Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Black? Gay? Blacks vs Gays?

081113_hn_gaypowerexMany in the media have pointed toward two groups of voters who defeated gay marriage in California: members of the Mormon church and African Americans.

This first group, Mormons, I agree with–the church encouraged its members to contribute to the campaign, resulting in $22 million to end gay marriage (the most spent on any social issue in the United States).

The second group, however–African Americans–I’m not so sure I agree with.

The thrust behind this antagonism toward African Americans largely comes from exit polls that cite statistics such as this one about Prop 8 in California:

Whites and Asian-Americans, comprising 69 percent of California’s electorate, opposed Proposition 8 by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent. Latinos favored it, 53-47. But blacks turned out in historically high numbers—10 percent of the electorate—and 70 percent of them voted for Proposition 8.

Drawing inferences from these numbers can be elusive. For example, African Americans are not a homogeneous group–they possess a variety of beliefs, morals, politics, and sexualities. Unlike Mormons, who possess a similar belief system, politics, and sexuality.

A surprising article in Slate this morning tries to break down why African Americans believe that homosexuality is a choice. Slate’s editors have chosen to analyze the loss of gay rights through the lens of African American prejudice. In his article, William Saletan cites the victory of Barack Obama and the confirmation of gay prejudice on election night. He then asks:

Why, then, are the people targeted by those laws supporting bans on same-sex marriage?The answer is: They think sexual orientation is different from race. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of a nation in which individuals would be judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

This kind of rhetoric–the choice of discourse itself–attempts to divide both the African American community, as well as African Americans and other ethnic groups. It’s a topic that encourages blame toward one ethnic group rather than finding those African Americans who support civil rights for all. It’s the same kind of institutionalized racism that pits minority groups against one another instead of encouraging them to unify, to collaborate, to strengthen their power through caucus rather than division.

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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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