by approximately 100,000 votes.

But Blacks are a part of our society, and they did vote.

Another way to look at the numbers is this way: if 54% of the black vote had voted *against* Prop 8, it would have failed.

I think it's time to get serious about outreach. To ALL groups.

If you move 20% of the black yes vote into the no column Prop. 8 would have failed.

We can demonstrate that the African American community is the most bigoted group in California and you all want to give them a free pass. I say shame on them.

Sorry Dale-I think you need to look at the Data again...
http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/11/prop-8-myths.html

reality-based | November 8, 2008 10:18 AM

I'll tell you how many: less than half as many as voted for it.

Reformed Ascetic | November 6, 2008 11:47 PM

Well put Sara.

We need to know who voted Yes so that we can develop effective strategies for transforming them into No voters.

Or even abstainers. Right now, all I care about is getting them out of the way of progress.

I drew attention to the problem of Religious Blacks being homophobic early on - and took some stick for that.

We expected it from the Knights of Columbus. We expected it from the LDS mob. We expected it from the Racists and the Crackers. We did not expect it from the overwhelming majority of Black Baptists, and we should have. Our Bad.

I think everyone gets the message now, and incidents like this won't be such a shock.

To continue emphasising it will do no good, we know about it now.

OK, now we have a diagnosis, we can proceed to treatment. We need not just to reach out, but to reach out effectively. We have plenty of time to figure out how to do this. Because until we do, I don't see the DNC moving on GLBT issues now so many people of all kinds who voted in Democrats voted out GLBT rights. Not just in Ca but Fl too.

Reformed Ascetic | November 6, 2008 11:59 PM

It's not racist to point out that white religious conservatives trend homophobic.

It's not racist to point out that black religious conservatives trend homophobic.

It may well be racist to look at a religious conservative and assume that their skin color trumps everything else in their life.

If our leadership and strategists truly were surprised by this trend, I agree that they shouldn't have been.

But I disagree that all LGBT agendas are now dead within the DNC.

We often talk about how the DNC takes us for granted, and they do, but we tend to forget that we are part of the Democratic base. That they need us.

Obama's landslide was what, 6% of the national vote.

Ya know, it strikes me that we cxan lash-out at Blacks, or Hispanics, religious folk, married folk, White folk and prolly even some Lesbian abd Gay folk for the loss of Prop 8.

And that changes what?

Point is that we have failed again and again making "educational" arguments, having massive media campaigns and ... um, I started to say door-to-door canvassing and education ... um, we don't really do that do we?

I mean, sure, we go door-to-door in the Gayborhood, the Castro, maybe. But what about door-to-door in Compton or South-Central.

Dan Savage and Ewe are allowed, if they wish, to belabor the black church and black communities. But how exactly is beating our possible allies going to change anything except making certain they'll see no reason to support us at all and also leave our own people of color isolated and beset by both their LTBG constituency and their Black and Hispanic constituencies.

I just don't see the need for that, or any good and positive result coming from it. Yep, folks are hurting. Some folks may well have their legal marriages made illegal in CA.

But isn't this "ignorance" we want to blame in large part because of ourselves and our unwillingness to show our faces and our lives to those others on a personal level?

If we want to make some "real" differences then I belive it's time we all grew-up and quit thinking people will support us because we say it's right, while their ministers and priests say it's wrong.

I believe we have shown again and again that it's more difficult to take things and hate those we know, even if we hate the organization or group they "represent."

I think the largest reason for the loss on 8 was that most of us wanted "not showing my face outside of where I feel safe would be enough to sway all sorts of folk.

We've proven it isn't. Perhaps, instead, our tactic needs to be putting human faces to "gay." Not just TV faces, but at my front-door faces.

cindy: good plan but a plan can include both tactics and you are somewhat dismissive of what i wrote. Actually you just ignored it altogether for your own plan which is fine but not written in stone. NO. I personally feel it is productive to confront taboo subjects when it smacks of hypocrisy. Anger and lashing out have been the cornerstone of many a worhty revolution.

Nichole: I do not need your approval or allowance to voice my opinion anymore than WE need approval or allowance of straight people (black or white) to marry. It is called equality under the law and currently the lack thereof. If black evangelicals turn out in high numbers against us, it is our duty to confront and discuss it. The debate should really be how no one feels comfortable challenging the african american vote for fear of reprisal and calls of racism and silencing while having no problem labeling the white evangelicals as narrow minded. Both groups are! The one glaring difference is that as a group, african americans should know better simply because of experience and therefore must be told that there is no mountaintop to travel to without the rest of us. And it must be communicated very BLUNTLY. If that bothers people, that is tough. Discrimination at the hands of people we are being told to understand is nonsense. The only solution requires the exact opposite;understanding on the part of whoever voted yes on 8 and no to adoption etc. I am catering to the correct cause in my mind, not some mass psychosis known as religious beliefs.

