Tuesday, December 9, 2008

the gays, the blacks, and other random thoughts

all right...i've had a bit of writers block, but it doesn't seem to be going away so i'm just gonna push on through.

the subject of this post was originally going to be proposition 8, but i feel compelled to make a detour before i even begin: i recently went to see Milk, and i need to give it a quick shout-out. the movie was amazing, sean penn was amazing, and it was so incredibly relevant as to appear almost heavy-handed. but of course, when they were making the movie they couldn't have known Prop 8 would pass. which really makes you think, doesn't it. Just a brief background for those who haven't yet seen it, Milk is the story of the life and death of Harvey Milk, San Francisco Supervisor and the first openly gay public official. A large part of the movie focuses on the fight against proposition 6 in california: a proposition which would have banned gay people from teaching in california schools. watching the celebrations in the movie as prop 6 is defeated against the odds is a pretty grim juxtaposition to our current time. you can't help but think we may be sliding backwards. if, during a time when an openly gay public official lived every day knowing his life was in danger, they could defeat prop 6 but today we couldn't seem to defeat prop 8, what does that say about the direction our country is headed?

i don't actually think, though, that we're sliding so far backwards. prop 8 was a pretty horrendous setback, but i do believe its only a matter of time before gay people have the right to marry and this whole mess is a thing of the past. until then, though, just a couple of thoughts on the whole prop 8 thing:

1) I saw Sean Penn interviewed on Charlie Rose about Milk and various other things, and just wanted to paste a quote that I thought was particularly compelling, and also more eloquent than we've come to expect from our television sets. When asked about prop 8, Penn said,
"When they talk about it, its just a word, and ‘why not leave the traditionalists to their word?’ Well, you know, there’s 13 year old kids still today hanging themselves because the reach to identity is still too far, because they’re homosexual, or whatever the issue is….and we can’t give up a word? To save that kid’s life? It’s a national shame"
aw. Sean Penn.

2) there has been a LOT of talk about the role of black people in passing prop 8, and it just seems like its time for someone not-crazy to weigh in. people have blamed obama for not supporting gay marriage. rightly so. he really did not come through in any way shape or form on that issue. Sure, he opposed prop 8, but as a writer for Salon pointed out, "not so loud that anyone can hear him."

even so, there seems to be this sense that black people, rushing to the polls to vote for obama, tipped the balance towards prop 8. while that theory has since been disproven (it would have passed with or without black help), the fact does remain that 70% of black people surveyed voted in favor of prop 8. thats a lot. but i'm not completely sure why everyone was so d*mn surprised. homophobia in the black community is not a new issue, but everyone seemed to be trying to make it a new issue, to the detriment of logic. example: Charles M. Blow, "visual columnist" for the New York times, and currently trying his hardest to knock bill kristol from his current position as 'kaya's least favorite columnist,' wrote this piece in which he seems to imply that its not homophobia that's the problem. in fact, its not even all black people. no, black WOMEN are the problem because they're so scared of being alone forever that they have to lash out at gays for decreasing the pool of potential mates. um, what? wrong. illogical. also pretty damn sexist. i give that twenty-five fails for charles m. blow.

this type of logic-stretching seems to really be going around, though. so the black community is homophobic. everyone is trying to focus in on one issue that makes it so: maybe its the 'down-low' phenomenon (boo, hiss). maybe its that black women just can't find a man (hiss, boo). maybe it's the church (hmm...). but at the end of the day all of these arguments fail because they're trying to simplify a complex problem into a sound byte. sure, many churches have played a role in the pervasive homophobia in this country (i'm looking at you, mormons). but other churches (what up, episcopalians!) have made serious progress in fighting homophobia. just like white people, black people don't all belong to the same church. "the church" is not the problem. but i guess its not that quotable to say homophobia in the black community is influenced by homophobia in certain religious communities, homophobia in mainstream hip-hop which is, of course, encouraged by wealthy white funders, and a complex history of desexualization and hypersexualization tracing roots back to slavery that creates a lot of baggage around black sexuality and gender identity, among other things. and of course, nowhere in any of these discussions has it even come up that 'black' and 'gay' are not mutually exclusive categories. hm. i know we all want to make our point quickly and get published, but its possible certain issues would result in more productive conversation if we actually engaged with the complexity of the issue at hand rather than trying to fit it into a cute and simple box.

more on this later. i think i'm significantly late to work. i'll just leave you with this:


3) just for your enjoyment:

1 comment:

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