Approaching Gay Marriage Within the Black Community
Gay marriage passes an important hurdle and comes right back down to the correct understanding of Black History and Civil Rights
I argued earlier that opponents of Prop 8 made some really bad moves back in California in regard to swaying the black community. They did not even bother approaching the black community, then they based their entire marketing campaign on comparing Loving v. Virginia, the ban on interracial marriage, and the ban against gay marriage. The ads were jarring, even for me, not because I think being black is better than being gay. It just seemed to play unnecessarily off the inherent divisions within those communities as opposed to addressing anything relevant or contemporary.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker overturned California’s ban on gay marriage. It’s a battle that will not end until the U.S. Supreme Court finally weighs in. What is important here is that the Judge addressed the real question in his decision: the constitutionality of the ban. Whether deliberately or indifferently that judge, in his ruling, brings the issue of gay marriage back to civil rights. Once again, here were are in the thick of comprehending the civil rights movement, the frequent misappropriation of that movement, black bigotry, white privilege (regardless of how gay it is) and America’s nasty little legacy of self interest.
We should begin by saying gay rights are civil rights. The freedom to marry --- even though it may seem less important in a social context than the freedom to live where you want or attend an integrated school --- is actually more personal and therefore poignant.
We should also begin by saying this, comparing the ban against gay marriage with the ban against interracial marriage is enormously problematic. Let’s begin with the anthropological issue first: There is really only one race: Referring to people of different skins and ethnic backgrounds as belonging to different races is founded only in religion and that false science called Eugenics. It's not something anthropology accepts. And it has done nothing but fuel "mongrolization mania" and bigotry for decades.In making this comparison, you ignore and therefore underestimate what is central to the whole gay/black divide. The divide comes from the black church, which is where the Civil Rights movement was born. But there is also the problem of misappropriating the Civil Rights movement. It's something staunch conservatives now do, as they make the utterly false claim that white men are now the ones being oppressed. So, some black folks are a bit skeptical for good reason. Then, there is the problem of comparing heterosexual blacks to gays for cover, who are often then compared with perverts and child molesters for the sake of exploitation. It's just one big convoluted contextual mess.
But perhaps most problematic about the gay/interacial marriage comparison is that the argument actually supports the notion of reserving marital rights for certain classes of people. The banning of interracial marriage was specifically related to blacks who wanted to marry outside of their own race, but they could marry other blacks. It did not even begin to address the notion of banning an entire segment of the population from marriage -- and that’s what gay marriage does.
I think, especially as this gay marriage issue moves onto other venues, it would make more sense to stick squarely with the facts at hand. The government or its people should not be deny rights to its citizens based on religious beliefs. The direct underpinning of the opposition to gay marriage is a religious one. The ban is completely unconstitutional as it directly conflicts with the pursuit of happiness for one segment of the population, without immediately assessing any blame for any specific crime. The entire ban stems from the assumption that the majority is offended by the ability of a minority to appreciate the rights afforded that majority. Unless, the religious right behind the marriage ban can make a cohesive argument that gay people are somehow bad, or wrong, etc, then let’s be done with it and move on.
But here’s a little note to the gay activist who will champion this decision and the black bigots, and there is a decent supply of them within the black community, who will be crying out against it.
One: We, as black people, should not be so easily distracted and motivated by or own self interest that we are blind to the valid civil rights struggles of other minorities. That applies to gay as well as immigrant rights. If we continue down this road, we will find ourselves on the wrong side of history. We will, in the next decade, find ourselves sitting on our haunches and on the side of the oppressors, the descendants of those who imprisoned us and once held our rights for ransom. We should also be less protective about the logistics and semantics of the Civil Rights movement and embrace the larger issues it represented: Equality for all, not just us. We should also understand the larger significance that movement had in U.S. and World History and not just the black community. The Civil Rights movement will be forever remembered and used as a blueprint for aggrieved people in this world to claim rights. That’s something I think black folks should be proud of, not pissed off at.
Two: The next time the gay community starts pointing fingers in regards to black homophobia, I would suggest it take a more sobering look at racism within its own ranks. There is no group, regardless of who you sleep with or what skin color you have, that is either exempt or free of bigotry and bias. In fact, when I look honestly back at the Campaign Against Prop 8 and remember seeing all the yard signs in predominately white, affluent and trendier neighborhoods in Los Angeles from Santa Monica down to Silver Lake and saw no mobilization in communities of color whether Latino or black, no community building, no olive branches to the black church (which less face it has a huge population of gay folks within its ranks) I was a little offended. It felt a bit like we were being marginalized all over again.