Some Truths That Perhaps Have Not Sunk In Yet

Black people in California =/= All Black People

10% of population =/= 100% of the problem

~30% of Black Californians Who Voted NO on Prop 8 =/= People you can spit on, blame, rage at, and dismiss, then turn around and expect to support you. Not that they would support a ban on gay marriage and other gay rights issues (because, if you’ve forgotten, many of that 30% are LGBTQ), but I wouldn’t count on their money, or their time, or the effort it takes to knock on doors, talk to people, and other grassroots activism. No matter how much I believed in a cause, even if it affects me personally, I would have a hard time being active for a group that actively despises me, devalues me, and blames me for their own problems.

The Black Community =/= Monolithic Groupmind

Black People =/= The Reason Prop 8 Passed

Are we clear now?

(thanks to Jenn for the inspiration)

40 Responses

  1. I have been reading your blog for awhile, quietly obviously, but decided to comment on this post. First off, I love your blog, and I love this post. To be honest, as a white person who grew up with white privilege in a middle class (mostly white) neighborhood, this blog has given me a perspective I couldn’t have had before. Granted there are times I have felt uncomfortable, but it has helped me grow and understand – well as much as I can.

    I really like this post, as someone who reads a lot of “progressive” media, I noticed a lot of talk about minorities, blacks the focus most of the time, about the passing of Prop 8. Comments such as “How can an oppressed people wish to take the rights away from other oppressed people?” Things along that line. The inherent problem with statements like this is the old “actor observer bias” on a grand scale. Because SOME minorities support marriage being defined as between a man and a woman, that means ALL minorities support it and thus they are to blame for its passage. It shows that even those who claim to be tolerant and open have some severe gaps in logic.

  2. I agree,
    I knew this was scapegoating because I am a black woman in connecticut who is pro-gay rights and I feel like Im responsible for this mess. WOrse yet, I don’t know NOT to feel responsible for this. There is no way in heck I could have been a part of the California vote, but I feel guilty.

    I cant walk around with a rainbow sticker on my forehead saying safe, just as much as I cant walk around with a “non-violent, well educated, like’s geeky stuff, actually kind of sweet” sticker on my forehad so as not to scare away people when I’m around and I swear they ARE looking/observing me.

    People will just look at me and judge, even when I have good intentions.

    ITs an overwhelming feeling.

    At one point in my life I was homophobic, but that changed when I went to college and the rainbow center there reached out to me. Still, I had to go to them.

    Had I not gone to college, or one with a rainbow center,I may not have changes as much as I have over the last 4 years.

    And they want change, they must go out to others and talk.

  3. …and there I was believing that white people realllllly do have higher IQs. Or is that only straight white people?. I mean, ABW, your equation was simple,logical and equaled the facts. Sorry if I’m coming across rude, but sometimes the unfair blaming, from whoever, is just extremely disheartening. :-(

  4. What has become clear is that the GLBT community is like any other seeking social justice; they are black friendly when they need something. There was no special attempt to reach out to blacks, through community organizations or churches because hey, everyone knows how blacks as a group think about issues right?

  5. On the same token, would you turn your back on an entire community because a small portion of it has decided to unfairly blame a community? I see the fact that 51% of the black voting community in CA supporting prop is a problem, but one that is fixed through dialogue, not blame. Wouldn’t you say the same?

  6. Addendum: my 51% statistic is off, but the percentage is still a majority.

  7. Y’know, not to say there isn’t a lot of racism around in the gay community, but:

    All gay people are not racists! Our community isn’t one big, monotonous bloc either. You certainly have a point, but could you please stop borrowing from the racist gays and stop blaming the entire community for the racism of some, particularly when you’re asking gay community to not blame the entire black community for the homophobia of some?

  8. Eric,

    On the same token, would you turn your back on an entire community because a small portion of it has decided to unfairly blame a community?

