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.
Taking the NAACP seriously?
August 2nd, 2011
Last Monday, the NAACP held its first ever town hall meeting on LGBT issues as part of their Annual National Convention. No More Downlow was there.
The debate got heated when the current NAACP CEO Benjamin Jealous is asked by our executive producer Earnest Winborne, “How can the LGBT community take the NAACP seriously, when its current board members are out saying that gay rights are not civil rights” – referring to current NAACP board member Rev. Keith Ratliff recent statement “Gay community stop hijacking the civil rights movement.”
Mr. Jealous responded saying the gay community should take the NAACP seriously because the NAACP was there with the Human Rights Campaign helping to pass the Matthew Shepard / James Byrd Hate Crimes Bill. The NAACP were champions of fighting Prop 8 in California as well as fighting alongside the LGBT community in Maine, Massachusetts, in Washington D.C. and in Maryland, and in other places. Jealous also said the LGBT community needed to do more ground work in the black community and not come late in the game with an expectation. He also said the black community needed to be treated with the same respect as the other allies of the LGBT community
Rather than discuss Ben Jealous’ answer, I want to make three observations.
One: I may be mistaken, and I am no weather-vane for any social trends, but I believe that I have seen a change in the way that bloggers, writers, and commentators within the black community have been discussing gay people and, more importantly, responding to those who do make slurs. I’ll leave it to those who have a better sense of the community, but it may be that a breakthrough is coming.
Two: The problem is not limited to a lack of support for gay issues in the African American community. Equally concerning are issues of racism and exclusion in the gay community. We, all of us, whatever race, ethnicity, religion, orientation, gender, or whatever need to look more for ways of seeing each other as “just like me” instead of letting our insecurities drive us into looking for differences and ways to separate. But we must also be careful that “just like me” doesn’t erase concern for each others’ real and unique challenges.
Three: In this discussion, let us never forget that “they” are already “us”. We have strong intelligent effective gay men and women who are not always valued due to prejudices that we may not even know we hold. Those who walk with a foot in two communities because of their race, religion, political ideology or other separation deserve respect. They’ve proven themselves and fought for our community and often been rewarded by being treated as the scapegoat. We, as a community, have to stop that.
The social obligations of inclusion
July 13th, 2011
“Fröken Salander, if I rescind your declaration of incompetence, that will mean that you have exactly the same rights as all other citizens. It also means that you have the same obligations. It is therefore your duty to manage your finances, pay taxes, obey the law, and assist the police in investigations of serious crimes. So I am summoning you to be questioned like any other citizen who has information that might be vital to an investigation.”
The force of this logic seemed to sink in. She pouted and looked angry, but she stopped arguing.
“When the police have interviewed you, the leader of the preliminary investigation—in this case the prosecutor general— will decide whether you will be summoned as a witness in any future legal proceedings. Like any other Swedish citizen, you can refuse to obey such a summons. How you act is none of my concern, but you do not have carte blanche. If you refuse to appear, then like any other adult you may be charged with obstruction of justice or perjury. There are no exceptions.”
Salander’s expression darkened even more.
“So, what is your decision?” Judge Iversen said.
After thinking it over for a minute, Salander gave a curt nod.
– The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson
The funny thing about rights is that they come with obligations. The right to vote, to choose the people who will make the laws that effect your lives, also has the obligation that you learn the issues, select a candidate and show up on a Tuesday in November to pull the lever. The right to plead your defense against governmental accusations to a panel of people just like you also comes with the excruciatingly irritating necessity to occasionally be one of the jurors on that panel.
Like Salander, the gay community has been in many ways been declared incompetent and childlike. Religious leaders have judged us broken, unaware of what is best for us, and in need to have others make decisions on our behalf. Convinced that our lives demonstrate that we are incapable of choosing what is best for us, they tell us what our choices should be: celibacy, therapy, repentance, or even just manning up and doing what their doctrines say is right.
And politicians have readily agreed, separating from us the rights, responsibilities and trappings of adulthood. Marriage is for responsible adults. Children are for responsible adults. We are not proper role models and should not be allowed employment that would give us respect in the eyes of children. Citizenship is for capable adults, and gay people have been deemed incapable of living up to the full rights of citizenship.
Even employers made hiring and advancement decisions based on what they believed that our family structure says about our maturity. A family man with a mortgage is presumed to be a more stable reliable employee than a single man who might party all night and blow off work. And a woman incapable of finding herself a good husband may not be well suited for a job which requires managing abilities. A presentable mate at the company social gatherings has always been a factor in advancement, and gay men and women – being “single” by definition – were at a disadvantage.
Knowing these presumptions to be false, for the past four decades we have fought for our rights as an equal citizen, one that need no overseer or patronizing decision maker, one that can choose what doctrines to believe and capable of social contributions equal to others.
