How we’ve fallen back into the politics of race and class and victimization in the past year.
This exceptional little piece in WaPo sheds light.
All too often, white liberal classmates at the
University of Virginia would ask, “Shouldn’t blacks, more than any
other group, support gay rights?”
I never understood my classmates’ need to align the historical
struggles of blacks with those of homosexuals and then push their
quadratic equation of oppression on me. Was not one point of Ralph
Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” a classic text for college seminars, that
blacks deserve an existence free from an assigned role? That they
should not be pawns in any social movement? And even if they hadn’t
read the book, wasn’t it clear that stereotypical assumptions based on
race are regressive?
The writer is generous and incisive in his analysis.
But last month, one of our greatest civil rights leaders
also sang the same cacophonous tune in an attempt to peg African
Americans’ morals and opinions to our socio-historical identities.
“Black people, of all people, should not oppose equality,” Julian
Bond, the chairman of the NAACP, declared at the National Equality
March in Washington.
To be clear, Bond has used this line several times, and when he says
“equality,” he isn’t talking about the right to vote, the right to eat
at a public restaurant, the right to attend an integrated school or the
right to a fair trial. He is talking about the right to change the
definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.
With all due respect, which Bond certainly deserves, this black
person doesn’t agree. And neither do two-thirds of black Protestants,
according to an Oct. 9 Pew Research Center poll. Echoing President
Lyndon Johnson’s words at the signing of the Voting Rights Act, Bond
said, gay marriage “must come; it is right that it should come. And
when it has, you will find that a burden has been lifted from your
Perhaps Bond fails to realize that he is unfairly requiring another
form of “two-ness” among African Americans. Already, being both an
American and black is difficult, as W.E.B. DuBois wrote. But so is
being an African American and a Christian. Asking those 66 percent of
black Protestants to look at religion through the veil of race is not
the place even of Martin Luther King Jr.’s comrade.
Plus, the “black guilt” tactic doesn’t work.
Well put. And well reasoned. As states vote down attempts to change the definition of marriage, blacks cannot be blamed as a group for swaying the outcomes.
Maine is the 31st state in which a majority of voters
have chosen to uphold the traditional definition of marriage. There
aren’t enough black people in America to hold responsible for all of
those outcomes — we’re only 12.8 percent of the population.
The refrain will eventually have to change to pinpoint white
evangelicals, 77 percent of whom oppose same-sex marriage. And here is
the crux of the problem, the point at which we can’t deny the separate
and unequal treatment of blacks: What race-based fire can activists put
under white Americans who refuse a new definition of marriage? None.
At best, the message to black Americans is one of skewed motivation:
You were once treated as secondclass citizens. You should feel
flattered by the two movements’ similarities and compelled to join the
fight. At worst, the message is insulting. In a recent column on
same-sex marriage and those who would play the race card, the Boston
Globe’s Jeff Jacoby summed up the linkage as: “For if opposing same-sex
marriage is like opposing civil rights, then voters who backed
Proposition 8 are no better than racists, the moral equivalent of those
who turned the fire hoses on blacks in Birmingham in 1963.”
I’m sorry, Julian. I wasn’t there with you in 1963 to fight, but I still can’t be your George Wallace today.
Good for you, Taylor Harris. And for anyone you reached through your keen commentary.