Black Support For Gays: It’s Out There. Where Are The LGBT Leaders?

Jim Burroway

November 9th, 2008

Michael Petrellis found this item in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Black and gay: The overturning of same-sex marriages in California has triggered a wave of resentment in the gay community, some of it aimed at African Americans. Blacks turned out in droves to vote for Barack Obama for president. Unfortunately for gays, exit polls show that many of them also voted for Proposition 8.

Just last Sunday, Third Baptist Church minister and former San Francisco Supervisor Rev. Amos Brown – a veteran of the civil rights battles of the 1960s – launched into a sermon about the need to protect the rights of gays.

Suddenly, a young associate minister seated in the front row stormed the pulpit, grabbed a microphone and began lecturing Brown about the need to “just preach the Gospel and leave that other stuff alone.” Brown snatched the microphone from the man, who was quickly escorted out.

“There are African Americans who … feel the white gays haven’t stood with them on issues like social justice, education and housing,” Brown said.

On the other hand, Brown also knows the black community was slow to offer support to gays at the outset of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Brown warned the ugliness will continue if cooler heads don’t prevail.

“What this man did storming the church pulpit was just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

In the midst of all the hurt feelings in the gay community over African-Americans’ supporting Prop 8 by some seventy percentage points, Michael Petrelis asks what ought to be an obvious question:

Not only is Brown pro-gay marriage, he opposed Prop 8, but, big surprise here, the No on 8 leadership didn’t recruit him to help defeat the ballot measure. I didn’t see any No materials with him and all his associations from the black community, touting his opposition. Were the No leaders unaware of his position, or, did they not know how to work with Brown to persuade other black… voters to say No?

Rossi

November 9th, 2008

Just one more reason to cast blame on the No on 8 dunderheads. Spending all summer throwing lavish parties, paying themselves handsome salaries, and they can’t even win their home county, much less reach out to the leaders of the communities they need to.

Nope, let’s just shuffle around an Exec Director or two, then when our hair is on fire in September, freak out, and go get celebrities, as they are the easiest to lunch with and hey, all our friends work for them so they can get us meetings, and wouldn’t it be really neat to meet Ellen in person?

This campaign was a disaster. I gave the HRC an earful when they had the audacity to call me the other day, the day after the election, asking for money. I know they were not running the campaign, but where, yes WHERE are the leaders of the GBLT community?

In fact, the HRC ‘script’ the poor guy on the other end of the phone read me ran down the typical HRC list… ENDA, etc… about seven issues before “oh and by the way, we just lost California so yeah, can you donate $375?”

Please. I know it’s typical for gay men to care more about their salaries and how fancy the parties are, and the No on Knight movement was just the same: Nobody wants to do the dirty work like knock on doors, and if they do, they stick to a script that is so blatantly pansy, refusing to even say the word GAY to people.

This Proposition won through a campaign of lies by the church. But gay marriage was LOST by the hacks who ran this campaign. How sad.

AJD

November 9th, 2008

I agree Rossi… The people behind the amendment need all the blame and protests they can get, but we can’t pretend like our advocates did a good job themselves.

The whole style of gay-rights activism needs to be rethought. What we’re seeing right now — thousands of people demonstrating outside the churches — is the sort of thing that works. Other than the community outreach you mention, showing people that we are hurt and pissed off about it will get a lot more attention that the feeble tactics of No On 8, HRC and others.

antarctica

November 9th, 2008

I agree there is a problem with homophobia in the black community, but there is a problem with homophobia among white, latino, asian and other groups as well.

Blaming black voters alone for the passage of Prop 8 is counter-productive and utterly ridiculous. The majority of people who voted “yes” on 8 were rural whites and elderly voters – two groups which usually have heavy turnout.

I don’t live in CA but from people I know who live in CA and reading reports on the internet, the fault lies, IMHO, with the pathetic people who ran the “no” campaign. They only started getting serious about defeating Prop 8 a week or two before the election after they saw polls trending against them.

I know people in CA who asked if they could volunteer for the “no” effort and never received calls back. One of my friends went down to the headquarters and said she had never seen a more disorganized site. The “no” people got lazy and they were “rewarded” for their laziness at the polls.

I hope the CA Supreme Court overturns Prop 8, but hopefully this will be the kick in the ass the gay organizations need to get them to be better organized and to start doing actual outreach.

Willie Hewes

November 10th, 2008

I figure that the people who are organising big protests now over facebook should be the ones in charge.