Another white liberal telling us that we have not right to be angry. The facts are facts ladies and gentlemen. The evangelicals, mormons and yes African Americans (70%) do not want us to have equal rights. Yes blacks have a much longer and harsher history of ugly racial discrimination. Does this now give them the right to bash gays? They apparently think it does, based on their narrow dogma. I do not know what we should, could have done? I will not be cowed into thinking bad about myself because of my feelings.
Dan Savage was brave for speaking the truth. We need more truth to power. I sincerely hope we are not ignored by the Obama administration, but in a way I hold little hope of his administration doing much for our advancement. Next time I am not going to vote for a candidate so eagerly just because he threw me a few bones with not much meat.

I have to admit I'm angry; however, I knew what I was getting myself into when I voted for Barack Obama--unlike with Bill Clinton, who lied to us.

However, the high level of support given Barack Obama by organizations such as HRC and Moveon.org, especially in light of his intolerant views towards civil gay marriage due to his religious convictions is somewhat inexcusable.

They should have taken him to task and used the power of the gay vote to work on changing his attitude. I personally wrote the campaign several tiems, and after voting as a delegate and contributing, I told them, quite plainly, that I could not give Mr. Obama much more support unless he became more open in his views toward our community. He's a constitutional scholar and knows better.

However, there are still opportunities, Nevada starts a new session in 2009, which means another opportunity to strike the DOMA law from the ballot. Will HRC help this time? All these agencies have simply given up. I however, have not yet begun to hope.

First and foremost, the responsibility lies in each of us to consistently write our local, state, and federal representatives about this issue. This includes Barack Obama and Joe Biden. They have four years to adjust their way of thining, or I'll start looking into "less viable" parties that more closely espouse my values. What about you?

You make excellent points Cindy and when I think about the defeat rationally I readily agree with you.

You have pointed out a path that we must walk to re-evaluate our failure and correct the mistakes which seems like a well thought out plan. Being no fan of hate speech from anyone, I tend to agree that "lashing out" is not often productive and that we catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

The deep level of rejection, however, that stung our community all over the country by straight people of religion, no matter the race, was nothing short of heartbreaking. We have a right to be angry. We have a right to grieve. And we have a right to have a knee jerk reaction and spit out some of the bile left in our gut at having our hopes dangled in front of us only to be snatched away by the rhetoric of hate and divisiveness.

I live in Michigan and we didn't have a Prop 8 on the ballot. We're far, far away from having that hope. Instead we have a republican attorney general who has his eye on the governorship in the next election, who has championed not only the ban on gay marriage, but has also been instrumental in helping revoke same sex partner benefits from a major employer. It's a bitter pill to swallow in a so called "Blue" state. Truthfully, more and more of this "Blue" state goes "Red" with every election.

So when California, one of the bastion's of forward thinking and new trends threw our community under the bus, both my partner and I were simultaneously angry and in despair. If California couldn't manage to win against such a ban, Michigan surely couldn't find its way to gay marriage. We were immediately bitter and said a lot of things in the privacy of our living room that I won't repeat. We were hurt. It felt like we won the battle of leadership, but lost the war of hate. Again.

Then we started to think about what turned the tide and we both came to the same conclusion: Religion. Mormons may well have pumped millions into the ban, but they weren't alone. I'm sure church's of almost every denomination all over California were preaching at the top of their lungs for the passage of Prop 8 and contributing money to that goal. Yes, the polls all pointed toward ethnic rejection of our population, but religion is at its base.

My partner's father is an Assembly of God minister, Sarah Palin's religion of choice. We've been together for twenty four years, but when the preacher and his wife, my "In-laws", come to visit, we don't discuss the mammoth pink elephant in the room. They will never change their opinion of gay people. Not under any circumstance. They are sweet, respectful and polite to me, but they fall to their knees every night and often during the day and pray for their son's soul. Even in the face of the most well thought out and well explained reason, they would simply smile and say, "We'll pray for you", and go vote their merry evangelical way.

So when the LGBTQ bloggers didn't have the patience to hold their tongue's until calmer thought prevailed, I didn't mind in the least. The people who voted against us would do so again in a heartbeat and I'd much sooner have them realize that our community isn't going to take this crap laying down. It may be the correct thing to do to turn the other cheek -- I know, how positively Biblical! -- but sometimes its equally important to express our anger. Because for all the sweet talk and gentle reasoning you may wish to impart to those that voted for the ban, they aren't listening and largely, you're wasting your breath.

Now I'm not defending hate speech. I'm sure some people went way over the line of reason when they reacted out of raw emotion. Attacking people by race is never the answer. You shouldn't fight hate with hate, I'm sure you'd agree. But people are entitled to their raw emotion. I didn't particularly enjoy reading some of the post election blogs, but I did have to admit that they often said something akin to what I thought, even if it was an immediate emotional reaction and even if I might have been ashamed of it. Sometimes I think its important that we be honest with ourselves, even if we're looking at something not so pretty in our own heart.

