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So what if Blacks caused Prop. 8 to pass?

Date: November 19, 2008

This evening, I attended a meeting titled United & Moving Forward, which was convened by Portland Latino Gay Pride, Basic Rights Oregon, and other local LGBT/queer organisations. The discussion was on the outcome of Proposition 8 in California, which amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages, and how communities of colour are unfairly blamed for its passage. I’ve been following similar discussions online for a while, but I was glad to hear from a panel of activists who were actually involved in the campaign against Proposition 8.

On the night of the election, CNN reported on the basis of a small exit poll sample that almost 70% of African-American voters endorsed Proposition 8, leading many in the media to conclude that Black voters, who turned out in record numbers to push Barack Obama into the White House, was responsible for the ban on same-sex marriage, which in turn prompted many angry, often racist statements among (white) gay and lesbian communities that are too depressing to reproduce here (but you know what I am talking about).

At the meeting, a woman from National Gay and Lesbian Task Force explained to the crowd that CNN’s numbers are likely wrong, as it was based on such a small sample of exit polls, and they are working to produce the actual breakdown of Black votes, which appears to be much closer. Many people echoed the sentiment that the media were wrong to portray Black voters as the culprit for denying marriage equality, and we need to challenge those members of our LGBT/queer communities who are lashing out at the wrong people because of the misinformation.

But it concerns me that we are putting so much emphasis on disproving CNN’s numbers. What if they were real? What if 70% of Blacks actually did vote against marriage equality? Does that justify white gays and lesbians lashing out against the entire Black population, even shouting the N-word at them? And doesn’t it say something about the underlying racist bias on the part of white gays and lesbians that white they were so quick to believe the CNN figure in the first place and run with it?

And why is our national leadership so eager to pacify them with “accurate information,” as if the only problem with their racist display of outrage is that they were misinformed? How is it relevant if 50% of Blacks oppose same-sex marriage or 70%–would it become any more acceptable for white gays and lesbians to respond in racist fashion if Black people were in fact disproportionately homophobic?

CNN’s numbers should be challenged, because it is slanderous and harmful to the honour and reputation of Black communities across California. But it is not enough to simply challenge the notion Blacks caused Proposition 8 to pass; the LGBT movement needs to confront ugly bursts of racism within our communities as such, rather than providing excuse for it by pretending that people who lash out are merely misinformed.

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