Posts for January 15th, 2009

Proof of Mormon Church’s Direct Involvment In Prop 8

Timothy Kincaid

January 15th, 2009

The American News Project has prepared a video investigating the the Mormon Church’s lack of disclosure about direct expenditures on Proposition 8. They claim to have only spent a few thousand dollars, but ANP obtained a copy of a telecast in which they promised to perform a number of very expensive services for the Yes on 8 Campaign.

The church is currently under investigation by the California State Fair Elections Commission.

Racism in the Gay Community

Timothy Kincaid

January 15th, 2009

The discussion about ethnic-community based disparities in voting patterns on Proposition 8 has led to the question: can we talk about homophobia in ethnic communities without discussing racism in the gay community?

I would think not.

Refusing to be self-reflective and address our own community’s flaws will only encourage and justify a negative impression. And because race-based homophobia and gay-based racism feed each other, it seems wise to address them jointly.

As a white guy, I am not qualified to make grand declaration about racism in the community. And I’m not even certain what kind of race-based distinctions can be categorized as racist or harmful.

But I do know that racism exists and that it expresses itself in both blatant and subtle ways.

An example of obvious racism is the common presumption that Asian gay men are sexually submissive. And the fetishism of black men in art and literature is unquestionably dehumanizing and far too common. These are on top of the plain old-fashioned blatant bigotry and biases that are part of mainstream society.

But other examples are less obvious. Is it racist to only be attracted to persons of a particular race? Is the notion that ethnic minorities should automatically find commonality with sexual minorities itself a racist presumption of privilege? And what about gay magazines that seem to illustrate articles solely with images of white men or women?

And there are other issues that are difficult to address. When one is a minority within a minority, it can be empowering (even life saving) to find others like yourself. But do race-specific bars — and even separate pride events — in and of themselves serve to segregate and disempower ethic groups? And what should my response be when a black friend uses a Shirley Q. Liquor phrase?

And just how prevalent is racism in the community? Is it more, less or the same as in the society around us?

Obviously, one example of bias and discrimination based on race is one too many. But just how pervasive is ethnic bigotry in the gay community? And what should, or can, we do?

Unfortunately, I don’t have answers for any of these questions. All I know is that no one is benefited by thinking of gay racism as someone else’s issue or by congratulating ourselves that the gay community is “better” than society at large.

And perhaps it’s time to start the conversation and then sit back, listen, and learn.

Prop 8 and Race: More Complex Than First Reported

Clayton Critcher

January 15th, 2009

Guest columnist Clayton Critcher emailed me (Jim) a few days ago with comments on my critique of the NGLTF report on Prop 8. Since he had some very pertinent observations — that the relationship between religion and race with regard to African-Americans and Prop 8 is more complex than reported — I invited him to write up a guest post for Box Turtle Bulletin.

Clayton Critcher is a summa cum laude graduate of Yale University, and is now a PhD candidate in social psychology at Cornell University, where he is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.  His research and publications include experimental work on political ideology and unintended consequences of anti-gay public policy.

The recent NGLTF-sponsored report on Prop 8 and race has reignited the discussion about the determinants of support for Prop 8.  Unsurprisingly, most of the interest in this report has been on what it says about African American voters’ support for the amendment.  In my opinion, the report does an impressive job of demonstrating that exit polls likely overstated Black voters’ support.  Instead, just under 60% of  both African Americans and Latinos supported Prop 8, while Whites and Asians were barely against it.

But what explains the gap between Blacks/Latinos and Whites/Asians?  This is where things get controversial.  The report suggests that the remaining gap between these ethnic groups can be explained by differences in religiosity. On Monday, Jim suggested that this analysis may have suffered from a low sample size, which can make real differences difficult to observe (statistically).  Was the NGLTF report too quick to claim that racial differences were entirely explained by religious differences?

I set out to answer this question by doing my best to reconstruct the results of the poll on which the race and religion results were based. According to a comment on BTB by Jamie Grant of NGLTF, there were 149 African Americans sampled. I used other information from the report about the poll’s sample size, data about the demographics of the sample, and the study’s assumptions about the California voting population, to complete a “best-guess” reconstruction of the racial composition of the remaining sample.

Report Modification #1: Although it is true that there is no significant effect of race after controlling for religion, there was not a significant effect of race before controlling for religion. This suggests that Jim’s point about high margins of error was right on.  If we could not find racial differences before controlling for religion, it is not very impressive that we cannot find them afterwards.

Because the first point in the report was that African Americans’ support had been overstated, and that it was African Americans and Latinos together that showed (modestly) more support for Prop 8 than Whites and Asians, I then dichotomized people racially.  I identified each person as a minority (African American or Latino) or not.  By not dividing into as many small groups, we help to bypass the sample size problem identified by Jim.

Report Modification #2: This analysis produced an unexpected finding, one that has not been considered in the discussion.  The influence of race depended on whether one was religious.  Among those who were highly religious, support for Prop 8 was equally high across the races.  But among those who were less religious, African Americans and Latinos were more supportive of Prop 8 than Whites and Asians.  The NGLTF report misses this effect because neither Latinos or African Americans by themselves show significantly higher support (in the low religiosity subsample) because of Jim’s high margins of error.

This suggests that the relationship between race, religion, and Prop 8 support is slightly more complicated than has been discussed.  Being religious was associated with increased support for Prop 8, but among those who were not religious, being African American or Latino was associated with support for Prop 8.

These conclusions aside, I must say I have been confused by the intense interest in whether religiosity can “explain away” racial differences in support for Prop 8.  Unless one believed that the skin color gene also produced support for Prop 8, racial differences in support for Prop 8 would have to be “explained through” some cultural factor.  If that factor is religion, the question simply becomes, “Why do some racial groups show more interest in homophobic religious institutions than others?”, and I do not see why this would be any less troubling to those who seek to shift this discussion away from race.  Nevertheless, my new analyses suggest that among the non-religious, an unidentified explanation for racial differences remain.

    

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