You've done an admirable job to helping our community see calm logic: Honey, not vinegar. But I do think its equally important to express to the country our anger at having been denied, once again, basic civil rights. Yes, we have to thoughtful how we express that anger, but we need to let it show nonetheless.

Cindy, what an insightful, rational post. Thank you for putting everything in perspective and including possible actions to be taken.

Anger isn't a bad thing. It's an emotion, and, as some clever person said, "feelings aren't right or wrong - they just...are."

In this case, perhaps another saying would be appropriate as well -

Let's fix the problem instead of the blame.

Let's fix the problem instead of the blame.

Best sentence on this thread. Best point too. :)

i think your post is great, cindy. this is exactly the kind of measured determination freedom to marry has partnered with others to convey in developing background materials, media briefings, and talking points. you strike the same themes we have put forwarded in our post-election public comments (see, for example, my interview in gay city news, or on the signorile show).

amid all they have on their plate right now -- and we should give everyone a chance to catch their breath -- equality california institute is working with freedom to marry on post-election polling to go beyond the exit-polls and find out what moved people, what concerned them, where they got their information, and what we can learn from them. we will do serious over-sampling in people of color communities to ensure that we have good data to work from (on top of the conversations we must redouble in every community -- always the key ingredient).

i was pleased you avoided throwing "the blame" back on anyone (including our movement alone), as some do in pushing back against the "blame blacks" stuff. there is no need for blame, and plenty of need (and opportunity) for work and progress. i am confident that despite the bitter moment of the prop 8 vote, we will see a bump up in support for gays and marriage in african american (and other) communities right away. and the progress we've clearly made in various demographics shows the power of engaging, rather than withdrawing, sulking, or attacking...

evan

aroundthebend213 | November 7, 2008 9:37 AM

Gays voted for McCain in the highest proportions ever for a Republican presidential candidate. I'm sure that at least part of that unfortunate statistic is down to the existence of racist white gays in the community.

Coalition politics is hard.

I love how we're supposed to excuse homophobia in a particular community by looking at the "historical context", and yet the same argument wouldn't fly for the prevalence of racism in this country. Racism is bad, no matter the historical context, and is shouted down; homophobia needs to be put in perspective? These are the kind of double-standards that annoy me from so many liberal circles.

No kind of prejudice has place in our society. The historical context is irrelevant; I will not accept apologist arguments for whichever type of prejudice.

It is shocking to me. I thought that African Americans were by and large my friends. The timing can't be worse. I was feeling so good on Tues. night after Obama won and then so bad on Wed. when I read that 70% of AA's voted for Prop 8.

I don't know what to say yet though when I do speak I feel I have a right to express my feelings and to be heard. I have heard a great deal of truth from African Americans and feel like I am a better person overall from hearing out their experience.

When I speak they may not like what they hear and may discount my feelings as attacking or racist. If they are homophobic I imagine they probably will take that route.

Denial is a powerful short term means of coping with your own stuff. We all do it.

What can I say?

Have I been in denial about black homophobia? Is the homophobia in the black community not their issue to correct? Are blacks in denial about that? Is Obama in denial too? Mostly questions now.

It is shocking to me. I thought that African Americans were by and large my friends. The timing can't be worse. I was feeling so good on Tues. night after Obama won and then so bad on Wed. when I read that 70% of AA's voted for Prop 8.

I don't know what to say yet though when I do speak I feel I have a right to express my feelings and to be heard. I have heard a great deal of truth from African Americans and feel like I am a better person overall from hearing out their experience.

When I speak they may not like what they hear and may discount my feelings as attacking or racist. If they are homophobic I imagine they probably will take that route.

Denial is a powerful short term means of coping with your own stuff. We all do it.

What can I say?

Have I been in denial about black homophobia? Is the homophobia in the black community not their issue to correct? Are blacks in denial about that? Is Obama in denial too? Mostly questions now.

scott morris | November 7, 2008 6:45 PM

I found it interesting that it was discussed how the african american vote didn't matter by showing how if they hadn't have voted prop 8 still would have passed. A better way of looking at it is what would have happened if the african american vote had been similar to the white vote? Or had been the opposite with 30% for and 70% against.

While the underlying problem is narrow-minded religious folk, it isn't improper to look at the breakdown of support among different races. The homophobia in the african american community isn't a product of the color of their skin, but more so a product of their religiosity. The fact remains though, that more outreach needs to be done to this community. More effort needs to be done in educating and informing all minority groups that we are in this fight together.

