Posted on Monday, November 10th, 2008 at 2:16 am
Author: Feature Writer
Gc contributor: Renee Martin
The big question on November 4th was who was going to be the next president of the United States. For the very first time, no matter which party was elected it was guaranteed to be a historic outcome. As the nation watched the map turn blue another question loomed large in mind of many in GLBTQI community; would their marriages be voted against by the people of California?
Gay marriage has been a hot button issue in politics for quite some time. We are being asked to decide if we socially affirm that marriage should be between a man and a woman as has historically been the case.
The following countries: Belgium (2003), Canada (2005), Spain (2005), and South Africa (2006) have decided to affirm equality and legalize same sex marriage. In The United States the fight for equality is being fought for state by state.
This past election the electorate of California was asked to decide on Proposition 8; an official amendment to the states constitution to affirm marriage as a union between a man and woman as the result of a Supreme Court decision.
“The court concluded that permitting opposite-sex couples to marry while affording same-sex couples access only to the novel and less-recognized status of domestic partnership improperly infringes a same-sex couple’s constitutional rights to marry and to the equal protection of the laws as guaranteed by the California Constitution.” [PDF of court decision here]
When the final votes were counted, proposition 8 was passed, thus rendering gay marriage once again illegal in the state of California. To decide marriage should remain between a man and a woman is clearly an indicator of the degree of heterosexist privilege that is alive and well even within the so-called progressive state of California.
As emotions became more and more heated regarding the passing of Proposition 8, the GLBTQI community actively sought some group or organization to blame. The media wasted no time in offering a scapegoat by repeatedly broadcasting that the African American community, comprising approximately 10% of the population, voted 70% in favour of Prop 8.
This news quickly turned a community that was mourning the institutionalization of injustice into one that was willing to engage in racism. Black members of the community that went to protest rallies were verbally assaulted:
“Geoffrey, a student at UCLA, joined the massive protest outside the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Westwood. Geoffrey was called the n-word at least twice:
It was like being at a klan rally except the klansmen were wearing Abercrombie polos and Birkenstocks. YOU NIGGER, one man shouted at men. If your people want to call me a FAGGOT, I will call you a nigger. Someone else said [the] same thing to me on the next block near the temple…me and my friend were walking, he is also gay but Korean, and a young WeHo clone said after last night the niggers better not come to West Hollywood if they knew what was BEST for them.” [Rod 2.0]
There can be no doubt that voting 70% in favour of social inequality is indeed a marker of heterosexist privilege within the black community; however it cannot be taken outside of social discourse to claim that blacks are inherently homophobic.
The black church for many is the heart and soul of the black community and this is an extremely important factor in the voting decisions of African Americans. Regardless of denomination many blacks are raised in and actively participate in the church. When we look at the history of our leaders and entertainers, most will state unequivocally that they got their start in the church. Christianity does not have a history of being tolerant in its treatment of homosexuality.
The bible explicitly speaks about homosexuality as a sin. I CORINTHIANS 6:9-10 reads:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.
And of course there is the ever famous LEVITICUS 18:22, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” Directly enshrined in the Bible, the text of worship for Christians, is homophobia.
While many Christians daily ignore many Biblical edicts, the construction of homosexuality as a sin is largely upheld to be a true in interest of maintaining heterosexist privilege.
Not only does the bible state that homosexuality a sin but such line of thought is daily reified by the agents of socialization. Whether it is the military with its “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, education systems refusing to teach that it is possible for a family to consist of two same sex parents, or the media steadfastly refusing to show the GBLTQI community, various sexualities and genders are daily created as “other”.
While African Americans did largely vote to pass this proposition based in religion intolerance, such views are also snapshots of beliefs held by a large cross-section of society. None of us live outside of social influences; and therefore ideas that are “othering” have a tendency to manifest repeatedly, and in the case of some communities form a basis for legitimizing intolerance.
Combating these ideas can be a very difficult task because of how deeply they are ingrained within the social psyche. There are some that would say it is not the responsibility of the marginalized group to teach about oppression; however when said group steadfastly refuses to have an inclusive policy of representation, it moves beyond teaching about oppression.
Media representations of the GLBTQI community largely center on white people. Often when POC are presented they are either for comic relief, or are overtly sexualized, thus proving that even within communities that claim tolerance, when it comes to race, social construction is still a very relevant factor.
It is much more difficult to identify a movement as socially progressive or desirous of equality if daily one cannot see any positive reflections of blackness. The erasure of blacks confirms the idea that homosexuality is indeed a white thing, and something that blacks need not concern themselves with, even though there are obviously gay black people.
The idea of a monolithic black identity is something that GLBTQI community clearly fell prey to. They did not understand the need to reach out to churches, or community centers. It was universally assumed that because blacks suffer from racism that they would link that struggle to homophobia.
Deciding that the black community did not need to specifically targeted was clearly a mistake and one that was based on white privilege. A community that has become used to white representation is one that has instituted a hierarchy of beings; which is contrary to any struggle for justice.
The way forward is not to point fingers in blame because we are all socially responsible for the perpetuation of homophobia.
What we need to be focusing on is how to counteract heterosexist privilege and affirm love in all of its manifestations. Clearly there is a link between heterosexism and racism and to point to one as an excuse for the other only reinforces the interaction of the “isms”.
The logic is circular: black people are homophobic because the gay community is racist as though either “ism” is acceptable.
African Americans need to learn to see oppression outside of race and the GLBTQI community needs to see oppression outside of sexuality.
The way forward is through conversation, not blaming one group of a privilege which has become socially ingrained.
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