I still believe that President Barack Obama, for his ubiquitous campaign promises of “hope” and “change,” publicly came out for same-sex marriage too late in his presidency — the time to do the right thing is (almost) always right now — and I still believe that Obama publicly came out for same-sex marriage only after he’d calculated that it was politically safe to do so (and maybe even only after he’d calculated that it was politically harmful to continue not to do so).
And I certainly don’t want to be told that I should be thankful that Obama politically went out on a limb for my fellow non-heterosexuals and otherwise non-gender-conforming individuals when, in fact, we helped put him in the Oval Office, and when, in fact, our equal human and civil rights always have been and always will be far more important than is one politician.
All of that said, Obama’s belated pro-same-sex-marriage proclamation seems to be having benefits that perhaps even he didn’t foresee.
Not only have leaders within the black community such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton proclaimed that they support same-sex marriage — Jackson not long ago enough was adamant that same-sex marriage is not about civil rights — but the NAACP yesterday announced its support of same-sex marriage, calling same-sex marriage a civil right.
The Associated Press quotes NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous as having proclaimed: “Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people.”
True, Jealous is a young black leader — he’s 39, the youngest president that the NAACP has ever had — and it’s true that younger people are much more accepting of same-sex marriage and other equal human and civil rights for non-heterosexuals and non-gender-conforming individuals than are older people. And it’s true that there are many, many older people (and yes, plenty of younger people), of all races, who are going to take their homophobia with them to their graves, regardless of what Barack Obama or Benjamin Todd Jealous or Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton or you or I have to say about same-sex marriage and equal human and civil rights for all.
But the good news is that old bigots do die, that they have fewer days ahead of them than they have behind them. And as today’s younger bigots grow older and their bigotry becomes less and less acceptable, at least they increasingly will keep their stupid fucking mouths shut and keep their ignorance and hatred to their miserable selves.
Given that blacks have been the one racial group in the United States most opposed to equality for non-heterosexuals and non-gender-conforming individuals, having the likes of Obama and Jealous and Jackson and Sharpton now proclaiming that the black community should share the civil rights pie already with non-heterosexuals and non-gender-conforming individuals should, within a few years, I surmise, put a fairly solid majority of Americans (say, at least 55 percent of them) in favor of equality for all.
There is a pretty good article on the topic of black homophobia that Slate writer William Saletan posted in November 2008, shortly after the nation elected its first black president — and after black voters were the largest racial group of voters in California who voted down same-sex marriage by voting yes on Proposition 8. Saletan begins:
[November 4, 2008] was a good day to be black. It was not a good day to be gay.
Arkansas voters approved a ballot measure to prohibit gay couples from adopting kids. Florida and Arizona voters approved measures to ban gay marriage. But the heaviest blow came in California, where a gay-marriage ban, Proposition 8, overrode a state Supreme Court ruling that had legalized same-sex marriage.
A surge of black turnout, inspired by Barack Obama, didn’t help liberals in the Proposition 8 fight. In fact, it was a big reason why they lost. The gay marriage problem is becoming a black problem.
The National Election Pool exit poll tells the story. Whites and Asian Americans, comprising 69 percent of California’s electorate, opposed Proposition 8 by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent. Latinos favored it, 53-47. But blacks turned out in historically high numbers — 10 percent of the electorate — and 70 percent of them voted for Proposition 8. …
I remember that Election Day well. I had cast my vote for Barack Obama, only to learn within the following days that while I had supported the black community, the black community had coldly turned its back on me.
Saletan’s article even indicates that perhaps black homophobia helped get George W. Bush a second term in 2004:
A report from the pro-gay National Black Justice Coalition attributes President Bush’s 2004 re-election in part to the near-doubling of his percentage of the black vote in Ohio, which he achieved “by appealing to black churchgoers on the issue of marriage equality.” This year, blacks in California were targeted the same way.
The NBJC report paints a stark picture of the resistance. It cites surveys showing that “65 percent of African Americans are opposed to marriage equality compared to 53 percent of whites” and that blacks are “less than half as likely to support marriage equality and legal recognition of same-sex civil unions as whites.”
It concludes: “African Americans are virtually the only constituency in the country that has not become more supportive over the last dozen years, falling from a high of 65 percent support for gay rights in 1996 to only 40 percent in 2004.” Nor is the problem dying out: “Among African-American youth, 55 percent believed that homosexuality is always wrong, compared to 36 percent of Latino youth and 35 percent of white youth.”