Wouldn't it be great if we had a sea of African American faces at the big Prop 8 protest rally today? Saturday Nov.8 at 6pm in Sunset Junction. Info at www.afterprop8.org.

I'm sorry, but I don't see homphobic black churches as "possible allies" any more than I see James Dobson as a potential ally.

I've watched the LGBT community beat itself up over race for the last twenty years - and you know what, it's right to address racism in our community, because it's destructive and simply wrong. But I think one needs to recognize that this will not bring around homophobes who happen to lead black churches.

What Savage was pointing out - correctly - is that you can't build a coalition with a movement that will not speak out against the homophobia in its own midst. Church leaders who speak out against equality for GBLT people are still accorded respect in the African American community. Until that community takes care of its own problems, there's no alliance there.

It's also worth noting that the racism in the GLBT community tends to be of the clueless variety - white people who don't stop and think about issues of race. In the African American community, homophobia is intentional and activist. They are not just two different -isms.

yinka wills | November 8, 2008 8:02 AM

Cindy Rizzo, I am so pleased to read your comments. I was stunned when I went on line yesterday to read that homophobia amongst blacks was apparently THE reason why Prop 8 was passed.

I'm a black woman living in Britain with family in California. My impression was that black people made up about 6% of the electorate, that the Proposition was not put forward by blacks, the campaign for it was not funded by blacks, and that Latinos and whites also voted for it and that these electorates were bigger than the black one.

I could understand if black people were being criticised on the basis of 'you know what its like to have your human rights denied, so you shouldnt sanction that happening to anyone else, period.' But the stuff I read, on blogs like Andrew Sullivan's, made clear that blacks were the major obstacle to the LGBT community achieving equality.Period.

And it seemed that black LGBT people were invisible.Your approach-strengthening support for them, seems crucial to me.
Black people commenting on blogs like LadyJax's blog http://ladyjax.livejournal.com/603663.html, talked of no/little attempt by LGBT activists to campaign to stop the bigots winning the arguement as against serious campaigning by the Mormons and others. I think that has to change.

The elephant in the room here is of course religious dogma and its divisive effects on the world at large. There will be no change until each voter one by one realizes that their real, flesh and blood brothers and sisters take precedence over old traditions. I honestly believe marginalizing religious flights of fancy is the only way forward.

And that is exactly what they are afraid of, be they white, black or brown.

Absolutely we need to have strategies now for empowering LGBT people of color. However, we also have to hold black churches accountable for their ignorance and bigotry. You're right that if all we do is point out their ignorance and bigotry we'll accomplish nothing, but pointing it out is the first step. The next one is finding ways to force them to engage in dialogue with us. (Will they dialogue with us if we call them ignorant bigots? That'd be a good point, but it's too late to debate that. They are ignorant bigots, lots of us have called them ignorant bigots, and now we have to move beyond it.)

This article would be good for a Queer Politics class circa 1993. But this is 2008 and it just sounds like your making excuses for black people. The article actually infantilizes the whole group for not being able to move beyond what is it you say a "century of historical context."

Dan Savage is right. It is unfair and there is nothing racist sexist classist... about turning to a group that overwhelmingly voted for Prop 8 and saying, in 2008, what gives?

It's not like there was a public vote; it was done in the privacy of the booth and still this?


Ken

There aren't enough African Americans in California to have a significant effect on a future vote. If you're interested in helping overturn Prop 8, fine. If you're not interested that's fine, too. After supporting affirmative action in the city of my birth which was 60% black and after supporting Barack Obama for president from the beginning and after listening to what African Americans have to say for years about civil rights, after being told again and again by African Americans that being gay has nothing to do with civil rights, I'm feeling tired and pretty much indifferent.

If you want me back as your ally, then you'll have to approach me.

There aren't enough African Americans in California to have a significant effect on a future vote. If you're interested in helping overturn Prop 8, fine. If you're not interested that's fine, too. After supporting affirmative action in the city of my birth which was 60% black and after supporting Barack Obama for president from the beginning and after listening to what African Americans have to say for years about civil rights, after being told again and again by African Americans that being gay has nothing to do with civil rights, I'm feeling tired and pretty much indifferent.

If you want me back as your ally, then you'll have to approach me.

I read the Dan Savage piece to which you object, and you've made several important misreadings, including:

1. Savage was venting his anger the morning after an election. There's nothing about that anger that's incompatible with taking proactive steps to remedy the problem. If anything, this anger might be an accelerant (or at least a kind of Kublar-Rossian stage along the way) to the kinds of strategies you suggest.

2. Your shorthand summation of Savage's post -- "Now, see, here are the real bigots" -- is at best a wild exaggeration, at worst utterly unsupported by the language of his piece.

3. As far as I can tell, Savage was not joking when he said he would no longer be invited to speak at NGLTF events.

In other words, your critique of Savage is based on faulty premises.

