Monday, November 10, 2008

Are Gays the New Blacks?

Until the U.S. elects an openly gay man or a lesbian to the Presidency, I wonder: are gays and lesbians the new blacks?

With a black man on his way to the White House it seems the baton of victimization is being passed on to the gays. Case in point: the overwhelming support by black residents of California in support of Proposition 8.

It's been said before that today's civil rights movement is lead by gay men and women who are fighting for their right to be married, and are demanding the same respect and protection from their government as their heterosexual counterparts.

While our society has evolved so that you won't see gay men and women hosed on the streets for protesting in front of hate-mongering churches who don't have to pay taxes and therefore have money to spare to mettle in their neighbors' lives, today's political maneuvering is even more astute and more viscious as bigotry is metted out with a smile.

There's a great opinion-piece in the LA Times that delves into the disconnect between the needs of black voters and the gay community - basically, equality doesn't mean the same thing for everyone and us gays haven't been smart about the needs and sensitivities of the communities whose support we need for the protection of our rights. Writer Jasmyne A. Cannick, who is an African-American lesbian, breaks it down:

"White gays often wonder aloud why blacks, of all people, won't support their civil rights. There is a real misunderstanding by the white gay community about the term. Proponents of gay marriage fling it around as if it is a one-size-fits-all catchphrase for issues of fairness.

But the black civil rights movement was essentially born out of and driven by the black church; social justice and religion are inextricably intertwined in the black community. To many blacks, civil rights are grounded in Christianity -- not something separate and apart from religion but synonymous with it. To the extent that the issue of gay marriage seemed to be pitted against the church, it was going to be a losing battle in my community."


There's nothing a white gay person can tell me when it comes to how I as a black lesbian should talk to my community about this issue. If and when I choose to, I know how to say what needs to be said. Many black gays just haven't been convinced that this movement for marriage is about anything more than the white gays who fund it (and who, we often find, are just as racist and clueless when it comes to blacks as they claim blacks are homophobic)."

I guess it would be tacky for gays to walk around black neighborhoods in California saying "I voted for Obama, hit me back." At the same time, I'd like to point out that the same religious values that the black community is holding on to are the same values that have been used to justify slavery and Jim Crow, but I get it, I chose to be a fruitcake, blacks didn't get to choose their race. Still, this makes no sense to me.

1 comment:

Burr Deming said...

The Gay-as-New-Black proposition is not only in error. It is not meaningful. It assumes that gays must win the Gold Medal in some sort of Oppression Olympics before basic rights are awarded.

Here is a better case.