No more top down, compromise seeking, political pleas from inside the closet. If we can hang on to the momentum that’s currently building, and get just a few people to stand up and lead this tribe, then next time there’s a vote or some trouble you’ll have people with some balls in charge. Speaking metaphorically, of course.

You don’t need big coffers and DC contacts to organise a protest, talk to people or shoot a PSA. People are already doing it, right now, on the order of nobody but the collective anger and hurt.

Joel

November 10th, 2008

The majority of people who voted “yes” on 8 were rural whites and elderly voters – two groups which usually have heavy turnout.

where did you see ths information?

As a ‘putting it out there’ issue… i heard a sermon today at a catholic church i attended and it seems as if the catholic community is circulating various articles to mobilize the catholic community to vote against various issues concerning the LGBT community.

At the top of his lungs from the pulpit the priest was saying, “and is this right?!” with a chorus replying, “no!”. “This will be taught to your children, this will affect our freedom of religion, it is time to say stand up for God and say no” followed by a sea of nodding heads. Interesting sight to behold. Is this what it feels to be be black in the middle a of KKK meeting?
Maybe this is more relevant where i live.. its a highly catholic country(US territory though). Albeit im suprised, the exit polls in CA pretty much showed catholics at a 51-49 for the prop. Barely a majority.

AJD

November 10th, 2008

Willie, that’s pretty true. Consider how little Harvey Milk and Larry Kramer had to work with, even though they accomplished so much.

Timothy Kincaid

November 10th, 2008

Rossi,

Please provide evidence that the Yes on 8 Campaign threw lavish parties or paid theirselves handsome salaries. I think those claims are not true.

To all of y’all:

I’m getting more than a little tired of the constant attacks on the No on 8 Campaign. So for the next who want to go down that road, be ready to back up what you claim.

And be ready to tell me exactly what you did for the cause. Because, so far it sounds a bit like those who did nothing are wanting to blame those who got off their butts and did something – even if it wasn’t the way I would have organized it.

CLS

November 10th, 2008

The No on 8 campaign, in my opinion, did a good job. And it is false to say they “can’t even win their home county”. That is just false.

But where were the other gay leaders from outside the NO on 8 campaign— they were too busy trying to get Obama elected. Yet Obama said little, said it late and always made sure people knew he was agaisnt gay marriage. But the worshipful Left-wing gays didn’t give a damn because he was the saviour. We got more help from Schwarzenegger than from Obama.

No one says antigay bigotry (its not homophobia which implies a disease — it is bigotry not an illness) isn’t found in all communities. That doesn’t change the fact that the black community is antigay by far higher proporitions. But that doesn’t fit the PC view of the world so we blame the victim. It is gay people’s fault that the black community is dominated by fundamentalist thinking, that’s the mantra we here from the PC crowd. That such views have always been rampant in the black community is ignored — because blacks have truly been victimized (and they have) we can’t acknowledge that victims bigotry can also be bigots.

I visited the No headquarters to make a donation and the place was filled with people working the phones — this was early October, before the polls showed the race getting tight, i. That is my personal experience, and they worked hard to get me to volunteer as well but I was moving to a different state that week.

True, many gays did nothing to help on this issue but it wasn’t the people who were actually in the trenches who failed this time. But HRC and the gay Democratic front groups did very little but run a campaign for Obama. And Obama did almost nothing for in return for the gay community. And the high budget supplied by Mormon bigots allowed the Yes campaign to mount a massive campaign of lies. And lies in politics work better than the truth.

I predict the next campaign will be won by the gay community provided there isn’t a big voter turnout in the black community. But we have to face the fact that blacks are more likely to be bigots toward gays than any other group. And a key reason is they tend to be fundamentalist Christians. They have always been social conservatives and economic statists. They are the most authoritarian segment of the American electorate.

Jim Burroway

November 10th, 2008

To be honset, my entire post can be seen as “an attack” on the No on 8 campaign. We shouldn’t be afraid to question tactics and missed opportunities.

As one who led a grass-roots effort (leading a grass-roots effort is, by definition, an oxymoron) to defeat Prop 102, I am second-guessing and questioning a lot of decisions we made over the past four months. The fact is we failed. Badly — although I can take comfort in knowning that Pima County (Tucson) rejected Prop 102. It also happens to be the only county we could afford to get our radio ads on the air.

But I digress. I do beleive the model we’ve been running, one that does not trust grass-roots involvement, one that does not reach out directly to communities that we percieve to be generally hostile, and one that hides LGBT people as though we don’t exist even though it’s gay people everyone’s really talking about — this model doesn’t work and needs to be discarded.

