In the wake of the passage of Proposition 8, I'm troubled by the resurgence of "blame black people" rhetoric coming from some some gay people. 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.
And, in a super-douchy move, many of these gays are attaching the "Well, I guess I'm just not PC" to the end of their claims. It should be heretofore known as the "Ace of Douchebaggeries" because trumps all douchebaggery committed in a conversation by anyone else by signaling a complete indifference to the fact that such rhetoric will be interpreted as racist. 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." Just ask Jim Naugle, crusader against gay bathroom sex.
It might also be called the "This is disgusting; taste it!" approach to political discourse, because it makes about as much sense.
But instead of the exit polling, I'd like to turn your attention to this map:
This is a map of the counties that voted more for Kerry in 2004 than they did for Obama in 2008. While the entire country moved towards the Democrats, these are the parts of the country that moved towards Republican John McCain.
Moving away from geography and back to exit polling, there's another group who voted along these lines as well. 77% of self-identified LGB people (sorry, CNN doesn't poll the "T") voted for Kerry in 2004; 72% of LGB people voted for Obama in 2008. Without wildly different positions on gay rights issues, the safest assumption is that LGB people, in general, have similar thoughts on race as the average resident of Appalachia or Arkansas.
Either that, or election results should not be interpreted strictly along racial lines. Or something like that.
Speaking of Arkansas, they also had an anti-gay ballot initiative (theirs will ban adoption by unmarried couples). Here's CNN's exit polling based on race: 58% of white people voted for the measure, 54% of black people did, and there wasn't enough of any other racial group to get accurate numbers. And yet, for some reason, no one is decrying the white homophobia that simply can't be addressed with outreach because white folks are just so obsessed with their homophobic religion and white gays are too misogyny and closeted to question homophobia in their community.
But back to the topic I'm more of an expert on: douchebaggery. Dan Savage this morning, while decrying black homophobia in a post that stirred up some of his racist readers in the comments, stated:
I'm not sure what to do with this. I'm thrilled that we've just elected our first African-American president. I wept last night. I wept reading the papers this morning. But I can't help but feeling hurt that the love and support aren't mutual.
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.
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.
Over at Pam's House Blend, one reader responds to her call for more outreach to African American voters:
I refuse to accept responsibility for a bunch of bigots. What shoud I have done Pam? Whined..."Please, please accept me, pretty please with sugar on top". You let your own people off with a slap on the wrist, so I am going to defend my people the angry, white gays. I am tired of being understanding while the African American community at large spits in our face. It is a shame, when a community as a whole shuns another repressed minority using the same bible that they were bashed with only 40 or so years ago. So forgive me, if I am not feeling to generous tonight while I worry about whether I still have a marriage or not.
But I'm wondering why these folks are so caught up in the black voters, who obviously can't ever be persuaded on this issue because... well, because. There are so many other groups in the exit polling that voted for Prop 8 overwhelmingly (as in, more than 60%):
- The elderly (65+)
- People who decided for whom to vote in October (but not within the week before the election)
- People who were contacted by the McCain campaign
- White Protestants
- Those who attend church weekly
- Married people
- People with children under 18
- Gun owners
- Bush voters
- Offshore drilling supporters
- People who are afraid of a terrorist attack
- People who thought their family finances were better now than 4 years ago
- Supporters of the war against Iraq
- People who didn't care about the age of the candidates
- People who are from the "Inland/Valley" region of California
- McCain voters
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. In terms of predictive value, religion, political ideology, and being married with children tell us much more about how someone voted on Prop 8 than race does.
From which we can infer three things. First, breaking the statistics just along racial lines is an overly simplistic way to look at the results. 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. 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.
Second, religion is the overwhelming factor in Prop 8's win, in terms of organizing, funding, and voting. Since it's 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. No writing off fundies as idiots allowed - they get votes too.
The third conclusion is more sinister. Since married people overwhelmingly supported Prop 8, marriage would be bad for the LGBT community. Obviously, being married makes someone homophobic, and we already have enough problems with internalized homophobia in the community.