NOM’s problem: black people just aren’t as stupid as they thought
March 27th, 2012
In reading the language of the National Organization for Marriage’s race-based strategy for delaying the eventuality of marriage equality, two things immediately struck me.
First, in order for this strategy to have any success, it had to create a long-term division in America along racial lines. Their hope was that African Americans (immediately) and Latinos (as their demographic increased in the voting population) would have a permanent division from White Americans along social issues and that this would be a race-based pride point. Their entire hope was that we all continue to see race as something that makes us inherently different from each other and would continue to view each other through lenses of suspicion, hostility, and fear.
While cynical and evil, this is not the oddest of their prepositions. In order for their plan to have effect, African Americans (and subsequently gays and Latinos) were presumed to be so stupid that they not only wouldn’t notice the objective but would blindly fall for it.
Well some did. Stupidity comes in all sizes, shapes and colors. And there are a small handful of preachers in the community who see race as all important to whom such a message was appealing and who readily lent their name and voice to NOM’s campaign. And there were a few gay folks who read this as “blacks hate us” and sniped back.
But NOM misjudged. Most blacks weren’t interested in joining their anti-gay crusade. Even when their pastor was the celebrated speaker, virtually every face at a NOM event was white. And old. And, for what it’s worth, bored. Blacks didn’t fall for the ploy.
Despite their assumptions, melanin seems to have no inverse correlation to intellect. As it turns out, black people just aren’t as stupid as NOM assumed they were.
But I do believe that NOM has had an impact on the way in which the African American community has thought about the subject of marriage. Since they started their campaign (which we observed during their Tour of Mostly Empty City Plazas), I believe that I have seen a noticeable change.
In the direction towards acceptance.
Now it’s not all champaign and roses between the gay and the black community. The polls in Maryland show that black voters are FAR less likely to support equality (or, at least, were before today). But in the community the tone is different, the leadership message is different, the community voices are different, and things are changing.
It’s hard to put numbers on it, but there it’s there if you look.
A few years ago, if a black guy made a homophobic comment he might be called on it, but there was also an accompanying demand to understand his culture and not judge too harshly. I don’t hear that part anymore. What I read are black writers condemning blatant homophobia without any room for excuses.
Where just a few years ago it was presumed that a black actress might support us but certainly no black athlete wanted anything to do with gay issues. Now some of the most respected black men in athletics speak out in favor of full equality and do so with an attitude of “yeah, of course I do, why wouldn’t I?”
And where we did have the official support of many black leaders a few years back, now some of the icons of the community are willing to put their hard-earned reputation on the line in ways we frankly have no right to expect. They worked hard to make sure that what NOM wanted would not succeed.
Sure, some of this was natural flow with the tide. But I also believe that NOM’s efforts to make opposing equality a matter of “what blacks are like” got some African Americans thinking about the issue and about what being black is really all about. And they didn’t much like what NOM was suggesting.
And NOM didn’t have success with Latinos either. It seems that their efforts to get hip young beautiful latinos e latinas were met with a blank faced, “Lo siento, no hablo Inglés … ¡que condescendiente idiota racista!”
Their joint effort during the Carly Fiorina senate campaign in California (“Vota Tus Valores”) yielded one telenovela actress who thought she was there to talk about her religious conversion and talk up the values of chastity. When she found out she was supposed to do political campaigning against the evils of Teh Ghey, she hopped back on the bus and was never seen again.
Because ya know, the funny thing about race-based points of pride is that they are just that. They are issues or matters or traits or peculiarities that feel like home. They are things that are shared that make us into “us”. And Latinos and African Americans aren’t particularly receptive to white folk telling them what they should be proud about.
Ultimately, people pride themselves in what they feel good about. If it’s food flavors that go back dozens or generations, that’s community. Facial expressions that mom got from her mom who got them from her mom, that’s family. A sense of humor that no one else gets, that makes you feel like you are totally and completely accepted and loved. A sense of honor, decency, hard work, commitment to caring for those you are responsible for, charity for those who have less, the ability to always make room for one more, showing love when others may not, those are the values you pass to the next generation.
And those are the pride points that you see in all communities, be they African American, Hispanic American, Irish American, Native American, German American, or I-Have-No-Idea American. The most visible differences are the foods and the songs and the dances and the history, but look past it and really everyone pretty much prides themselves on the same thing: “we are who we are because we love each other.” That is a cultural pride point that happens naturally.
Making sure that someone else doesn’t have the happiness you have? Not so much.
Sure there are tensions. The gay community and the black community have been a bit at odds for a while. But no one is proud of that. We don’t define ourselves in terms on not liking the other. And nothing will heal our grievances quicker than having some outsider try and take advantage.
As NOM is in the process of learning.