Editors' Note: Guest blogger Gloria Nieto is a longtime social justice advocate. She will be inducted into her college newspaper Hall of Fame in September. She lives with spouse of almost 20 years, their 3 dogs and 2 cats in San Jose, Calif.
I got married on August 30, 2008 during the summer of love. My one year anniversary is coming up soon. Our 20 year anniversary is on August 14. Most of that time we have lived in California, with a decade in New Mexico.
I did all my growing up in California, schools, drinking, getting arrested, getting sober, getting politically active and educated. From the really bad days of AIDS to Prop 187 and now Prop 8, I have struggled in the trenches to do the right thing to win at the ballot box.
Let me be clear now. I am not and have not been part of the "leadership" in California even though I have a strong, experienced background in the science of elections. There was no Latino leadership in the November election aside from that provided by mi hermanos in LA, HONOR PAC. I do not fall into the scorned category of "those people" who have been in charge.
Trying to be a cool chick all the time, I have been riding the wave of the recession for a couple of years now, few jobs, lots of unemployment. My spouse and I are in the process of losing the house we were married in. After four months, I have gotten my first unemployment check. I do not have the resources to go to meetings for a weekend in a place as far away as San Bernadino. At 54 I also will not tolerate heat and, trust me, being cooped up in a hot room for hours is a recipe for an arrest.
At this point I am writing this because I want to make some observations about the strong disagreements in the LGBT community in California. It is truly irresponsible for me to not say something at this point and try to bring my point of view from where I live.
One of the key issues that I continue to see is the total unwillingness to listen to each other. This next campaign is supposed to be about changing hearts and minds among the electorate. Yet in meeting after meeting we do not listen well to each other and from that springs growing animosity towards other LGBT people. So without these skills how in the hell are we supposed to listen to the California electorate who does not agree with us right now?
Does anyone truly think that by just showing up on people's doorsteps they will welcome us in and want to hear our stories? These conversations require the ability to listen to other people's beliefs and not just maintain a superior attitude that we know best how people should vote. Do we magically take the place of their clerics or their religious community?
What is even more important is that vast numbers of people do not know us. In the Latino community, it is necessary to spend time with us to gain any measure of trust. That means going to different events, sharing some values with us, like is poverty or immigration an issue for us too. If it is, prove it.
Ask yourself when was the last time you publicly supported an issue where you had nothing to gain? Support for immigration reform? March for Iranian freedom? What have we all done to work for other causes? I will give a shout out here for Courage Campaign who does a great job of working on the multiple issues that we face as progressives.
But really, can we back up a little here? A lot of paens I have read about going in 2010 have not dealt at all with the issue of people of color in California. Just in case you missed the demographics on the Golden State, we are a majority minority state. The majority of people in California are minorities, primarily Latino. So to have these opinions completely skip over the statement made by people of color organizations, the Prepare to Prevail, does not take into full account the true demography here.
In Karen Ocamb's blog post at the Bilerico Project about the San Bernadino meeting, she quotes at least two participants wanted to ignore the African American and Latino communities in the next votes. That's a good idea - don't deal with a significant part of the state. Wouldn't want anyone to feel uncomfortable now.
We must engage everyone in this next battle. Communities of color are saying there is not enough time to do this for a 2010 vote. Does anyone really think we don't want our full equality? But what happens if we lose again? Who gains from that?
My community, the Latino community must be engaged in this vote if we are to win true equality. We know what discrimination is and we don't like it. There was polling a few years back about marriage in the Latino community. It was done all over the country in both Spanish and English. The results were the same, when discrimination was described to the participants, we totally understood what it meant. Doesn't anyone want us to do this task properly? Then give us the needed time to do it!
I have one more thing to mention. There is now an attempt to put another anti-immigrant measure on the 2010 ballot. In the same way we were used as political piñatas in 2008, so will the brown people be used next year. The same people will be involved voting against civil rights of another group of people.
In the last election over Prop 187, we lost. In the aftermath we discovered there were 5 million people in California who were eligible to become citizens and had not done so yet. The effort is going on now to make sure we have gotten all eligible people in California ready to be citizens by November 2010. The battle was ugly, racist, a pitched battle for the soul of the state. The voters believed all the lies about what immigration was "costing" us the same way they believed the lies about us.
Whether we like it or not, there are many unpleasant conversations in the future. Unpleasantries with our families, our co-workers, our neighbors are coming. We should be able to turn to each other to support in the days ahead. But the name calling, insults, the demands of "my way or the highway" campaigning or the covert and overt racism does not make that unity possible. If we cannot trust each other, who can we trust.
I have many beefs with the way the last campaign was run. I have called people out in public for their mean spirited behavior. I may forgive but I won't forget. I also won't make the same mistakes twice like allowing the Latino community to be ignored the next time. So don't get me wrong since I consistently can't get a job with these campaigns despite my abilities, I will find a way to get around the road blocks. I also will not be insulted and degraded for being a grass roots person of color who worked on the No on 8 campaign.
But I will listen and agree on some arguments being made for 2010. I also don't think it should be too hard to practice listening to each other and finding a way to do this without hurting each other. We have to find a way to lean on each other otherwise we are not a movement but kids who don't play well with each other.
The test is here let's make this a movement.