    It depends. If it’s clear to me that the “small portion” includes leaders, spokespeople, and folks who get a lot of media attention and therefore have a lot of influence, then yes. As I recently did to the feminist community. If I don’t see a surge of people from said community standing up and saying

    “Hey now, I’m not going to let you speak for me if all you’re going to do is say some racist shit. I will not tolerate that even from you.”

    then my assumption is usually going to be that many people in the community either agree or don’t find what they’re saying wrong enough to do anything about it. Either way, I don’t want to have any part of people like that.

    Back when I and a bunch of others took this stance on femninism, people made the same argument. “But you can’t turn your back on everyone, on feminism! feminism is a movement, a community, and you don’t NOT believe in equality for women, etc, anymore.”

    And my answer is similar: I can’t stop being queer just like I can’t change that I was born a woman. I will never think that women shouldn’t be equal and have all the opportunities that men have and work to erase unearned privilege. I will never stop feeling that same sex couples should retain the right to marry, or that LGBTQ people are equal to straight people under the law, or that we should combat hate and prejudice due to sexual orientation or gender status. But I may not pursue those goals with YOU. I may not ally myself with certain groups, organizations, and regional communities, even though they share some of my goals. because the goals they don’t seem to share have to do with race, and I can’t separate myself from my race, nor do I want to. And if key members of your group feel that race is secondary and therefore not addressing, or race is unimportant until it suddenly gets in the way of what you want, then I will, instead, separate myself from said group and find others.

    If those groups want me back, then they’re going to have to work for it.

    I see the fact that 51% of the black voting community in CA supporting prop is a problem, but one that is fixed through dialogue, not blame. Wouldn’t you say the same?

    I agree. Perhaps you should turn to the people in your community and say the same. Because that is what many prominent voices are doing now — assigning blame instead of attempting to address the problem in real ways.

    Hellofire,

    Please point out to me where I say all gay people are racists and blame the entire community?

  9. ABW, you know what, I (black) showed my husband (white) my comment on your blog and he was actually very disappointed in me for, in his words, “reciprocating anger and disappointment”. So, I’d like to retract my first comment with an apology?!. Suffice to say, we’ll be State side for the whole month of Dec08 and wonder if there’ll be any demos we and our 2 kids can attend as a show of support for the LBGQT community?. He’s from the East, by the way…..any links would be appreciated. And thanks Renee, for the links. Opened my eyes………

  10. ABW, you know what, I (black) showed my husband (white) my comment on your blog and he was actually very disappointed in me for, in his words, “reciprocating anger and disappointment”. So, I’d like to retract my first comment with an apology?!. Suffice to say, we’ll be State side for the whole month of Dec08 and wonder if there’ll be any demos we and our 2 kids can attend as a show of support for the LBGQT community?. He’s from the East, by the way…..any links would be appreciated. And thanks Renee, for the links. Opened my eyes………

  11. I get that you’re angry, really I do, but as a lesbian WoC, I think that ideas like this: “No matter how much I believed in a cause, even if it affects me personally, I would have a hard time being active for a group that actively despises me, devalues me, and blames me for their own problems” problematic.

    I see what you’re saying I do, but while the black community, Hispanic community are not monoliths, but neither is the gay community. A few vocal racists, disgusting as those people might be, and as ashamed as I was when I heard what was being said, doesn’t mean that homosexuals as a group are racists or that some or even most of us agree.

  12. Vi and others, I see what you’re saying. But the “vocal minority” who have been able to get this meme into mainstream press are being allowed to vent because “they’re hurting right now” and “are saying things they will regret.” So their defenders give the perception of at the minimum not disagreeing, and at the maximum completely agreeing and showing a larger group shares those feelings. Then, who is there for Black people to work with? Just like Prop 8 opponents “feel” like all Blackfolks hate “teh gays,” we are starting to feel like Anti-8 people hate us. And why should we reach out to be spat upon?

    Solutions?

  13. Just like Prop 8 opponents “feel” like all Blackfolks hate “teh gays,” we are starting to feel like Anti-8 people hate us.”

    Aren’t both beliefs wrong?


    I would have a hard time being active for a group that actively despises me, devalues me, and blames me for their own problems.

