Thursday, December 11, 2008

Black folk and Prop 8

by Franki Butler

This is going to be the last thing I say about the Proposition 8 fallout (okay, probably not, but it’s a nice thought), mainly because I would like to stop playing the post-Proposition 8 blame game. I would really like to stop playing to post-Proposition 8 blame game. But with The Advocate printing covers that say “Gay is the New Black," and The New York Times publishing op-ed pieces blaming those bitter black women folk for everything, it’s a bit difficult.

On The Advocate cover: No, guys. Just…no. First off, it’s false advertising, as the article referenced makes exactly the opposite point. The struggles are distantly comparable, in that the queer community is currently a socially acceptable target for outright bigotry in a way the African-American community once was (and some would argue, still is), but the similarities and differences are incredibly complex, not to mention the fact that, newsflash, there are black members of the queer community, who could probably explain a lot to you about the intersectionality of these identities and how the oppressions they face differ. Gay is not the new black, and it’s not necessary to appropriate the identity and struggles of another minority group to articulate your own. There are so many reasons to support gay rights (the main one being that treating all humans equally is generally a good thing to do) that this use of the "Oppression Olympics" is unjustified and unnecessary.

On the Times article: For the link-phobes out there, the article boils down to this: black women are bitter, divorced Jesus-freaks who oppose gay marriage because they don’t want man-on-man marriage snatching up all those available black men they can’t get for themselves. I’m not sure how the article’s author thinks these women rationalize this to themselves, unless they believe that they have magical powers that will automatically turn gay men straight, so long as they’re not married to other men first.

I showed this article to my (black, divorced, church-going) mother, who immediately questioned if the author actually knew any black women. Jokes aside, we agreed on the following point: people need to stop this “desperate black woman” crap. I’m certainly familiar with the stereotype of jealous, domineering black women who don’t want anyone taking their men, be it white women or gay men. But a stereotype is all it is. For every one woman like that, there are many more who are unconcerned with the mythical shortage of “good black men” out there. Relationships with men are not the defining characteristic of a woman’s life. The article itself quotes the statistic that nearly 70% of all black children are born to single mothers. I find it difficult to believe that every last one of those women has “Getting a good man, and keeping those gay dudes from getting to him first,” as number one on her priority list.

It is a sin and a shame that such a large percentage of black women voted against Proposition 8, but that likely has much more to do with the morally conservative and socially all-encompassing nature of the black church community than any essential man-hungriness on the part of black women. I know it’s tempting to paint straight black women as bitter and vindictive (because we’re obviously all so angry), but it’s not true. Unless someone paints us as desperate harpies; then we may have to throw down.


At December 11, 2008 at 9:01 AM , Blogger Courtny said...

Nice post, Franki.

I especially liked this part:

"It’s not necessary to appropriate the identity and struggles of another minority group to articulate your own."

I also enjoyed your newsflash immensely.

At December 11, 2008 at 1:44 PM , Anonymous Samantha H. said...

I totally see what you're saying in terms of not comparing the struggles of the queer community to struggles of the Black community. But I've still been pissed off with the Black community's opinions on homosexuality. For me it all boils down to this, if you've been a part of a marginalized group you know what it feels like to have a vast portion of society frown upon you for just being who you are. Now this is not to say that Black people know what it's like to be queer or vice versa, but both communities have a general understanding of what it means to be an outsider. In my opinion, this understanding should give you increased sensitivity for what other groups are going through. That's what pisses me off about the Black community's feelings towards Prop 8. That and, you know, the fact that civil rights are being dashed away.

And the idea that Black women are against Prop 8 because all of the men are getting snatched up is ludicrous. Hilarious. Thanks for the info.

Disclaimers: I don't mean to ignore the fact that there are people who are both Black and queer. Or, that there are people who are straight, Black and in support of Prop 8. When I refer to the Black community I only mean to refer to those who are not in support of Prop 8.

At December 19, 2008 at 6:51 AM , Anonymous Chi said...

This is an excellent post, Franki. Thanks for putting into a concise blog entry all my thoughts on this issue ;)

- Chi '11


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