By now, you may have seen or heard about the disturbing behaviors among the predominantly white gay protesters of Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage in California.
Outraged protesters have mailed a white powdery substance to local churches, apparently to provoke an anthrax-type scare, and most notably have blamed black folks for their defeat in stopping Prop. 8.
To express their anger, some have attacked blacks with the word "niggas." I even heard one exclaim that, "We gave you [black people] your first black president. How dare you turn your back on us now!" Apparently their vote for Obama was an attempt at disingenuous deal-making with black people.
The facts of the matter are: black women constituted only 6 percent of the states’ voters. So few black men voted (less than 4 percent of the state voting population), that exit polls didn’t even bother to calculate their vote.
While 75 percent of voting black women supported Proposition 8, blacks only accounted for 2.3 percent of the total Prop. 8 vote. White men and women, who account for 64 percent of California’s voters, make up the majority of voters who produced the actual result.
An irrational affront on blacks by the gay community is not unusual, but merely demonstrates symptoms of a larger historic issue of racism between the gay and black communities.
As a black man who is committed to the education, health and affirmation of black people, I have talked about being a same-gender-loving man who has never identified with gay culture. For example, more than 20 years ago, I pointed out that black HIV/AIDS prevention efforts should not be done in a way that blatantly prioritized gay identity over black culture and wellness. Now, close to 30 years later, HIV/AIDS is still out of control in black communities. That gay-identity politics was prioritized over the importance of black cultural affirmation is a major co-factor.
Currently, Prop 8 protesters are conducting rallies throughout Los Angeles, but they have not brought their demonstrations to historically black communities. Why, since that is the only community of color that they directly blame for their loss?
The gay community has never addressed the black community in ways that build bridges on this or any other issue. Despite the civil rights dialogue employed by the gay community, many gay organizations still practice blatant forms of white racial bias. Even to date, when you see blacks in the gay press, it is extremely rare to see two blacks depicted together. Blacks are typically depicted as a white person’s partner or alone.
The term "same-gender-loving" was distinctly created to provide homosexual and bisexual black people with a descriptor that was more affirming, healing and culturally reflective, and to break black complacency with "gay" racism.
Yet, my concern is not the redundant problem of racist attitudes in the gay community. What I find troubling is the silence of the so-called black gay leaders in Los Angeles. During this gay attack, where is the black gay community?
We cannot use the excuse that there are not any who are "out." Where is the Black AIDS Institute’s Phill Wilson, a longtime black gay identity advocate, or the leaders of the gay group called "In the Meantime"? Where is lesbian-identified publicist and writer Jasmine Cannick? I believe this silence results from the fact that white gays are the philosophical parents of many blacks who have defined themselves as gay or lesbian leaders.
Consequently, I understand why people in the black community question the relevance, safety and value of "gay" as a viable identity in the black community. Not that I agree with any form of oppression, I merely understand the suspect. This is because the so-called "black gay community" has yet, itself, to effectively address the black community. It has rarely even been present in the black community in progressive ways, only showing up when it’s time to call someone black homophobic.
Similarly, the black HIV/AIDS movement has been traditionally more concerned with pushing gay identity than pushing the black community toward prevention and wellness.
The black gay movement doesn’t look like a "black community affirming" movement, but instead like a group of co-opted black folks running behind a white homosexual agenda.
This exacerbates anti-homosexual attitudes and now anti-homosexual marriage perspectives in the black community.
So, in the age of Obama, we need to be in real dialogue as a community about our cultural, philosophical, and sexuality diversity.
As white gays protest against blacks while disenfranchising the black community in their political efforts for "gay marriage," they establish yet another reason blacks and others have not jumped on their bandwagon.
As can be attested to by the lack of black support, including black homosexual support against Prop. 8, education about such bills need to be presented in ways that affirm and engage black people.
The current mixture of black "gay" silence and white homosexual racism will not garner black support of same-sex anything, let alone marriage.
Cleo Manago is a nationally acclaimed speaker and columnist and director/founder of the AmASSI Prevention, Cultural and Leadership Training Centers, where he is CEO with projects in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas and Harlem. He has appeared on national television networks including C-SPAN, BET, with Tavis Smiley, PBS and most of the major networks.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 21, 2008.