    The Black Community =/= Monolithic Groupmind”

    LGBTQ=/= Monolithic Groupmind

  14. There is no defense for the racism that some members of the GLBTQI community is doing in terms of the vote on 8. I believe that as POC we are entitled to our anger.
    Let’s be clear racism within the community is not a new thing it is only now more visibly manifesting itself. Don’t tell me that no one has noticed that many of the leaders are white, or that many of the orgnaizations are white run. Look at most of the posters hanging in the community they always seem to portray white people unless it is an over sexualized body of color. Just because someone is gay does not mean that they cannot be racist. They have routinely ignored the needs of POC that are gay to privilege whiteness.

    As a POC I am very angry right now. I will continue to speak out though, in spite of the racism because I know that homophobia effects people of color. It is for them that I will continue to advocate that love is love.

  15. On FiveThirtyEight Electoral Projections Done Right Nate Silver, who did call it all right almost with 1% correctness, puts up this:

    “Prop 8 Myths” by Dan Walters in the Sacramento Bee, that shows in detail how you cannot blame the poc communities for the passage of Prop 8.

    It was a generational division, not a division of color.

    Love, C.

  16. um, that was intended to read, “who did call it all right almost within 1% of correctness,” meaning he really did see what was going on, and tracked it correctly.

    It’s been a long day, and I’m not very articulate. Many apologies.

    Love, C

  17. This article reports Nate Silver’s (fivethirtyeight.com) analysis of the vote…and unsurprisingly, he reports that new voters – particularly those drawn to the polls by Obama’s candidacy – tended to vote “no” on Prop 8 in higher proportions than the general public. The issue splits most tellingly along generational lines (as some comments above suggest), with older voters being less likely to support gay marriage rights.

    I presume everyone trying to blame blacks and browns – and by extension, Obama, for bringing them to the polls in the first place – will humbly apologize, right?

  18. I don’t feel like all white LGBTQ people hate me, but I do feel less inclined to try to work with EqCA and No on 8 until they stop asking me for money and start addressing what they did wrong. It’s not blaming the victim to acknowledge that they dropped the ball when it came to outreach and advertising to communities of color and in general. Until someone from those organizations is willing to cop to their mistakes, I have no faith that anything’s going to change.

  19. osiyo and Vi,

    The group mentioned in this original post was not mean to encompass all LGBTQ people — sorry that wasn’t clear. the group I was referring to are LGBTQ activists, particularly No on 8 activists. The group refers to those doing the actions mentioned in that paragraph.

  20. Vi,

    I also find it problematic that I would be angry to the point of walking away from majority white LGBTQ communities and organizations due to race crap. That’s the point. I and other POC shouldn’t ever have to decide whether its worth sticking around *despite* the racism or not.

    As I said in the post, I don’t intend to change my mind about the fundamentals, because those fundamentals have more to do with my own personal feelings than with the individuals involved. But it would probably mean that I would put my efforts an/or money into organizations that deal specifically with POC LGBTQ. Such organizations probably want marriage equality, too, but may do better reaching out to POC communities.

  21. I just don’t feel that I could distance myself from *any* group being screwed out of equal rights. They don’t have to like me for me to know everyone deserves equality. Lord knows as an Indian woman if I waited until all other groups (including other POC) treated my people as if we were humans and not some wild west legend of the past, I’d be waiting until I was in the ground. It’s not about *their* morality for me..It’s about mine. No one has enough power over me to make me compromise my principles. Not racists, not homophobes…no one.

  22. Oh, and I’m not meaning that people here are in any way trying to be spiteful or anything like that. Nor am I saying people shouldn’t be angry about being treated like shit. I get angry..hell enraged over it..and often.

  23. I don’t see my stance in any way compromising my principles. Nor do I advise waiting around for people to get with the program. Sometimes you need to *make* people get with the program. And sometimes the only way to do that is to walk away. Only then will they go, “Oh shit, we needed that support, didn’t we? Why did she leave?”

  24. In my experience, people like that are too thick headed and self absorbed to ask why. They make up their own reasons and it’s always self serving. They’ll blame someone else.

