4 Worst Media Misrepresentations of North Carolina's Anti-Gay Amendment One
Continued from previous page
The “Black vote” in North Carolina has received a great deal of scrutiny this week. There seems to be an unsubstantiated assumption in the media that Black voters are intrinsically homophobic. Rev. Dr. William Barber, President of the NC conference of the NAACP (NC-NAACP) tells AlterNet that he participated in media interviews in which journalists presumed that the Black community would be deeply divided by the Amendment – so much so that the debate over Amendment One could negatively affect President Obama’s chances of winning North Carolina in November. Barber, who oversees many NAACP chapters throughout North Carolina, and Ferrel Guillory, Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications at UNC-Chapel Hill, both tell AlterNet that they do not believe the issue of gay marriage will diminish Obama’s support among Black voters in North Carolina. Furthermore, Barber says, the Black churches and NAACP chapters with whom he works throughout the State do not see gay marriage as an agenda-setting issue. That is, he says, he works with people who prioritize such issues as poverty and economic inequality, not the Christian Right’s family values agenda.
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), an anti-gay organization profiled for its hard-core anti-gay stance by the Southern Poverty Law Center*, devoted extensive organizational power and resources to the statewide movement in favor of Amendment One. And they did this explicitly by using race as a wedge that they hoped would divide Black communities in North Carolina. In March, LGBT rights organization the Human Rights Campaign uncovered NOM documents that straightforwardly discussed the organization’s anti-gay marriage strategy throughout the country. A 2009 document issued to NOM’s board of directors states, “The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.”
It continues, “The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so in the future, both because of demographic growth and inherent uncertainty: Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values? We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity - a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.”
In any case, Black voters in North Carolina who live in the wake of Jim Crow and the Republican Party’s racist “Southern strategy” are not oblivious to bald attempts at political cooptation. And in any case, they cannot be blamed for the high margin of people who supported the Amendment. One poll cited by Mother Jones said that Black voters supported the Amendment by 51%, a much, much smaller margin than the 69 percent of total voters who ultimately voted for the bill. Furthermore, Black North Carolinians represent only 21.5 percent of the state’s population. Whites, on the other hand, remain in the majority at 68.5 percent. Yet no headlines on May 8 asked how many white voters had supported the Amendment.
Some voting irregularities in Raleigh, which has a large Black population, cast even that slight margin in doubt. During the morning hours, corruption watchdog organization Democracy-North Carolina fielded phone calls from Raleigh voters whose ballots did not contain the Amendment. They were given ballots designated for 17-year olds who could vote in the primary on the basis that they would turn 18 before the November election, but who could not vote on Amendment One. At this writing, it is not clear how many voters this affected, or how many of these were Black. Because the overall vote favored the Amendment by such a wide margin, there may not be sufficient investigation into exact numbers. But could a sizable number of Black Raleigh voters have tilted the so-called “Black vote” against the Amendment? That is unclear, though it could certainly have narrowed the margin in favor of the Amendment among Black voters.