The deep repugnance and aversion to homosexuality held by the black church-going community revealed in the passing of Proposition 8 in California are not a wedge in the progressive agenda. They are simply a very common human failing. It is human to scapegoat.
This is an opportunity to make the tent even bigger, if it is construed as an opportunity to examine prejudice from the other side.
Progressives should invite the black church community to engage in the dialogue. The result would allow all those in the tent to feel and work better with each other. The tent would become an even better tent.
It would even make it easier to reach out to those still outside the tent. Name-calling means we have learned nothing.
New York, Dec. 7, 2008
It’s sad the way the media consistently frames the post-Prop. 8 debate as “gays vs. blacks” (props to Stephen Colbert for excellently lampooning this). The truth, beyond the fact that the Obama surged actually hurt, rather than helped, Proposition 8, is that there is a deep well of social conservatism in older black and Hispanic communities. The problem that poses to gay rights is not insurmountable, and it’s important; just imagine you were gay, as well as black or Hispanic, and you were in the closet, or your were afraid to discuss your significant other, or people assumed you didn’t exist because you aren’t white. How would you feel?
We all underestimated the threat of Proposition 8, and the finger-pointing is understandable. My feeling is that we never spoke to the concerns of these communities that vote Democratic but aren’t necessarily thrilled about same-sex marriage. We never countered the arguments of the scaremongers, we never established that the same-sex marriage ruling doesn’t have any effect on schools or churches, we never claimed the mantle (as we should have) of strengthening marriage, love, and commitment for all Americans. It’s tough to establish the very real, and very sad, links between Jim Crow separate-but-equal laws and the idea of a separate institution for gay “civil unions” when gays are stereotyped as being white and well-to-do. If the truth got out—that whether or not you know, gay people are in your family, among your teachers, among your coworkers, among all the people you love and admire—it would change the dynamic entirely.
Prop. 8 might still get thrown out on the grounds that the California Constitution does not allow such sweeping changes to it without a Constitutional convention. Let’s hope the California Supreme Court rules the right way and strikes down this loathsome, opportunistic ballot measure. I shouldn’t have to tell you that Supreme Courts are there to protect fundamental rights, whether or not they’re in vogue; these are the kind of rights than cannot be invalidated by simple majority. Either way, though, I think I speak for us all in saying that I hope we learn as we heal from this debacle.