Rev Irene Monroe

Proposition 8 is not about black homophobia

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | November 11, 2008 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: African-American, black, black church, California, gay marriage, lesbian, LGBT, marriage, marriage equality, Prop. 8, religion, same-sex marriage

I have learned as both a pastor and also as a member belonging to several minority groups - African-American, women and lesbian - that a popular opinion on a civil rights issue does not always reflect the right choice. Too often the right choice and the moral high ground on an issue derive from small struggling groups trying both to be seen and heard among the cacophony of dissenting voices and opposing votes. And it is with these groups we see democracy's tenacity working, where those relegated to the fringes of society can begin to sample what those in society take for granted as their inalienable right like the right for all of its citizens to marry.

Last week we saw democracy work with the election of Barack Obama as our country's first African American president. My enslaved ancestors who built the White House could have never imagined that one of their progeny would one day occupy it. But we also saw last week on the same day how democracy didn't work for its LGBTQ citizens with the passing of Proposition 8, an amendment to the California Constitution eliminating marriage equality for same-sex couples after the California Supreme Court ruled in May that a "separate and unequal" system of domestic partnership for same-sex couples is not only blatantly discriminatory but it is also unconstitutional.

While California's gay community places blame on African Americans for the passing of Proposition 8, we were one of many interest groups backing the amendment. And although we are just 6.2 percent of the state's overall population, we can't wash our hands clean by saying other interest groups are just as culpable.

Seven out of ten of us pulled a lever to deny another minority groups their civil rights. And while the pollsters and pundits say that religion was our reason, as African American we have always discarded damning and damaging statements and scriptures about us in the name of religion like biblical passages that either cursed all people of African ancestry (The Curse of Ham, Genesis 9:18-27) or advocated slavery (Ephesians 6:5-8).

Many Proportion 8 supporters voted yes believing the future traditional family was at stake. But when society narrowly defines marriage as solely the union between a man and a woman, it ignores the constant changing configuration of today's family units. And the African American community knows this best. While African American ministers will argue for the traditional nuclear family, the stresses and strains of racism have thwarted and continue to thwart the possibility. So we created our own family structures.

Therefore, multiple family structures presented by same-sex marriages should not pose a threat to the African-American community because they are what have sustained, saved and are still saving African-American families. A grandmother or an aunt and uncle -- straight or gay -- raising us in their loving home have anchored our families through the centuries. And these multiple family structures, which we have had to devise as a model of resistance and liberation, have always, by example, shown the rest of society what really constitutes family- its spiritual content and not is physical composition.

Unfortunately, civil rights struggles in this country have primarily been understood, reported on and advocated within the context of African American struggles.

The present-day contentious debate between black and queer communities concerning what constitutes a legitimate civil rights issue and which group owns the right to use the term is both fueled and ignored by systemic efforts by our government that deliberately pits both groups against each other rather than upholding the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution that affords each of these marginal groups their inalienable rights.

While it is true that the white LGBTQ community needs to work on its racism, white privilege, and single-issue platform that thwart all efforts for coalition building with both straight and queer communities of color, the African-American community needs to work on its homophobia.

The blame of the passing of Proposition 8 should not be placed on the shoulders of blacks, Latinos or even religion, but rather the blame should rightly be placed on the shoulders of our government. To have framed our civil rights as a ballot question for a popular vote was both wrong-hearted and wrong-headed. If my enslaved ancestors had waited for their slaveholders to free them predicated on a ballot vote we all wouldn't be living in the America we know today. And Barack Obama would not be our president-elect.

Also posted at the Huffington Post


Recent Entries Filed under Politics:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


ā€œIā€™m a Christian... And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.ā€
- Barack Obama, quoted in the NY Times.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/01/us/politics/01marriage.html?_r=2&em&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

Worth noting.

She doesn't need to note that. If you've been following the site by any amount of time, you'll know that reverend Monroe was one of Obama's most critical inquirers. She doesn't need to be taught about Obama's failings. Unlike Crawford, she could keep a cool head when approaching this candidate.

Melanie Davis | November 11, 2008 3:13 PM

Thank you, and exactly!

I am ashamed of my community's unravelling and looking around for anyone to lay blame on like an embarrassed preschooler who trips over his own feet and accuses the nearest person of sticking their foot out.

Organisation, education, outreach, unity, confrontation, and honesty. Those are the qualities our community needs to develop within itself. The recent displays of bitterness, bigotry, myopic complacency, and general laze have been overshadowing the very real feats performed by those in the community who are working hard for change.

William D. Lindsey William D. Lindsey | November 11, 2008 3:53 PM

Excellent statement, Rev. Monroe. You say,

"The present-day contentious debate between black and queer communities concerning what constitutes a legitimate civil rights issue and which group owns the right to use the term is both fueled and ignored by systemic efforts by our government that deliberately pits both groups against each other rather than upholding the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution that affords each of these marginal groups their inalienable rights."