    I’ve never been very good at walking away.

  25. @osiyo, yes, of course, they’re both wrong. That’s my point–what’s the solution? We’re (not all of us) at an impasse. I’m sure many won’t walk away from the overall picture. I’m still working with No on 8–just selectively and locally, reaching out to POC.

    I have my personal solution. I just don’t know what activists in both groups are going to do to address this.

    @ 2fs: right?! I mean, when is Rachel Maddow going to deal with that? or the Daily Show? Etc.

  26. Again, it is the Mormon church (Mitt Romney’s church, just in case we forget) that was instrumental in passing Prop 8.

    From today’s NY Times even:

    “Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage”

    Go here for full story.

    Shoot, even in Fargo, North Dakota, there are demonstrations going on to protest the passing of this vote in California.

    Go here for that story.

    But maybe not a whole lot of people are subscribed to the Fargo Forum, so here’s the headline>:

    “Strong turnout for gay rights” November 16, 2008, by Sherri Richards. BTW, it’s COLD in Fargo today.

    The Mormon Church’s and the anti-SSM thing — the time has run out. Unless they want to pour billions into it.

    Love, C.

  27. I goofed up with my tags, especially for block quote.

    Let me attempt to show how the quote from the Fargo Forum was supposed to show up.

    About 200 protesters gathered Saturday afternoon on the Veterans Memorial Bridge between Fargo and Moorhead to rally for equality and against California’s Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage in the state.

    Josh Boschee, organizer of the F-M Protest for Love, said he was extremely pleased by the turnout.

    “I was going to be happy with 20 to 30 people,” Boschee said. “There’s a lot of families and allies here. It’s more than just the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.”

    He also said the rally became a regional event. Toward the end of last week, Boschee said he was getting calls from people in Jamestown, N.D., and Elbow Lake and Morris, Minn.

    Protesters waved rainbow flags – a symbol of gay pride – and held protest signs. They yelled chants. Drivers-by regularly honked their support.

    There is more to the story, but still and all this is heartening. Though I know as well or better than many that Fargo and the Red River Valley (which also supported Obama) is not the same as the middle or western part of that state.

    Love, C.

  28. Matters of rights should never be left to a popular vote. It is too easy for those with a theological axe to grind to skew by mobilizing buckets of haters.

    Legislation and courts so far have brought about all the positive changes for gay rights. That is the route to continue using. Then if only we could get a Supreme Court decent enough to declare DOMA unconstitutional….

  29. Gee, a post inspired by little ol’ me. :o) I am truly honored. I love coming to this site. Just for the fact when I’m so angry that I can only see the color orange there is a least a place where I’m not alone.

  30. I’m sure no one here is calling me a racist. Let me repeat that to myself. But, seriously, from all I’ve seen and heard from black gay men, you suggest gay people should have gone to black churches and asked for support? And you think that would have gained support? Please. They should have gone to Mormons too, using that logic. I don’t recall any black people coming to my white church during the 1950s and trying to gain support. We marched with African Americans arm to arm. We shouted at our TV sets when we saw the hoses and dogs. That was enough. You blame US? Put yourself in our white footed shoes. I didn’t need to be courted. I didn’t need to be liked. The right thing to do was clear. There is still racism in our USA, and I will fight it to my last breath. Even Obama is against gay marriage; didn’t hesitate my vote for him. Prop 8 was a sneak attack. Soon marriage will not be for heterosexuals only. PS–I have never had any black friend, co-worker, or stranger treat me with anything but equality; maybe all the stories I’ve been told are exaggerated…I would love to know that.

  31. Diane,

    Since when have progressive movements such as this counted on anyone to just show up? To just understand what is right and what is not? To somehow magically change their preconceived notions?

    Never.

    Of course there will always be people who look at these issues and understand how wrong it is to deny anyone the right to marry just as many people understood how wrong it was to deny black people civil rights. But every issue is not obvious or clear cut for everyone. And some people never will come around to our way of thinking. But there are a lot of people who WILL.