And for the record, our campaign was guilty of the third tactic I mentioned. We did what the experts told us, and what all of the polls and surveys said would work. But we were wrong, and we can’t hide from that plain and simple fact.

I see no problem with calling No on 8 to account, no more than I would our own organization. But please, let’s stick to facts.

If there were “lavish parties” that were not, in fact, fundraisers that netted large sums to fight Prop 8, and if there were high salaries paid to No on 8 leaders, then please provide substantiation.

Otherwise, let’s drop the rumormongering. That is against our Comments Policy.

a. mcewen

November 10th, 2008

All I can say to those who talk about the black community being homophobic and such, remember the lgbt of color community. We are generally left out of the black community and sometimes are invisible to the lgbt community.

Don’t let your future actions isolate us more. And please don’t take that as a threat. That is a plea.

Timothy Kincaid

November 10th, 2008

a. mcewen,

Don’t let your future actions isolate us more. And please don’t take that as a threat. That is a plea.

that is wise advice.

One thing that I think is so unfortunate is that in California there are usually several gay communities in the major cities. In LA, there is a black gay community, an Hispanic gay community, an asian gay community, at least one lesbian community, and “the gay community” which is not race specific but is generally seen as white males and/or fully assimilated “mainstream” gays and lesbians.

There are separate bars, restaurants, magazines, groups, AIDS services, neighborhoods, churches, and even separate pride events. And sadly, while each subset has the comfort of being with others who are most like oneself, it does lead to a breakdown in communication. And to resentment. And to a sense that “they” are not like “us” (regardless of how we each may define they and us).

I don’t know what the solution might be. But I do hope that we find one.

David

November 10th, 2008

The thing that bothers me about the percentage of African American voters who voted for Prop 8 is that all my adult life, people of color have been chastizing GLBTQ people for even the slightest hint of racial prejudice or insensitivity. We’re expected to be 100% involved in manifesting racial equality, to the point of being criticized, even accused of racism, if we are too slow to repudiate the latest Imus-of-the-month.

But not for the first time, a significant number of people of color voted for discrimination – when the target was GLBTQ people. We’re supposed to overlook the many clery of color who preach and teach homophobia, and make allowances when Obama courted their vote.

It is this double standard that bothers me the most.

Either prejudice is wrong all the time, including when the target is GLBTQ people, or it isn’t wrong at all, even when the target is a matter of race or religion or age or gender.

John

November 10th, 2008

Instead of blaming African American voters, we need to sit down and figure out how do we reach out to African American voters.

Why did African American voters vote to support Prop 8? Why did African American women in particular vote for Prop 8? Did they believe that it would somehow affect the independence of their churches? Do these voters see religious and civil marriage as separate or inextricably linked? Do these voters think of homosexuality as being a “white” thing? Does the African American community feel that the gay community is exclusionary and uninterested in their issues? Does using the term “civil rights” turn African Americans off when applied to same sex marriage? Might appeals to basic fairness and not letting the rich and powerful go around picking on vulnerable groups gain more traction with these voters?

Once we have a better idea of where the problems are, we will have a better idea of how to bridge the gaps and taylor a message that will resonate with African Americans.

Then we need to sit down and ask ourselves the same questions with regard to Hispanic outreach, as well as every other major electoral group. We don’t have to win them all over, but if we can make a big enough dent and turn out our supporters, we can cobble together a majority.

This sort of thinking, precinct by precinct is how people like Mr. Rove and Mr. Axelrod won campaigns for President Bush and President-elect Obama.

I would be interested to see any advertisements or other outreach targeted at African Americans and Hispanics during this Prop 8 campaign. I personally got one of the pro-Prop 8 lying robocalls that said that Obama was in favor of Prop 8, but I never saw anything that struck me as targeted toward African American or Hispanic voters from the No on 8.

David

November 11th, 2008

It is perfectly appropriate to blame all voters who supported Prop 8, including those who are African American.

Excuses are just excuses, and whatever reasons people of color might have for supporting anti-gay prejudice, GLBTQ people could have, but have rejected, similar reasons for racial prejudice.

This whole “why do they hate us” excuse making has been the standard response each time racial minorities have supported anti-gay prejudice. The excuse making has accomplished nothing.

GLBTQ people do not support clergy who preach racism, why make excuses for those people of color who support clergy that preach homophobia?

We generally fight with them in their battles, but so many people of color consistently fight against us in ours.

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