Hi Cindy Rizzo. Long time no "see."

Thanks for your words here. I think history will record the passage of Prop 8 as the event that propelled marriage equality forward.

Mark my words.

I remaine in the clouds about President-Elect Barack Obama and will allow nothing to dampen my celebration. Not even this.

Keep in touch.

An old warrior from 7 Haviland Street.

Apparently, doing outreach to African Americans is like doing outreach to James Dobson's family and church. But if the intersectionalist-queer-theory-loving-coalitions-on-paper-people want to keep dreaming, go ahead. It was this thinking that got us into this mess in the first place.

Christ, younger evangelicals will come around quicker.

As a black lesbian woman i just want to say Fuk You White Gay and Lesbians I will never support your community again FU-K WHITE GAY AND LESBIAN COMMUNITY

I'm not convinced this comment is real (not a bete noir, to risk a pun), but if it is, how sad.

Stop excusing anti-gay bigotry by anyone. 70% of black voters voted to eliminate gay people's civil right to marry. And yes they did push proposition 8 over the top. Along with heterosexuals in every ethnic group gay people's civil right to marry was eliminated.

And stop imposing this untrue, bigoted and hateful meme on gay people that we are just as or more racist than heterosexuals because we are NOT! Got that? 70% of gay voters selected Obama for president. That is a much higher number than he got from Asian, Latino and white heterosexuals. Gay people have voted for many black politicans including Jesse Jackson, Deval Patrick and Ron Oden. Only once have blacks elected a gay person to office higher than city council. There is no comparrison between the level of anti-gay bigotry expressed by blacks and racism in the gay community.

Your argument assumes that gay people voted for Obama out of anti-racism or on behalf of people of color. I would argue that the majority of gay people -- regardless of race -- voted for Obama because it was in their self-interest. How 30% of gay people could vote for McCain is beyond me.

uberdelight | November 8, 2008 5:36 PM

Black people make up less than 7% of California's population - how can their votes possibly be scapegoated for Prop 8??

Instead of telling white gays to seek out alliances with black folks, which is what many have done, you should be telling black gays to stand up and fight for themselves.

Stop expecting white gays to lead you and speak for you, do it yourself.

A brotha on the down low can't blame that on a white gay not putting his issues as a black gay man at the forefront. As gays we speak for all gays - regardless of color - we always have.

In the No on 2 campaign in Florida, it got the support of the NAACP and black activists. So clearly, you can't say nothing was done. The reason that both campaigns failed was they were not run effectively. And this applies to the attitudes of communities of every ethnicity.

The "No" campaigns were not able to effectively respond to the slander and hatred of the Yes on 8 campaign. They were not willing to send people on the ground, to churches especially, white churches, black churches, and send people to argue their case and to talk about the issue.

Instead, we looked like people pleading for rights on our knees. This country will never pay attention to a civil rights movement that expects the politicians and the personalities of this country to fight our battles for us. The success of Prop 8 is partly due to gay people's silence and apathy, our concern with building up a clubbing and parade culture instead of an activism oriented and demonstration culture.

Quote: "estimated black votes against Prop 8 - 309,851"

Since the African American Gay population in California is estimated at around 200,000, it is arguable that only 100,000 straight African Americans in the entire state voted to support the Gay community. Most likely those 100,000 were the parents or siblings of the 200,000. In other words, homophobia in the non-Gay, non-Gay-related African American community in California could well be approaching 100%.

There is no way you can make the argument that this is acceptable behavior or that the African American community should not be held accountable for it.

Here's the thing, peeps.

we're talking about how this screws us. It's not *just* that these reactions are racist, it's that they are making firm-- drawing clear, angry lines -- onto a division that really isn't as clear as you think it is. And the more *we* make this 'black v. gay'? The more it will become that. Which it actually isn't, and wasn't on election day.

What it was: A couple of percentage points by a group that includes many poor, first-time-voting elderly grandmothers who have never even discussed same-sex marriage. That's what we're talking about.

And on the flip side, a group of rich white gay men who never got off their ass to build door-to-door or community support for marriage, now screaming the N-word in the street.

Which do you think sets the movement back further?

Thank you Ms. Rizzo for the most intelligent and productive analysis of race and the Prop 8 vote. Your suggestions for how to deal with the situation is spot on.

I would add, that those suggestions don't just go to how to win at the ballot box (distasteful as it is that our rights are up for a vote in the first place), but your suggestions also serve the arguably more important goal of combating homophobia in black/latino communities by those most affected by it.

Great article.

Thank you for focusing not divisiveness but where we go from here.

I would add one more suggestion.

4. Gay and Lesbian money and talent should be focused on helping the GLBT community not on helping Democrats get elected.