    To get those people on our side? Requires work. Why do you think people campaign? Discussion, convincing, activism, and making people aware is part of any and every campaign no matter what side you’re on. They always have been. So this notion you have that no one should need convincing because you didn’t about ONE issue? Is dumb. Sorry to say so, but it just is.

    And I’m not just talking about black people or just about POC. There are plenty of white people that need convincing as well. And if you or anyone thinks that they don’t have to work hard to convince a majority of people that your stance is Right, then the vote on election day has taught you nothing.

  32. What troubles me is people like that famous celebrity blogger (with his roots in cuba) who is gay sugguesting that the whole black community is violently homophobic. if i as a black person suggested that all gay men were “rampant” or any other stereotype i would quite rightly be run into the ground, but when this man does the same to my community, it just passes. it is not a suffering competition.

    but i wish that people would be clear headed , look at that horrible man who plays “suzy Q liquor” he spends his time in black face presenting unfavourable stereotypes of black women while wearing a fatsuit, not at all respectful. now he has the bloody gaul to turn around and tell the black community (whom i am guessing he does not know) that they are to be ashamed of their behaviour! highly ignorant.

  33. i don’t think the percentages argument is such a great idea.

    if blacks comprise *only* 10% of the population, it highlights blacks insignificance to votes that require broad-based support.

    if 30% didn’t vote for prop 8, that’s about 3% of the population.

    In those terms, you’ve basically convinced white queers that black queers and their allies aren’t a big enough group to matter in terms of turning things around. well, you haven’t convinced them, but it would certainly give them a thought injection or two: “oh, hey, they’re such a tiny minority who cares what they think.”

  34. Something good, maybe, can come out of this.

    I find myself really frustrated by all the mainstream and pre-filtered voices who “represent” me as a gay man.

    I’m embarrassed and angry about how some “leaders” are handing out blame without really analyzing where the whole “no on 8″ movement went wrong.

    I’m pissed that, being outside the “leadership” of the GLBTQ community, I can’t seem to get my voice beyond the gatekeepers (editorials, op-ed pieces, etc…) when I try to share WHY we failed to keep same-gender marriage rights in California.

    But I think that with BLOGS like yours, and mine, we’re shifting the center of gravity away from traditional media, away from the traditional leadership of our communities, and expanding true dialog among people.

    It’s just possible that with the internet’s community of bloggers and blog readers, we’re building on what the Obama campaign did so brilliantly – using technology as a tool in our outreach, to discuss and share and illuminate our issues in a way that gets through to people, and ultimately changes things on the ground.

    Thanks for having such an important discussion here, and leading the discussion for the change we need to make happen.

    Like President-Elect Obama (I LOVE writing that) said the night he was elected, it’s time to put our hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

    Let’s keep bending it!

    thanks,
    Lee

  35. Thank you, angry black woman, for speaking out on this.

    I have been thoroughly worn down by the insults, the scape-goating and the name-calling that has resulted against Black people as a result of the passage of Prop. 8. I truly hated the legislation and did not support it. But because I was black, there were some who did not believe me.

    I mentioned repeatedly in many circles on-line and off that I felt it was a travesty and a shame that there are people who are close-minded enough to vote for this piece of crap. But one thing in the criticism about Prop. 8’s passage would come through in a lot of the responses: how dare the Black community vote for something that would deny the civil rights of another community when they are supposed to understand what “discrimination” is like.

    Two weeks have passed and the anger (although dying down) is still being carried on. This still occurs despite proof that the numbers were skewed in poll carried in the major news outlets. Not even the organizations denouncing the scape-goating won’t stop the continous meme of the “Black people being responsible for passing Prop. 8″.

    Some persons have apologized, which is good. But others continue to spread prejudice against Black people and have gotten away with it because the word of “bigotry” is thrown up the African-American community’s faces. Not only that. Some in the dominant culture takes a “what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander” way of treating this issue–especially when it comes down to the terminology of “bigotry” (yet these are the first who would proclaim that “they aren’t racist”).

    Above all else, the GLBTQ folks of color deserve a hug in this travesty. They are caught in the middle of this mess, which is terribly heart-breaking.

