Pat Buchanan was on Rachel Maddow last night to talk about Sotomayor. He said she was an affirmative action pick in the bad way who isn't qualified because he hasn't been motivated enough to read any of her opinions (seriously).
I saw this video this morning, and several readers emailed me a link to this CNN article on how gay isn't the new black, about how some gay people's "I'm mad as hell and I won't take it anymore!" reaction to the DOMA brief was alienating to a significant group of black LGBT people. It all, on some level, seems tied up in the same thing: white privilege.
Adam Serwer called it the "Bender theory of discrimination" this past week, and I think it's worth repeating here because I've seen a whole lot of it among white LGBT people this past month. It's based on a line from an episode of Futurama and aptly describes the way many people of all stripes look at discrimination:
This is the worst kind of discrimination: The kind against ME!
Indeed. The conservatives like Pat Buchanan who discuss racial discrimination only seem concerned with racial discrimination against white people, what they call reverse discrimination, because it's the only time they feel even the slightest impact of the fact that we're still a nation that deeply divides itself along racial lines. They cry for people like Frank Ricci, who had to study for a promotions test that was eventually thrown out, and completely ignore the fact that the New Haven Fire Department has discriminated against black firefighters for over a century, controlling positions of power in the department and not letting black firefighters fairly get promoted in a city that is almost 40% African American. The larger story is about a city that can't find a fair way to promote firefighters, and getting stuck on the fact that one test was thrown out is extremely myopic... unless you're only willing to accept white people as victims of racism.
Mostly-white LGBT organizations responded that California has to go to it now, ready or not. One went so far as to calculate the gay and lesbian people who will die between 2010 and 2012, and then never be able to "experience that affirmation." It's impatience, and there's nothing particularly wrong with impatience so long as it doesn't impede good strategy. A stitch in time....
I've come to realize that one of the key experiences that is true almost all the way across America's LGBTQ population is, at some point in one's life, falling from one position to a lesser status, no matter where we start out. Because of that, the LGBTQ movement is often driven not by a desire to achieve social justice or improve society or lift up the community, but to get back that lost privilege. I've seen that attitude in lots of people, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, and it's the making of an extremely myopic worldview.
Sometimes it presents itself as "I'm the most discriminated-against person in America." Sometimes it's "My group is the last group it's OK to discriminate against." Sometimes it's "We don't have time to examine our dirty laundry or fairly include minorities within the community because we have to fight for x, y, and z legislation." Sometimes it's an incoherent call for "equality" that includes legislation whose intention is to create legal inequality to make up for larger systems of oppression, like civil rights and hate crimes legislation, saying that we're currently "unequal" to other, privileged minorities. Sometimes it's voting Democratic only because of sexuality or gender identity when one is really a Republican and then getting mad when voting, working for, and donating to a particular candidate doesn't produce an entire list of passed legislation within 5 months. Sometimes it's quoting Martin Luther King and other Civil Rights Movement leaders only when it supports one's position and ignoring their more systemic criticisms of culture and economics that indicts many of our life-styles.
In [white LGBT's] minds, Obama is not moving fast enough on behalf of the GLBT community. The outcry is not completely without merit -- the Justice Department's unnerving brief on the Defense of Marriage Act immediately comes to mind. I was upset by some of the statements, but not surprised. (After the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, President Ronald Reagan's initial handling of AIDS and, more recently, Katrina, there is little that surprises me when it comes to the government and the treatment of its people.)
Still, rarely has criticism regarding Obama and the GLBT community come from the kind of person you would find standing in line at a spot like The Prop House, and there's a reason for that.
Despite the catchiness of the slogan, gay is not the new black.
Black is still black.
And if any group should know this, it's the gay community.[...]
Not to be flip, but Miley Cyrus is older than Bill Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell." That doesn't mean that the safety of gay people should be trivialized or that Obama should not be held accountable for the promises he made on the campaign trail. But to call this month's first-ever White House reception for GLBT leaders "too little too late" is akin to a petulant child throwing a tantrum because he wants to eat his dessert before dinner. This is one of the main reasons why so many blacks bristle at the comparison of the two movements -- everybody wants to sing the blues, nobody wants to live them.
This lack of perspective is only going to alienate a black community that is still very proud of Obama and is hypersensitive about any criticism of him, especially given he's been in office barely six months.
If blacks are less accepting of gays than other racial groups -- and that is certainly debatable -- then the parade of gay people calling Obama a "disappointment" on television is counterproductive in gaining acceptance, to say the least. And the fact that the loudest critics are mostly white doesn't help matters either.
It's a question of perspective, and, let's face it, we often don't have that. And I can't shake the feeling that I've been reading and hearing a whole lot of "We paid and worked for these politicians, and everything we wanted from them didn't immediately happen! And we even showed how displeased with the current situation we are! The system is broken!" It's not to minimize the fact the pernicious effects of DOMA and job discrimination. I'm saying that, once again, one letter to a Senator does more than 100 angry blog comments, and that we're going to have to accept, with grace, the fact that we're still a minority that most people don't like or don't particularly care about if we're going to get through the Obama administration without incurring psychological damage on ourselves. It'd also be nice for us to understand that even if that laundry list of LGBT legislation is passed, we'll still be living in a homophobic and transphobic society filled with people who don't want us to be here. There will still be work that needs to be done.
This is where I see the connection to what Pat Buchanan was saying. No one's going to like this comparison, least of all me because I think Buchanan is a noxious poison in our political discourse, but I do on some level understand what he's trying to say. I don't think he's trying to tear down minorities, at least on this issue, but is really, and deeply offended by affirmative action programs as discrimination against white people and has a substantial lack of give a fuck about discrimination against anyone else. He's absolutely wrong, and his mentality is based on the fact that he sees himself as the most discriminated-against minority in America (white males) based on a selective reading of the facts and an inability to think beyond himself.
A certain segment of the LGBT community sees gay, lesbian, and/or transgender white people as the most discriminated-against minority in America (although they usually talk only about their own group in the LGBT spectrum) and that lack of perspective comes from the same white privilege that Buchanan is infected with. Sure, the LGBT white people who can't see outside of homophobia and transphobia have a more legitimate grievance. But their motivations aren't much more noble.
Granderson ends his column by saying that such a mentality is counterproductive to achieving that list of legislation, but I don't particularly think so. It produces an impatience around these issues that can be motivating, and white privilege in the LGBT community has been around since before Stonewall and look at all that's been accomplished (yeah, I know, not marriage for everyone, but, seriously, a lot's gotten done for 40 years).
What I do worry about are how well we're doing in achieving social justice if there are some among us who aren't looking inwardly as well as trying to get legislation that benefits them passed, as well as those sorts of discriminations that can't be fought against with legislation. If we're not working towards creating a society where social justice is valued above "Me first," then we're going to have to lead the way towards that.