Obama chose to accommodate the people who hate Gays and Lesbians rather than stand and fight on Prop 8. It was a smart move and it paid off. He expanded the Democratic coalition in a way that could make the Demos the majority party for the next decade or longer. He did this in part with the efforts, time and most importantly the money of he got from the GLBT community. We gave him all this money after the beating we received from Bill Clinton (“don’t ask, don’t tell” and “The Defense of Marriage Act”) We kept giving even after he and McCain went and on national TV kissed the ring of Rick Warren, the head of Saddle Back Church. Pastor Warren is one of the hate mongers who brought us Proposition 8. We need to recognize that what’s good for the Democratic Party isn’t necessarily good for our community.

What you say is true; we need to reach out and educate these communities that seem to hate us so much. That means not just urban blacks but rural whites and Latinos both urban and rural. We need to make them understand our common humanity and righteousness of our position. And then we need to call out “leaders” in these communities both secular and religious who continue teach and preach hate. Democratic politicians on the other hand just need their votes so they can afford to and will continue to simply accommodate homophobia as long as it they get the votes.

The GLBT community has a lot of work to do in our fight for equality. We can no longer spend our precious resources on Democratic Party whose goals are no longer aligned with ours.

We have a right to be angry. We have a right to grieve. And we have a right to have a knee jerk reaction and spit out some of the bile left in our gut at having our hopes dangled in front of us only to be snatched away by the rhetoric of hate and divisiveness.

Yes, you do. But be aware that when you do that, it may have unintended consequences.

I'm black. I'm also a lesbian. I'm also someone whose marriage is now in legal limbo thanks to Prop 8.

And I'm also someone who skipped a protest tonight because I don't feel safe in a large group of white gays and lesbians.

There are black GLBT people. And I'm not the only one of use who's looking at the racial epithets and pointing fingers and deciding that these aren't my people either.

What racial epithets?

Not your people. Really? really???

You stayed in? You didn't make your presence known?

C'mon. When was the last time a GLBT group staged a violent protest?

Join the debate. You matter.


The racism coming from gay communities is making it clear to a lot of gay POC that they don't matter. They are walking away, and they are taking their supporters within POC communities with them.

Calling out someone on their homophobia doesn't automatically become racism just because they are a member of a racial minority. That is ridiculous, childish, group think. In short, grow up.

The first step in addressing a problem, is recognizing that you have it -- and the numbers don't lie. The Prop 8 results clearly indicate that homophobia in the straight Black community is almost 100%! The total number of No votes from African Americans is almost exactly equal to the number of Gay African Californians and a tiny fraction of their supporting families.

If the Black community wants to complain about anything, they should be complaining that the Latino, and Faith-based communities aren't taking just as much heat, however trying to ignore their problem by calling those who have noticed it racists is not going to wash.

Thanks for embodying exactly why so many POC, gay and straight, are fed up and walking away.

I'm white and straight, and I've marched in anti-violence-against-gays demonstrations wearing my wedding ring (before my wife passed away) because my children were too young for me to know how they would turn out, and why wait until they get killed in a homophobic rage, and for my gay friends who were in fact attacked, and for myself when I'm walking out of a gay bar, and I've squirmed while gays of color have hectored whites with the message that it's not the same struggle, and I can't believe I'm reading this, but I'm old now and I don't march much any more, so I can loan you my cahones the next time you feel too frail to stand up on your hind legs and defend your marriage. What exactly did you think was going to happen if you showed up?

I completely agree with Cindy. As a 51 year old white gay man, I have supported NGLTF over HRC for just this reason: we have to be an ally to have allies. Single issue organizations do not help us. The white gay communtiy has not done a good job in being visible and vocal in the concerns of communities of color.
Where have we been as slavery has been reinstated via the prison system? The "criminal justice" system has incarcerated black men at an increasingly rapid rate and the prison guard lobby is the most powerful lobby in CA. Where is the analysis?

I have given money to African American gay organizations - unfortunately, some of these organizations have not survived. White gay people need to support POC queer organizations with more that just talk.

We need to support the higher education of poor people of all races. If you look at Prop 8 voter breakdowns, those with higher education tended to vote no, regardless of their race. We need to stand up to Gov Arnold and say no cuts to education. We need to support critical thinking. How many white gay men voted to end affirmative action in CA (Prop 208)? How many actively campaigned against Prop 208?

We can rail all we want about the vote but if we are going to turn things around we need to reach out to straight POC and take up their issues, we need to support our straight allies, and we must support queer POC organizations.

I'm so tired of left-wing people such as yourself who have taken over the gay rights movement that are willing to excuse the horrid bigotry of the black community. Ask any gay person, hispanic, Korean or Jew how bigoted blacks can be. But you ignore it. You have spent so many years making gay rights fourth place to the civil rights movement for blacks and woman and your love of abortion rights it's not funny. It's time for gay and lesbian groups to wake up and start focusing 100% on gay rights ONLY. We are the only ones that will and until people like you get over your politically correct fear of being called racist for daring to criticize black people, we'll always be sold out.

