Today, there are more reports of the fallout from recent gay and liberal efforts to blame African-Americans for Tuesday’s gay marriage ban in California, Proposition 8. At a No on 8 rally earlier this weekend, a number of black UCLA students who were marching to protest Prop 8 were subjected to racial slurs and harrassment by the very people they were marching alongside to support. One student reported:
It was like being at a klan rally except the klansmen were wearing Abercrombie polos and Birkenstocks. YOU NIGGER, one man shouted at men. If your people want to call me a FAGGOT, I will call you a nigger. Someone else said same thing to me on the next block near the temple…me and my friend were walking, he is also gay but Korean, and a young WeHo clone said after last night the niggers better not come to West Hollywood if they knew what was BEST for them.
Another black student had this experience:
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.
In the last few days, influential gay blogger Andrew Sullivan has urged calm throughout the gay community, especially regarding the recent blaming and scapegoating of African-Americans. Here’s Sullivan discussing the situation on Friday:
I totally understand the anger, hurt and pain now roiling the gay community and our families, especially in California. But it’s important to keep our heads. … Calm down. We are not experiencing a massive, permanent backlash. … [W]e need patience and relentlessness in explaining our lives. And how human they are. It’s not fair; we should have it all already. But we don’t. And in a democracy, that means persuasion, not fiat.
The next day, he addressed the anger even more specifically:
There is a difference between blaming African Americans and recognizing that the black community needs to be engaged more energetically on this issue.
Of course, Sullivan deserves credit for recognizing how out of control the blame-blacks-first crowd has gotten, and for speaking out against it.
However, over the past two months– well before the results of the vote were known– Sullivan frequently cited “black evangelicals” and “homophobic” African-Americans as the reason why Prop 8 could pass and the main obstacle to gay rights.
Here is Sullivan in late September discussing a study that said ”A majority of younger white evangelicals support some form of legal recognition for civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples” (all emphasis mine):
Black evangelicals are another matter. There is, alas, no ethnic community as homophobic in America as African-Americans. Which is why the ballot initiative in California could be close.
Here is Sullivan two days later defending that statement from the substantial criticism (and contradicting evidence) it received from fellow Atlantic blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates, United States of Jamerica blogger Jamelle, and The American Prospect blogger Adam Serwer, among others:
There is a tsunami of data showing that African-Americans are more opposed to gay equality than any other ethnic group. … The younger generation is not much better. Young Latinos are much less homophobic than young African-Americans. … The rampant homophobia in urban black culture also cannot be denied, as well as the role of the black church in fomenting and entrenching homophobia, even as so many black men and women have died of HIV and AIDS.
And finally, here is Sullivan, the day after the election, urging gays not to demonize the black community right before he viciously demonizes the black community:
[T]his community needs to be engaged not demonized, and we haven’t engaged enough. The black church is one of the most powerful forces fomenting homophobia in America, and has fostered attitudes that have literally killed countless gay black men. It’s time to Act Up against those elements that p.c. liberals have been too timid to confront.
So for those of you who are confused, here’s Sullivan’s argument in a nutshell: African-Americans are the single most homophobic group of people in America, they are the reason the Prop 8 vote was even close, and their attitudes on this subject have literally killed countless gays. But, you know, we shouldn’t demonize or blame them.
POST SCRIPT: One last point I’d like to make. Let’s go back to that CNN exit poll that everyone is so fond of citing to “prove” the “overwhelming” influence of black homophobia on California’s Prop 8 vote.
First, it should be noted that Sullivan’s favorite polling analyst (and mine) Nate Silver at 538 wrote, on election day no less, ten reasons why everyone should ignore exit polls. Reason number one is that exit polls have notoriously higher margins of error than regular polls, somewhere between 50% to 90% higher. Reason number nine is that “a high-turnout election may make demographic weighting difficult.” You mean, a high-turnout election like the record-breaking one we had Tuesday? And you mean demographic weighting like how African-Americans– who make up a miniscule 6% of California’s population– voted? Yeah.
But for the sake of argument, let’s pretend like that CNN exit poll is accurate and that blacks did in fact make up 10% of California’s electorate and did in fact vote in favor of Prop 8 at a rate of 70%. According to the same poll, voters age 65 and older made up 15% of the electorate and voted in favor of Prop 8 at a rate of 61%. For those of you who aren’t good at math, that means California voters age 65 and older outnumbered African-Americans by 50% and contribued 39% more Yes on Prop 8 votes. If voters age 65 and older had opposed Prop 8 by a slight majority of 52%, it would have failed.
So why isn’t Sullivan emphasizing the rampant homophobia in the elderly community? Why is he singling out African-Americans as the foremost obstacle to gay rights when voters over 65 actually had 39% more influence in the passing of Prop 8? Will Sullivan ever condemn nursing homes and Bingo tournaments the way he has repeatedly condemned black churches?
We’re all waiting.
POST SCRIPT #2: Could Sullivan’s own personal negative experiences with African-Americans in inner-city D.C. be influencing his disproportional focus on this group?
POST SCRIPT #3: The point of this post is not to excuse black homophobia or the contribution of African-Americans to the passage of Prop 8. It is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed, just like it needs be addressed among– again according to CNN’s exit poll– Latinos, Republicans (who made up 29% of the electorate and voted in favor of Prop 8 at a rate of 82%– which adds up to 339% more influence on passing Prop 8 than African-Americans), everyone over age 30, everyone who makes less… or more than $50,000, people who have attended college, people who have never attended college, women, and men. Did I miss anyone?
The point of this post is to question the wildly disproportional scrutiny of African-Americans, when it is in no way clear that the color of one’s skin is a primary indicator of one’s social attitudes towards gays. I’m guessing that your frequency of church attendance, your age, and where you live are all much stronger indicators than race.