Saletan then goes, at some length, into the black homophobes’ “mutability”/“immutability” “argument,” which I just don’t fucking buy. (Who chooses to be a member of an historically reviled and oppressed minority group? Fucking duh.) I still surmise, as I wrote recently, that most homophobic blacks remain homophobic primarily because (1) they want to remain, in the national story, the only victims of prejudice and discrimination and oppression, because their identity is wrapped up in race-based victimhood, real or imagined/fabricated, and (2) because they want there to be one minority group that even they still can shit and piss upon, because it’s better to be near the bottom of the sociological dog-pile that is the United States of America than it is to be at the very bottom, isn’t it?
This is cruelty and hypocrisy, of course, to demand equality for one’s own minority group but to continue to shit and piss upon the members of another historically oppressed minority group. When the historically hated and oppressed become the haters and oppressors of others, it’s pretty fucking ugly. (Are you listening, Palestinian-oppressing Israelis?)
And, of course, homophobia within the black community doesn’t just hurt gay whites like me. It hurts blacks in many ways. Being rejected by your own family for not being heterosexual and/or gender-conforming contributes to such problems as drug and alcohol addiction, emotional and psychological disorders, suicide attempts, and the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, because individuals who have come to believe that they are shit for not being heterosexual and/or gender-conforming often don’t worry too much about protecting themselves because they probably want to die anyway, their self-esteem is that low.
African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV of all racial/ethnic groups in the United States. Despite representing only 14 percent of the US population in 2009, African Americans accounted for 44 percent of all new HIV infections in that year. Compared with members of other races and ethnicities, African Americans account for a higher proportion of HIV infections at all stages of disease — from new infections to deaths.
Black homophobia — and its attendant ignorance and fear and stunning lack of education and enlightenment — probably is the No. 1 reason for those grim statistics, and, of course, heterosexual black women are less likely to contract HIV and other STDs if their black male sexual partners who actually are homosexual or bisexual don’t feel pressured to lead double lives in order to give the appearance of heterosexuality in order to please the homophobic bigots in their lives. (The CDC reports than for 2009, “Most [85 percent of] black women with HIV acquired HIV through heterosexual sex. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for black women was more than 15 times as high as the rate for white women, and more than three times as high as that of Latina women.”)
And, of course, it’s much easier for me and other non-heterosexuals and non-gender-conforming individuals to be supportive of the members of the black community if we have the same love and respect from them that they want from us.
With equal human and civil rights for everyone, everyone wins.
Except, perhaps, for the members of the right wing, who have opposed equal human and civil rights, who have opposed liberty and justice for all, forever.
That so many blacks have shared that trait with the white wingnuts is nothing short of tragic.
P.S. Here is the text of the NAACP’s decision to support same-sex marriage, from the organization’s website:
The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the “political, educational, social and economic equality” of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the constitutional rights of LGBT citizens. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment.
Of course, that last sentence, an apparent afterthought, apparently had to be thrown in there in order to appease the churchgoing set. Of course, one’s religious freedoms do not include the “right” to impose his or her own religious beliefs upon everyone else, which the churchgoing set has a problem understanding, thus their incredibly insane claim that they are victimized if they are not allowed to victimize others, because their religious beliefs include the supposedly Bible-based victimization of others.
Not being a member of the black community, I don’t know how much sway the NAACP has within the black community. The organization’s website proclaims:
The NAACP has addressed civil rights with regard to marriage since Loving vs. Virginia declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional in 1967. In recent years the NAACP has taken public positions against state and federal efforts to ban the rights and privileges for LGBT citizens, including strong opposition to Proposition 8 in California, the Defense of Marriage Act, and most recently, North Carolina’s Amendment 1, which changed the state constitution’s to prohibit same-sex marriage.
While I am happy to see the NAACP’s comparison of same-sex marriage rights to mixed-race (heterosexual) marriage rights, if it is true that the NAACP showed “strong opposition to Proposition 8 in California,” the fact that 70 percent of the state’s black voters voted down same-sex marriage nontheless indicates, unfortunately, that the NAACP doesn’t have an awful lot of sway within the black community, at least not here in California or in North Carolina or in the other states where black voters have shot down same-sex marriage in much higher percentages than have their white, Latino and Asian counterparts.