I wrote about The Root when it debuted back in February. I don't visit it regularly, and really only check it out when there's a link from the Slate home page (like this excellent and enlightening piece on fistula). When I saw one of the little home page article boxes on Slate, that read "If Anyone Should Support Gay Marriage, It's Black People," I should have known it would be problematic. The crux of the article was that because of anti-miscegenation laws (black people couldn't marry white people) that were ultimately overturned, blacks should support the gays' right to marry whomever they want. The author, Casey Lartigue Jr, wrote:
"Given this history, it might be reasonable to conclude that black people in particular would be opposed to laws limiting marital choices among adults. Unfortunately, there are many black people who are not only critical of interracial marriage, but also support banning gay or same-sex marriage today. According to a Pew Research Poll taken after the Massachusetts Supreme Court upheld same-sex marriage, far more blacks than whites disagreed with the court's decision. And that doesn't even include what is said at black barbershops."He goes on to call blacks bristling at the comparison "a case of a former slave putting on his former master's clothing and wanting others to be treated as slaves." And that's where he lost me. In fact, that's where arguments of this kind always lose me, even though I'm not against gay marriage (full disclosure: I used to be, but denying marriage rights to homosexuals is illogical, and I respond well to logic). It seems that these days, pointing out the flaws in the black community is all the rage. I'm down with it, too, because we are not simply a noble people, we're not magical negroes, we're not perfect. That's fine. There is sexism, racism, and sexual prejudice (which encompasses anti-gay sentiment) within the black community. But this blacks are racist! blacks are sexist! blacks are homophobic! hysteria bothers me because it appears to be backlash and overcorrection from the days when it wasn't acceptable to criticize black people, as a group, at all in the mainstream media (say, late 80s to late 90s). Like I said, black people aren't perfect. But. Neither are gays. Neither are women. And in the race to the finish line of the Martyrdom Relays at these-here Oppression Olympics, we're tripping each other up. To be a martyr, you can't be flawed. Acknowledging the flaws in the other two groups who loudly vie for equality (while comparing their struggle to those of blacks during the Civil Rights Movement) is not done nearly enough. There is both racism and sexism in the gay community. There is both homophobia and racism amongst the feminists (and that, that is another post). But do we hear about it? No. Blacks get chided for turning into oppressors, meanwhile some of these so-called oppressed would just as soon see black men in jail as in the boardroom. The problem is one of painting a group with a broad brush. Just as Robinson wrote, there is no such thing as a monolithic black community, and I'm willing to bet there's no such thing as a monolithic gay, or feminist community, either. Not all blacks are anti-gay. Not all gays are colorblind. Not all women are for gay marriage. I'm pretty sure there's a Venn Diagram in there somewhere. I thought I could go one post without talking about Barack Obama, but can I help that he's actually intelligent and makes salient points? In an interview with The Advocate, he's asked to discuss parallels between the gay rights movement and the Civil Rights Movement, and the homophobia in the black community. He says:
"I don’t think [homophobia in the black community is] worse than in the white community. I think that the difference has to do with the fact that the African-American community is more churched and most African-American churches are still fairly traditional in their interpretations of Scripture. And so from the pulpit or in sermons you still hear homophobic attitudes expressed. And since African-American ministers are often the most prominent figures in the African-American community those attitudes get magnified or amplified a little bit more than in other communities."That's one of the things Lartigue gets wrong. He doesn't acknowledge the religious tradition in the black community. He also doesn't acknowledge the flaws in the gay community, while all too easily decrying the flaws of the black community. I skimmed the comments section, and buried in the pile of ignorance ("interracial marriage isn't a sin, but sodomy is!" and "Gays just want to validate their lifestyle choice!"), someone actually said something that made sense, which is really what inspired me to write this somewhat bloated piece. Commenter rjmacadaeg:
"The idea that black people shouldn't be homophobic is as sadly mistaken as the assertion that gay people shouldn't be racist. Where we would hope to see a greater understanding based on empathy and wisdom gained through suffering, we instead find the same old prejudices."There is truth in that statement. The concept that black people are fundamentally flawed, and that we're living some modern-day version of Animal Farm where all of a sudden we're the pigs wearing human clothes and sleeping in human beds while the rest of the equality-seeking beasts stay outside is laughable. Or, it would be, if it weren't so damaging.