12 November 2008

... And a few steps back

I keep hearing this term "re-defining" marriage.

If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal... in 1967. 1967. The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't marry...black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not "Until Death, Do You Part," but "Until Death or Distance, Do You Part." Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized. You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are... gay.
-- MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, Nov 10, 2008

The sad news from last Tuesday concerns rollbacks in rights for gay and lesbian people across the country

Arizona and Florida approved anti-gay marriage propositions, and Arkansas approved an Initiative barring unmarried people from adopting children.

The big loss, however, was in California, with the passage of Proposition 8, reversing the California Supreme Court's decision approving gay marriage.

Fingers are being pointed over the loss -- many of them pointed at African Americans:

"African American voters in California voted overwhelmingly for Prop 8, writing anti-gay discrimination into California’s constitution and banning same-sex marriage in that state. Seventy percent of African American voters approved Prop 8, according to exit polls, compared to 53% of Latino voters, 49% of white voters, 49% of Asian voters.... I’m done pretending that the handful of racist gay white men out there — and they’re out there, and I think they’re scum — are a bigger problem for African Americans, gay and straight, than the huge numbers of homophobic African Americans are for gay Americans, whatever their color." -- Dan Savage

"Three older men accosted my friend and shouted, 'Black people did this, I hope you people are happy!' A young lesbian couple with mohawks and Obama buttons joined the shouting and said there were 'very disappointed with black people' and 'how could we' after the Obama victory. This was stupid for them to single us out because we were carrying those blue NO ON PROP 8 signs! I pointed that out and the one of the older men said it didn't matter because "most black people hated gays" and he was "wrong" to think we had compassion. That was the most insulting thing I had ever heard. I guess he never thought we were gay." -- "Ronald" at the marriage equality rally in Los Angeles, reported by Rod McCollum (More follow-up from Rod here)

Many Gay Rights organizations continually just don't get it when it comes to people of color, as Andres Duque points out:

"Let me say this: I don't have much money but I have donated to the "No on 8" campaign to support their efforts (as well as "No on 2" in FL and "No on 102" in AZ); I also know that they have attempted to make inroads among Latino communities; but I was less than thrilled by their discourse in media during these last few days on the issue of Latino voters and not too impressed by their ads targeting Latino media."

From the VivirLatino website:

Gloria Nieto had a sense of those demographic forces, too. When Nieto, a lead organizer for the No on Proposition 8 campaign in San Jose, wanted to distribute campaign signs in Spanish and Vietnamese this fall, she had to get them made herself because the statewide campaign only had signs in English.
What this suggests to me is that communities of color have their problems--but largely white organizations seem to not value those communities until the time comes when they need them for their own agendas, and even then not so much.

I have been wanting to comment about this since November 5, but everytime I start I get extremely upset (okay, as La Familia would attest, the right word for me to use here is not "upset" but "livid"). I probably would have come out with something similar to Ernest Hardy's long and 'colorful' response to Mr Savage, or it's followup

I'm upset at the racism of some members of the white gay community

I'm upset at the homophobia of some members of the black community

I am saddened and disturbed by the 'white' "Gay Community" for their lack of understanding of non-white communities. As well as the fact that there's little to no realization from many of them that people can be BOTH black and gay.

And I'm mad at both groups for playing directly into the hands of Right Wingers who would deny ALL of us of our rights if given half a chance.

There's more than enough 'blame' to go around. For example, some folk would have been attacking Catholics if one could tell religion by looking at someone, for, as blogger JoeMyGod points out:

The last Field Poll, conducted a week before the election, showed that weekly churchgoers increased their support in the final week from 72 percent to 84 percent. Catholic support increased from 44 percent to 64 percent - a jump that accounted for 6 percent of the total California electorate and equivalent to the state's entire African American population combined. The shift in Catholics alone more than accounted for Prop. 8's 5 percent margin of victory.

I'm glad to see folks are challenging the Morman Church, which poured huge amounts of money across the border from Utah into California to pass Prop 8. (They should all watch the very moving film "Latter Days" to get some idea of what it might feel like to be a young gay Mormon)

I also agree with some friends who think the idea of having voters decide on the rights others should have is an extremely bad idea. A lot of American's wouldn't vote for the Bill of Rights in the US Consitution either! And I doubt that there would be school desegregation, Civil Rights Acts of 1964 or '65, nor legal-all-across the US interracial marriage if they had been put to a vote either.

So: rather than get mad, lemme DO something

National Fight the H8 rallys at city halls across America, Saturday November 15, 2008
As poet C Dale Young says:

You don't have to chant. You don't have to carry a sign. We just want you to stand with us. If you have ever loved someone enough to want to marry them; If you have ever married; If you thank God every day for your husband or wife; If you ever wonder how you would get through the week without your significant other, stand with us. Everyone deserves the right to love someone and be treated with dignity. Everyone deserves a chance at happiness. None of us want to be treated like second-class citizens. So stand with me for Love. Stand against H8.

Continuing Updates on Prop 8 and protests at Towleroad

Some resources for our us and our Straight Allies to help discuss heterosexism/homophobia within the Black community, courtesy of the all-across-the-spectrum-of-sexual-orientation poets of Cave Canem:

Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack II: Sexual Orientation
Daily effects of straight privilege

How Homophobia Hurts Everyone: A Theoretical Foundation by Warren J. Blumenfeld

"Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" by Adrienne Rich

Why I Hate Abercrombie and Fitch by Dwight McBride

Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism by Patricia Hill Collins

Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity and Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South by E Patrick Johnson (Performing part of Sweet Tea here)

Afrekete: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Writing edited by Catherine McKinley & L. Joyce DeLaney

Redbone Press' Spirited: Affirming the Soul and Black Gay/Lesbian Identity

Words to Our Now: Imagination and Dissent by Thomas Glave

Marlon Rigg's Black Is...Black Ain't

Cheryl Dunne's The Watermelon Woman

Brother to Brother

Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin

Last but most decidly NOT least, Keith Olbermann's emotional Special Comment, which asks a question I ask myself -- what the hell's it to YOU if Gays and Lesbians want to get married?

Thank You, Keith


EH said...

Great post. When I grow up, I'm gonna know how to keep my cool and not let that damn Detroit conditioning (and Millie Jackson record collection) have rule over me.

ReggieH said...

Thanks, Ernest -- I'm trying to be Mr Cool, like President O-beezy!:)