Unfortunately you, HRC, and the Gay and Lesbian Taskforce not only DO NOT speak for me, you DO NOT speak for the vast majority of gay and lesbian folks in this country!

Excuse me, but the left wing never "took over" the gay rights movement. We started the movement while the conservative single issue folks like you were still whimpering in your closets.

Yes, anybody can be a bigot - nobody has the corner market. But without trying to understand it and without trying to build bridges with others who are oppressed then we are doomed to failure. We are a minority and always will be.

Single issue politics makes me sick.

You need to crack a history book and do a little review. The Gay Rights movement was NOT started by the New Left. This is a myth.

Apparently you have never heard of Harry Hay or Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon or Bayard Rustin.
Many early gay pioneers came out of the labor movement and/or were activists in the civil rights movement.

Many of those that organized after Stonewall were counter-culture hippies that were active in the anti-war movement. Those gay men that populated the Castro in the early 70s were hippies as well.

The early gay movement was led by progressive lefties - the conservative gays were still in the closet.
You are the one who needs a history lesson...

Like I said, read a little history, by that, I meant unbiased history. The rise of Gay Rights movement predates your leadership examples by decades, and included members from the Left and the Right, as well as libertarians, who are not even on the Left-Right continuum. Further, some of the very earliest Gay Rights organizing occurred outside of the U.S., in Europe, where the word "liberal" does not even mean the same thing that it does here in the U.S. Politics is far more nuanced than the average American's kindergarten view of it, but more importantly the Gay Rights movement is and always has been an inclusive effort, owned by no one. The thinking that claims differently is part of the problem that produced the Prop 8 disaster.

It gets me also how little these folks want to listen to LGBT black people even now after these election results come back. But then, at the same time, they throw around phrases like "brotha on the down low" without any sense of irony.

The community's reaction should be working to fix this problem, not yapping away like idiots. But you just can't help some people.

Barbara Schwam | November 9, 2008 4:49 PM

The campaign to elect Obama was amazingly well organized in terms of fund-raising, inclusion of all who would work, and emphasis on the registering of young and African American voters. Can the glbg community approach things this way? Hire Barak's organizers? What are best approaches to take? Who are the best spokespeople? Is blitzing with tv spots a good idea?

Cindy Rizzo is bright, scholarly, and hard-working. Is she our next Barak?

Hi,
I'm a transsexual who recently found this blog. I'm also currently married to a Asian women who has given me her support. This support did not come easy, but with time and a lot of discussion between us we have come a long way. You may say why is any of this relevant. She come's from a very strong catholic background and without taking the time I did (almost 10 years, mind you not every day) to educate her on my plight I don't think I would have gotten her support. If I would have taken the route as some here are suggesting "In Your face, you will do what I say or else" I'm sure I would not gotten anywhere with her. It seems some here want to force there view of the nay sayers. How is that any better than what the political supporters of Prop 8 did and are doing. If we want to build more support for equal rights for all, then we need to better educate the public. It will be a hard fight, because the religious orgs do have a strong foot hold in many of the communities that we need support from. Am I upset, YES I am. But to me, just sitting her blaming the Blacks, Latinos or any other group with out even trying to have a intelligent dialog I assure you will not get us anywhere. Education will be the key to our success and I believe Cindy has some valid points. We do have to strengthen our support with our allies and try to build up dialog between the ones that are apposed. If we can't do at least that, I'm almost positive that we will not ever see any positive change for the future and it could even get worse by other states overturning the right to marry. I have a stake in this too as a transwomen, when I change the sex on my legal documents, they could have easly take away my right to stay married to my wife or any other women. People, lets join together and at least start taking a look at what didn't work this time and correct those issues and do some proper education. Thank you all for you time.
Michelle Lee

Turnout was the problem with prop 8. The youth of california did not come out to vote. Turnout in SF was a miserable 50%!

Maybe if the media (both Left and Right) hadn't so poisoned the primary options of Ron Paul, the youth vote wouldn't have been MIA. Obama still would have beaten Paul, but at least Paul would have gotten tolerant libertarian youth to the polls and they could have made all the difference in Prop 8.

What's wrong with angry?
I have every right to be angry at the 70% of the African American population who voted yes. I have every right to be angry at the 49% of the white population that voted yes. We can and should be angry at ourselves for not targeting the intense homophobia in some minority groups. I can be both angry at our shortcomings and at the hatred coming from those who voted yes minority or otherwise. To blame us for other peoples hate, to give that 70% a free pass because we didn't do enough is wrong. We didn't do enough, and they voted for hate and bigotry. I'm angry at both groups.

Homophobia, the last socially acceptable form of discrimination.

