Tuesday, November 11, 2008

No on H8, Yes on Racism

I've been reading more and more blog posts lately by white gay people who are so pissed off at the black voters who voted in favor of Prop 8. Bitching about how they "threw us under the bus" (such a tired, overused phrase, please retire it) and how we all voted for Barack Obama so where's our electoral reach-around as thanks for helping them out and getting their man into the White House? I see so many white gays drawing some thick, bold line paralleling being gay whites to being black in this country and I can't believe people are STILL trotting out that particular argument. It's like I've been catapulted back to the campus queer group at Sarah Lawrence College where, when queer students of color complained that the group put so much focus on the issues of queer white people and made it really unwelcoming towards queer people of color they were told "If you don't feel welcome, that's your problem. We're not excluding you." As if simply laying out a "Welcome" mat was all it took to eradicate the complex issues creating this divide in the first place. Only this isn't just a campus , this is that cultural/political crash writ large - an excuse for white gays to demand that their agenda once again be the sole focus and any untidy "others" can just hush up and tow the party line.

I really hate it when I am made to feel embarrassed by or ashamed of "my people".

Jasmyne Cannick has written a fantastic op-ed piece in the L.A. Times addressing the issues of the black community, specifically the black gay and lesbian community, and Proposition 8. Her piece echoes so many of the things I heard when I was in the campus queer group back at college and I have kept hearing ever since: there is more to the lives of black gay and lesbian people than their sexuality. They experience other forms of prejudice in the world and have other issues they are simultaneously faced with that have little to nothing to do with their sexualities. They are not divorced from the heterosexual black community around them and are not capable of dividing themselves up based on identity traits and ignoring certain things to champion a singularly gay issue. As I said to someone replying to a post in a friend's Livejournal about the parallel between the goals of the gay civil rights movement and the goals of the black civil rights movement:

"I guess I fail to see, in some ways, how the gay civil rights movement and the black civil rights movements are working for the same goals. I think it's one thing to talk about the interconnectedness of oppression and how things like racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. do not exist as entirely separate entities. But I don't know if I see a direct parallel between the two movements. Part of the problem lies in the fact that sexuality cuts through so many things - race, class, gender, nationality, body, ability, etc. It's such an incredibly difficult issue to organize around and, more often than not, the leading voices of the movement assume a focus on the part of all community members - regardless of other aspects of their being outside of sexuality - on these very gay-centric issues. This is not to say that, on the flip-side, all black people agree on and deal with the same issues. But there is a lot more commonality of experience and unity in terms of what problems face many people in that community. So I think it's really difficult and rather disingenuous for white gay people to keep drawing such direct parallels between the two communities/movements.

This is not to say that their can't be coalition building, community outreach and an attempt at education on both sides. But it seems like the response from the white gay community has been much more about hostility and blaming than it has been about dialog."

Here is a pretty great video from Jasmyne Cannick's site that is far more eloquent than me and my rambling:

On a more simple note, blaming one group and lashing out with racist epithets at rallies is hateful, shameful and appalling. You want black people to see the right for gays to marry as important as their struggle for civil rights and then you turn around and shower them with hate speech when they don't all agree with you? How fucked is that? I mean, look, I am no Larry LoveTheWorld by any means, but it seems like for all the "NO ON H8" stuff I am seeing from blog to shining blog, it's almost always followed by noxious spewing of hatred against pro-8 racial groups or pro-8 religious groups. Are we all so immature that we don't get how hating doesn't fucking end hate??

In the end, I am a white gay man, so I am as much a part of the community whether I have problems with it or not. So I hope that I can help to be a voice of reason and try to create a dialog among my peers to talk some of them down from their racist high horses. Because, in the end, I think the issues coming up post-Prop 8 around racism and the tension between white gays and the black community - gay or otherwise, are kind of a lot more important than just the issue of gay marriage. And if that makes me a bad fag, well, so be it. It would hardly be the first time.

P.S. Adding a link to this fantastic LJ post by slit on the subject.


At 11/11/2008 11:45 AM , Blogger Donald said...

Stop hate, hug a Morman. That's what I always say. And if, in the course of hugging said Morman, I do what I can to convince the IRS to revoke their tax exempt status, then all the better.


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