Fueled and ignored: that's absolutely right. If we want to look for those who really exploit these divisions and keep them going, we have to look beyond both the gay and the black communities.

We have to look at powerful highly funded right-wing interest groups that create the division, using the churches when they can do so--and all too often, they can do so.

And which "powerful highly funded right-wing interest groups" used whatever church that contributed to the views on same-sex marriage as voiced by Barack Obama in his above quote in this thread?

There's a LOT of work to be done, "education" in the parlance of some, on the issue of same-sex marriage, and it's not only needed toward the "conservatives" and "right-wingers" who are so often a target of venom on this site (targeted in a manner, with stereotyping and mindless invective and more, that proponents of "tolerance" of "inclusion, of a "commitment to diversity" would never countenence toward almost any other demographic.)

Lastly, the suggestion that blacks who voted in signficant numbers in opposition to same-sex marriage were "exploited" by some unnamed "those" is more than a bit patronizing- you don't believe that they could, of their own volition, have made up their minds in a manner you don't approve of, that they are so weak-minded as to be susceptible to being exploited?

While I agree with pretty much everything in this post, I would recommend checking out Nate Silver's take on the Prop 8 exit polls and the blame being placed on African Americans:

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/11/prop-8-myths.html

But it was religion that was the fault, 20 Million dollars to spread lies on TV from the Mormons. It's not the government's fault. To put a petition on the California ballot is open to every person and group, including our LGBT's. In order to qualify for the ballot, Proposition 8 needed 694,354 valid petition signatures, equal to 8% of the total votes cast for governor in the November 2006 General Election. The initiative proponents submitted 1,120,801 signatures, and on June 2, 2008, the initiative qualified for the November 4, 2008 election ballot through the random sample signature check but how can you blame the government?

William D. Lindsey William D. Lindsey | November 11, 2008 8:58 PM

Thanks for your reponse, RJ.

You ask, "And which 'powerful highly funded right-wing interest groups' used whatever church that contributed to the views on same-sex marriage as voiced by Barack Obama in his above quote in this thread?"

Good question. For a start at answering it, you may want to check out Patricia Nell Warren's post earlier this week enumerating the groups responsible for funding the fight for proposition 8.

There's a wealth of information there. Trails on trails leading back to powerful highly funded right-wing interest groups dropping lots of money on faith-based groups, to manipulate them.

You're right, there's a lot of educational work to be done in these areas. I'm glad you're interested in joining in the project of tracking the numerous right-wing interest groups funding the attempt to drive wedges between the African-American and gay communities for some time now, often through faith-based groups.

William D. Lindsey William D. Lindsey | November 11, 2008 9:01 PM

Thanks for your reponse, RJ.

You ask, "And which 'powerful highly funded right-wing interest groups' used whatever church that contributed to the views on same-sex marriage as voiced by Barack Obama in his above quote in this thread?"

Good question. For a start at answering it, you may want to check out Patricia Nell Warren's post earlier this week enumerating the groups responsible for funding the fight for proposition 8.

There's a wealth of information there. Trails on trails leading back to powerful highly funded right-wing interest groups dropping lots of money on faith-based groups, to manipulate them.

You're right, there's a lot of educational work to be done in these areas. I'm glad you're interested in joining in the project of tracking the numerous right-wing interest groups funding the attempt to drive wedges between the African-American and gay communities for some time now, often through faith-based groups.

California's gay community places blame on African Americans for the passing of Proposition 8????????????????????????????????????????????? Other than that sweeping generalization, i really enjoy your writing.

If 7% of CA voters are A-A, and that 70% Yes vote was changed to a 50% Yes vote (similar to whites), a total of 1.5% of voters would have changed sides. Every bit helps, but the goldmine would be to identify undecideds and less committed Yes voters among the larger white population or the unchurched/ nominally churched population of all racial demographics, and target them for education and later GOTV.

Blaming the blacks seems not only racist, but ludicrous - it is clear that the significant GOTV advantage resides in churches motivated and able to preach against gay marriage (and parachurch media such as local and national conservative evangelical / neoPente televangelists and commentators like Dobson et al). For issues (amendments, referenda), there really is no limit to speech for pastors, since speech in person is free, and the IRS only cares about percent of money spent on issues campaigning. So, the churches can buy only so much advertising, but the pastors can hold news conferences, guest preach everywhere, and so on, without restriction - as long as they are silent on candidates and parties.

It strikes me that the whole internet kerfuffle on Who Lost Prop. 8 is bringing out bad behavior that may not reflect the opinions of the white gay community as a whole.

Hon, I don't know which universe you live in, but I live in low cost housing and I can tell you from experience, blacks are homophobic. Period.

Don't like it? Change it. But trying to claim there's no homophobia in black culture is self-delusion. Heck, even the entire concept of "the down low" in which gay blacks desperately try to hide their sexuality is proof enough.

Or maybe you should ask Obama about Warren?