And we have plead our case well and our evidence has been compelling.
Employers have come to see the gay man in the ten year relationship as being more similar to a married man than to a playboy. Many churches have found a lesbian parishioner to be no less spiritual mature than any worshiper and equally capable of pastoral care. Friends, family, coworkers and neighbors have discovered that fears about our inability to live a healthy, happy, balanced and responsible life were unfounded.
And finally, politicians have looked into their hearts and found that if you set aside bias (and reelection goals), gay men and women are entitled to the role of full and equal citizen promised to them by their constitutional inheritance.
So bit by bit, state by state, the doctrines, the policies, and the laws that have declared us incompetent are being changed.
But this is not Christmas morning and Santa Claus. And we are now having to face the realization that with the rights of citizenship come the responsibilities. And with full inclusion into society comes social obligation and expectation.
Those who malign us are not entirely baseless in their accusations. Our community has at times given itself license for childish excess and antisocial behavior. Being denied responsibility, we have at times behaved irresponsibly. Being ostracized, we have responded with messages and images designed to shock and offend. And being victims of social institutions, we have given ourselves permission to thwart social protocol and turn decorum on its head.
But as we gain responsibility and self-determination, as ostracization fades and social institutions expand to include us, such behavior no longer has an excuse. As we become full members of society, we now have to consider what impact our choices have on society.
And while much of the above addresses the collective mature response of a community, this change is also experienced on the individual level. As those who know us have come to believe us when we say that we are no different from our brothers and sisters, they have placed on us the same expectations and social obligations as our brothers and sisters.
And this has not been, nor will it continue to be, an easy transition. (Chicago Tribune)
As New York stood poised to become the latest state to legalize same-sex marriage, Michael Koresky felt the pressure deepen from friends and family eager to see him and his boyfriend of six years tie the knot.
But Koresky and his partner, who live in Brooklyn, aren’t sure wedding bells are in the cards. Amid exultant celebrations of marriage equality, they’ve found themselves in the awkward position of coming out of the we’re-not-sure-we-want-to-get-married closet.
They’re reluctant to spend thousands of dollars on a wedding just because it’s expected, and are hesitant to elope for fear loved ones would be disappointed they weren’t included.
The men already exchanged rings as a sign of their commitment to one another, so they question the purpose of a wedding.
“What would it mean?” Koresky said. “Who is it for?”
Koresky is not alone in resenting family pressures to conform. While valuing the right to marry, some also maintain a firm grip on their right not to marry and see social pressures as intrusive. What right has anyone else to tell them how their relationship should be structured? Who is the wedding really for? What business is it of theirs anyway?
And it is not just parental demands for a string quartet and open bar that we will encounter. Employers are taking steps to pressure employees to tie the knot. (NYTimes)
Now that same-sex marriage has been legalized in New York, at least a few large companies are requiring their employees to tie the knot if they want their partners to qualify for health insurance.
Corning, I.B.M. and Raytheon all provide domestic partner benefits to employees with same-sex partners in states where they cannot marry. But now that they can legally wed in New York, five other states and the District of Columbia, they will be required to do so if they want their partner to be covered for a routine checkup or a root canal.
But some of the same activists who have led the call for legal marriage equality have objected to marriage equality in the workplace. “That isn’t fair, marriage is still a complicated legal decision,” they insist. And, besides, what business is it of theirs anyway. Why should benefits be tied to a marriage license?
But society has a vested interest in relationship stability. Korelsky’s parents have a good reason to wish him encumbered with legal obligations to the person that he has introduced into their lives and whom they have grown to love. Raytheon has a good reason to wish that asset entanglement gives a sales manager added incentive to work out problems and keep the relationship stable. And your tax-paying neighbors have good reason to wish that you have legal as well as emotional obligations should one of you require care.
With our new inclusion into society as equal members, we will continue to face the social obligations and expectations that other members share. Aunt Thelma will wonder (in a voice louder than she realizes) why you haven’t settled down yet. Mom will discreetly slip Bride Magazine into your bag. Your boss will not-quite-jokingly inquire when you’re going make an honest woman out of her. And all of them will expect you to be as shocked as they are by some of the more free-spirited elements of our community.
Change is coming. But I don’t think that it is change we need to fear. And much of it is occurring organically anyway.
Couples with babies already are finding that Saturday night out on the town is often more hassle than it’s worth. Those with children are abandoning places that they feel are not child-friendly, opting instead for inclusive family settings. And the option to marry is already encouraging gay men and women to ask themselves whether the new cute thing is worth the investment of time and effort – and whether they too can withstand a candid evaluation.
