Tuesday, November 11, 2008

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann weighs in on Prop 8, marriage and love...

The great Keith Olbermann has a new fan in me, I must say. Even if you've long made up your mind on the issue of equal marriage, have a listen to Olbermann's great commentary on the subject. I've never watched Olbermann's show on MSNBC, but that will have to change.

It's truly sad that, based simply on some exit polls in California, that African-Americans are being "blamed" for the passage of Proposition 8. On this point, I have a couple of comments: one, it seems that the pro-equality folks failed to adequately reach out to ethnic minority communities in California during the campaign, as this commentary makes clear. Two, this isn't about race, it's about religion.

On my first point, there's no doubt that the lily white nature of most LGBT organizations and campaigns needs to change if our movement is going to broaden its support. Luckily, in Canada, we don't put minority rights to majority votes (at least yet.) Sadly, as long as America remains drunk on democracy, these kind of referenda will continue to be fought. Thus, the simple intellectual argument in favour of full equality isn't going to cut it.

I read earlier this week about an African-American man who voted for Proposition 8 who was quoted saying that the gay experience is nothing like the African-American experience as blacks are "born that way," while gays "choose" to be gay. This ignorance of the truth of queer life is astonishing. There's no doubt that the lying bigots who make up establishment religion in America and elsewhere have been successful promoting the myth that gays choose to be gay.


What's needed now is a greater effort among all LGBT people, especially LGBT people of colour, to educate their communities about the truth of their lives so fewer straights, like the one I mentioned above, cling to the lie that homosexuality is not a natural part of the human condition. And we also need to ensure that our movement stops being so lily white and does a better job of walking the "inclusive" talk we often preach.


MERBOY said...

"It's truly sad that, based simply on some exit polls in California, that African-Americans are being "blamed" for the passage of Proposition 8."

I think it's truly sad AND inexcusable for minorities to vote against equality.

Specifically with Prop 8 and the exit polls... when you have all other ethnic groups voting slightly for or slightly against the proposition... it is significant when one and only one ethnic group voted 70% for banning gay marriage.

Matt Guerin said...

I agree that it's inexcusable for minorities to vote against equality and it's hypocritical.

Yet it's happening. There's a disconnect on this issue. People aren't making the connection between oppression based on race and oppression based on sexual orientation. Too many people cling to ignorance and faith, and it's made easy for them as they probably don't know any gay people (or more likely don't know they know some gay people). If someone actually believes that being gay is a choice, we need to do our best to educate them against that. It won't do much good saying this is simply a "black" thing and use loaded language that sounds borderline racist.

The kind of language that Olbermann used might go a long way to convincing many. One thing is for certain - most black people understand the issue of oppression and exclusion very well. So theoretically, I'd like to think we have an audience that is very capable of understanding the evils of discrimination, as long as reach out to them and start the dialogue. We have to nip the lie that being gay is a "choice" in the bud. Once most people believe that gay people are born that way, they invariably believe that any discrimination against gays is wrong (hence why the Christian fundamentalist homophobes out there have pushed the lie that gays choose to be gay for years.)

Carrie said...

I agree that it's sad and inexcusable for any minority to vote against Prop 8 without fully apprising themselves of the facts.

Is it the responsibility of community and social groups to educate the public? Or is the responsibility of a racist and divisive public to educate themselves?

There is no legitimate reason for blacks to ostracize others. They should know better. Apparently, they only care about progress for themselves. If it's at the cost of others, they don't seem to have a problem with that.

I'm disgusted by this entire thing. Blacks, Prop 8, that there was even a vote on this, that people are divided on this....it's all very backward, hurtful and disgusting.

Matt Guerin said...

Carrie, I agree it's frustrating trying to promote equality and fight discrimination with a group that should know better. The black community continues to be very conservative and more religious than other communities. And this is the problem: too much religion and too much conservatism. I'm not sure this is an issue about blacks only caring about their own progress to the detriment of others. I'm sure we could easily find many white queers who only care about gay rights and happily promote intolerance against people of colour. No community is guilt-free here when it comes to tolerance.

I just don't think attacking the black community is going to accomplish much in this ongoing fight. Instead, we should reach out to the black community and try to build new coalitions - do the Obama thing - in order to fight ignorance. As I said in my other comment, it might be as simple as explaining that nobody chooses to be gay. Being gay is as natural as being black or being female or being left-handed.

I wish we lived in a world where everyone agreed that human rights and equality is important. We do live in a country (Canada) where the vast majority of people support those notions. But as long as these issues continue to be put to a vote down south, it necessitates that we continue the dialogue with others in order to build support. That is how we did it here in Canada, but luckily we had a more progressive and receptive audience perhaps. The fight continues, but history seems to be on our side.

Red Tory said...

Hmmm. Posted a comment yesterday, but it seems to have been moderated out of existence. Not worth bothering in future, I guess.

Matt Guerin said...

Sorry, Red Tory, but I didn't get your comment submitted yesterday. Please re-send. I only censor out raving homophobic bigots like Johnathon.