Thank you so much for this column, Cindy Rizzo. What a sane perspective, with constructive ideas toward coalition-building and broadening of the LGBT movement.

However much some may want to point fingers at African-Americans, Prop 8 carried many groups in supposedly progressive California: Latinos, Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, white men, orthodox Jews, retirees, and others. And some of those yes votes were the result of a stream of disinformation from the religious groups funding Yes on 8, with some of the most incendiary ads and print materials circulating in the last two or three weeks before the election.

But like you, Ms. Rizzo, I felt very conflicted last Wednesday. Happy that Obama won, but all too aware of the limitations that still persist.

Yes, many other groups besides African-Americans voted for Prop 8. The special anger comes because: 1.) The yes vote from blacks was motivated by religion. 2.) Of all the electorate, black people should know better because the Bible was held aloft by the KKK and many other white bigot groups and individuals to justify their views. 3.) Black spokespeople keep insisting that the prejudice against LGBTs is qualitatively different from racial prejudice. 4.) It's hard not to feel angry when you've worked and voted civil rights all your life (57 years), and you wish you could celebrate and be happy with everyone else about Obama's victory, and yet to do so would be to violate your feelings of betrayal.

My Jewish real estate agent understands. She is equally appalled by her family and Jewish friends who couldn't handle an African-American president. We feel the same - How can they possibly not know better?

Don't tell me not to express my anger. I'm an atheist. Before Florida passed their own prop, a Florida man was forced to remove the word "Atheist" from his license plate because it was the same as an obscenity to many Floridians. George Bush the First is on record as saying that atheists cannot be patriots. Religion is a cold howling gale that blows in my face every day of my life as part of the most despised group in the USA. The fact that it can make black people so benighted of intellect that they can vote against someone else's civil rights says a lot about religion in America, and it's time for those of us who live under its opressive shadow to start clawing our way out. But first we have to get angry and start calling people on what they say, and remind them that it's still their opinion, regardless of what holy shroud they wrap it in.

Well, I am not sure I agree the issue (Blacks voting against Gay marriage). In my mind there are at least 2 side issues and the issues also goes to the heart of the problem.
The issue of generalizing is that it leaves some of the unknown issues out of the question.

1. The very fact that the Prop 8 was worded extremely poorly (on purpose?). The wording (to me) indicated that if you were to vote "YEA" on Prop 8 you were approving gay Marriage. The double negative wording was at best confusing and misleading.

2. The numbers sited above also do not take into other minorities (Hispanics, which IIRC CA has a few). It would be clearer if the numbers were segregated out and then a clearer picture might be seen.

I know that anything said would be at best a guess as to why one minority group would vote against Gay Marriage, so maybe a post election survey should be taken.

*IF* it can be shown that *ANY* religious organization gave money to either side then probably champaign rules were broken and the church(s) can be held accountable.

Black Gay Male

I am frustrated with these attacks as a black gay man is because many of the white gay community have decided to take their anger out on all of the African-American community. 70% of the African-American community voted yes for prop 8. But 30% of the African-American voted no for prop 8.

I am a black man and I am also a gay man. There are issues I have to deal with in this country because I am African-American. There are other issues that I deal with because I am gay. However, the bigotry that I was not prepared to deal with came from the gay community.

I agree with many bloggers that we need to evaluate what happened and then design a solution to address the situation. However, many African-Americans who voted no on prop 8 who were both straight and gay reported being the unwilling recipients of anti-black sentiments.

I think that it is unwise to alienate the 30% African Americans that is standing with you because of the 70% that does not understand what it really means to be gay in the United States and voted yes on prop. 8. Just to reiterate, black LGBT people are dealing with three and four minority statuses at least.

If you do not value the 30% which are on your side and use the 70% as an excuse, then that is okay with many of us. We want to go with you and work with you on this. However, we are both black and gay and we are not taken the heat on this. We deal with racism from the gay white community for being black and homophobia from the black community for being gay.

Many of us believe that gay issues are civil rights issues as well. I do not know the name of the black woman who made this statement, but I agree with her. "It doesn't matter who was oppressed first or who was oppressed the longest. What matters is that no one is oppressed." We must work so no one is oppressed.

The struggle for civil rights for all minorities links us together, and we need to cooperate and support each other rather than to blame and fight against each other. Both movements have existed through the same time and have been intertwined. Black civil rights leader Bayard Rustin (one of Dr. King's top advisors) said back in 1987: "The barometer of where one is on human rights questions is no longer the black community, it's the gay community. Because it is the community which is most easily mistreated." Remember, an injustice to any of us is an injustice to us all. It matters not what is the level of the offense, but that there is any offense at all. Most gay people understand it was religious prejudice fueled by conservative religious leaders of all colors who used fear and belief systems to overcome logic, reason and fairness. Don't let Faux news divide and conquer.