Further, none of this suggests that we must readily acquiesce to every demand and be assimilated to the point of extinguishing our culture or uniqueness. As we enter society as equal but openly gay, we bring not just ourselves, but also our traditions, our perspectives, and our wisdom.
Like all times when societies have merged people with different histories and traditions, some of the presumptions of the current culture will fall away to be replaced by what we have to share. I doubt that it will be as drastic as the abandonment of sexual exclusivity that Dan Savage recommends, but perhaps relationship power structures or role negotiation and dispute resolution will be effected by our experiences. Perhaps the gender assumptions which now have a tenuous hold will lose grip completely. And perhaps there will be aspects and attributes of same-sex marriage that never are quite identical to those of opposite-sex marriages, and that too is fine. We will have to wait and see.
This is going to be an exciting time, but it will not be easy.
Some in our community will be angry at the traitorous sellouts to heterosexist hegemony that dare question their individuality. Some will judge the world to be “judgmental” for daring to criticize their excess. Others will sadly reminisce about the days in which social rejection created a cohesive vibrant community of proud self-reliant outsiders. And perhaps all of us will know that something has been lost.
Nor will the new model be functional for all. Some will find that the expectations and demands of social inclusion are based on the assumption of opportunities that time will never bring again. Some of us have grown too independent, too self-reliant, too old and set in our ways to ever have any realistic expectation of marriage and children. And having grown accustomed to being outside, and having built a life accordingly, assimilation will simply never be a reality. And some, having found ways to make alternative structures functionally provide for their needs, may find life even more difficult as sympathies fade for counter-culture or non-conformist lifestyles.
But while growing up is a difficult and painful process, it is time that we individually and collectively rise to the challenge and take our place as full adult citizens of our community, family, and nation. Having proven ourselves worthy to be treated as adults, we owe it to ourselves to hold ourselves to that standard.
Rethinking the liberal/conservative divide
June 9th, 2011
The Public Religion Research Institute has released its latest survey, Millennial Generation Committed to Availability, Conflicted about Morality of Abortion. While this poll is focused primarily on opinions about abortion, for comparative purposes it also asked questions about same-sex marriage. Their conclusions are fascinating and probably much more news-worthy than anything they had to say about abortion.
While after reading their report their observations seem obvious, they run counter to what we have become conditioned to believe.
We have, for decades, bought into the idea that opinions about homosexuality and same-sex marriage are part and parcel of the liberal/conservative divide. That growing leniency on “social issues” meantgreater sympathy for immigrants, a greater respect for a woman’s right to choose whether to carry a fetus to term, greater desire for racial inclusion, and greater tolerance for gay people, including their right to full marriage rights. This has been the theory which has driven coalition politics and created alliances between organizations with little in common other than those who opposed their objectives.
And those who daily strive to return America to some Golden Age of Heterosexual Supremacy have also labored under the same assumptions. Labeling themselves as “pro-family”, they broke society into two camps: liberals who wanted unfettered abortion, polygamy, perversion, and the destruction of Western Civilization by means of gay marriage; and conservatives who love America, family, and God. (This mindset even explains GOProud, the very tiny organization of gays who oppose gay rights because they perceive that opposing equality is part of being “conservative”).
But it seems that we all were wrong. It seems that for at least the two issues of abortion and marriage equality, Americans (and especially younger Americans) see these as distinct and separate issues not irrevocably linked by a sense of liberal or conservative identity.
In recent election cycles the so-called “values voter” agenda has often been distilled to abortion and same-sex marriage. Yet these two controversial topics are no longer necessarily linked in the minds of Americans. The gap is particularly notable among the Millennial generation, who support rights for gay and lesbian Americans at rates much higher than their parents but whose generally supportive views on the legality of abortion do not deviate significantly from their parents or the general public.
[Our investigation of Rekers’ “Kraig” and the story of his alterego Kirk Murphy resulted in a significant increase in traffic. The resulting required change in servers has us a little in-between, and consequently we can’t upload new images. There are some informative graphics in the report, starting on Page 8. Please view them there, as I cannot yet provide them here. Thanks, Timothy]
It also appears that the disconnect between abortion and marriage as identity-driven social issues is highly dependent on age. This disparity is likely to increase over time as Millennials (those born in the 80’s) and younger enter society and take their place in politics. While abortion positions do not waver significantly by age, younger Americans are dramatically more supportive of same-sex marriage than are older Americans.
This will prove a challenge to many in our community and its political leadership. Those who view the gay community as a subset of the Democratic Party and a coalition partner in a progressive political alliance may come to find that this approach hinders their abilities in approaching the growing number of conservative, religious, or Republican gay allies.
If they are unable or unwilling to change to meet the new realities, others will rise up who will.