Ta-Nehisi Coates is pissed off about the scapegoating of black people for the passage of prop 8. A National Gay and Lesbian Task Force report is cited and a case is convincingly made that yes, it’s bullshit, and frustrating as hell, to hear all these liberals blaming black people for prop 8 when, in every way, it was a lousy campaign.
Timothy Kincaid is skeptical:
The fact is – regardless of how much NGLTF would wish otherwise – that the gay community does not truly have a strategic alliance with black voters. We do not have African American support. We can fully expect that unless something drastically changes, future votes on gay equality will have large percentages of African Americans voting against our rights.
Now there are a number of things we could do.
We could make a concerted effort to strategize and find allies for a long-term plan to educate and influence the African American community to recognize that discrimination based on sexual orientation is no more admirable than discrimination based on race. We know that many leaders, from Coretta Scott King and Mildred Loving to John Lewis and Al Sharpton, have been open to learning this message.
But we also know that there is a strong and unapologetic voice of harshest homophobia that has no hesitation in using race as a justification for denying that gay and lesbian Americans deserve civil equality. If we seek change, it cannot be haphazard or hesitant. It will be no picnic and we have to be willing to offend some who believe that they own the concept of civil rights and not be afraid to be called racist by those who oppose us.
Or we could also just write off this subset of the population and hope that we can sway enough whites and Asians to outweigh the African American vote. But while it may be pragmatic for winning an election, this approach strikes me as particularly cold. It not only leaves another generation of young black gay men and women growing up in a community that has pockets of severe hostility, but it also dismisses a lot of otherwise decent people as not being worth our time or effort.
A few decades back, the idea of an alliance between San Francisco’s queer community and the unions would have been laughable. But it happened, under the leadership of Harvey Milk, and that coalition remains strong today. While there has been a lot of ugly talk about why prop 8 failed (and a lot of fun talk: blame/bash the Mormons), it’s clear that, if the gays are to convincingly make the analogy between the gay struggle and the black struggle, some serious outreach is required. (Personal take: the gay struggle is way more analogous to the women’s movement than the civil rights movement.)
Historical and cultural conditioning has brought us to this place. While generally agreeing with Kincaid, two things make sense: for the more immediate struggles, don’t bank on turning out the black vote for gay causes; and long term, time for gays to begin some serious outreach to the black community. It’ll be up to the gays to begin that conversation. Opinions and perceptions do change in America, but slowly.