    The good part though about this is that the outreach between the GLBTQ and Black communities will now start. It is there, perhaps the understanding will grow so more people will understand why Prop. 8 is a bad deal.

    Again, I appreciate your words. They need to be repeated loud and clear every time someone brings up that horrible CNN poll. :(

  36. I like how straight-forward and to-the-point this post is. It’s ridiculous to blame the passing of Prop 8 on black Californians. The problem is that people view gay marriage as wrong in the first place, not the race/economic background/religion of those people. Anyone can be homophobic, and lots of people (apparently) don’t believe homosexual people deserve the right to marry. It sucks, and I hope Prop 8 can be overturned. In the meantime I’m not playing the blame game.

    (Unless of course, you want to boycott companies that supported Prop 8. For a list, see this link:
    http://www.californiansagainsthate.com/dishonorRoll.html )

  37. What does =/= mean?

    Comparison?

  38. =/= stands for “does not equal”. It’s hard to render on the web, but there’s an actual symbol for it. an equal sign with a slash through it.

  39. I’ve been posting on every blog I could find, ever since the day, saying, don’t lt them break up our alliances.

    And then, suddenly, I don’t need to do that any more . Because people are all over are now saying it.

    It’s victory. That’s what victory looks like.

  40. Hi, I’ve been hesitating before writing this because I do not want to add to the pile of hard stuff you’ve had to read for a while now. However, I figured it would be best that I submit to you some issues I am struggling with, because I guess you can offer some precious insight into this and it would be the best way for me to get rid of my discomfort.

    A few years back, I was told of the existence of racism in the mainstream white LGBTQ community by LGBTQ people of color, some of whom were pretty angry about what they had to go through. As a white lesbian, I was shocked out of my naiveness. I ran through all the usual gamut of feeling defensive, being in denial and experiencing the notorious white guilt ;) This decentering exercise, however, has proven to be very enriching.

    Now, there are a few things I learned from LGBTQ and heterosexual POC and to which I now adhere:

    1- POC are not responsible for our anti-racist education. They/you should not have to hold us whites by the hand or nudge us into getting informed. We should take some initiative, read books and go listen to what POC have to say about racism and anti-racism.
    As a general principle, I consider that oppressed groups should not be held responsible for anti-oppression education. Sure, there is the initial drive that must be done by the oppressed group, but once it’s out there, members of dominant should take the hint and some initiative.

    2- When POC level general critiques at white people, we should not get offended. We should understand, first off, that there is good reason for venting at white people because of the series of bad experiences that they had to go through. Also, if we are indeed anti-racist, we should not take it personally. The critiques do not regard us, they regard white people who are not anti-racist (a pretty good bunch of us, naturally). And then, there is the oppression system and the privileges. Even if we are not “actively” racist, as members of the dominant group, we are responsible for calling out people of our group who fail.

    Now, the thing gets complicated when you look at the interplay of oppression systems. How do we place responsibility then?

    Regarding item 1, why is it that in the prop 8 case, educating straight people, and more precisely, Blacks and Latinos and other POC heterosexuals who voted for revoking same-sex marriage, becomes white LGBTQ people’s responsibility?

    Regarding item 2, why is it that in the prop 8 situation, white LGBTQ people should not make general critiques of Black homophobia, “because not all Blacks are homophobic”? Why is it that, in this situation, all Blacks should “take it personally”? Regarding the calling out on ingroup homophobia, I would not point to any problem, because I do see Black people doing inside work against homophobia.

    I guess something that complicates the situation is that lots of LGBTQ white folks act all outraged, but did not do much themselves against racism in the past – except occasional lip service. Also, I am under the impression that lots of white LGBTQ people only see themselves as oppressed LGBTQ and not dominant whites. And lots of heterosexual Blacks only see themselves as oppressed Blacks and not as dominant heterosexuals. Yay for power complications :/

    I am aware I could have added some more points and nuances. But do not want to get into a full blown unending essay ;) I am trying to think here… I guess I addressed the main points with which I struggle. Thanks for your thoughts, by the way!

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