Saturday, November 29, 2008

White Gay Media Spokesperson Dan Savage Doesn't Speak for me

Below, Dan Savage, makes an appearance on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report.
"You can't be pro-gay and anti-gay marriage." -- Dan Savage
Then what am I, Dan, chopped liver? I know, it's not all about me.

Dan Savage is "connected" to media hotties like Stephen Colbert. And what they do in the pseudo-privacy of the backstage area behind the Colbert set is, frankly, none of my business.

What is my concern, however, is the issue of turning all matters of social justice into late-night humor-fodder, but I find that raising criticism or concern about the likes of straight white liberal boys such as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert is, apparently, a particular form of heresy in secular straight white Amerikkka. I do find a good portion of what both those men do to be very funny, even hilarious. In the realm of U.S. white straight male comedy, I believe they are very talented. Hey, you don't get your own show on Comedy Central for nuthin'!

I'll save a deeper critique of their humor for another time.

For now, I want to speak out against the ways in which dominant national white media stereotyped and targeted Black Californians--lesbian, gay, and neither, in its reporting on the Nov. 4, 2008 decision to repeal an ordinance, aka Prop 8, which, prior to Prop 8 passing, meant that "gay marriage" was legal in California. It was a classic case of "divide and conquer" without realising that there is a group of people, Queer African Americans, who do, in fact, exist--including in California, and who are also not monolithic politically. As has been reported elsewhere, there is one group of people without whom Prop 8 could not have passed: white heterosexual social conservatives. Far outnumbering socially conservative African Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians, and Latin@s*, that demographic is, in my view, the one responsible for the outcome of that vote far more than any community of color. Hence white gay activists getting one thing right: protesting in front of white churches, not Black or Latin@ ones. (Humor about this fact is in the above clip from The Colbert Report.) It was son of the uber-white Mormon Church who was part of the major financial contributors to the "Pass Prop 8" campaign.

*Available demographic stats show that the percentage of Californians who are "African American/Black" is 6% to 7%. The percentage of white folks in California is 50% to 60%. Now, even those of us who suck at math can figure out that even if ALL Black Californians voted to keep gay marriage legal, the burden of it remaining law would clearly fall on the shoulders of white folks. Since when does being part of a racial majority suddenly not matter when the results of any election or referendum get tight?

What the press did that was seriously fucked up was to deploy various methods-- statistical and otherwise, for scapegoating Black Californians--allegedly 100% heterosexual and "70%" socially conservative as the population of homophobes that non-homophobic people--white and of color, btw, are not. From my experience, homophobia is a product of many factors, many having to do with what "being normal" (including employable, apartment-worthy, an asset to the white neighborhood) means in Amerikkka. Patricia Hill Collins, among many other writers, deals responsibly and sensitively with the matter of homophobia in some African American communities.

This ought not be news to anyone, but there are no white communities I'm aware of where it is safe to be completely 'out'. In white-dominant cities and towns where there are few to no people of color, homophobia results in gay-bashing murders and self-loathing suicides.

Let's not forget the not-so-long history of the what can now be termed "the white church" in the U.S. Various Protestant denominations have worked with great white male supremacist passion and commitment over the last two-hundred-plus years to destroy the cultures and communities of people of color, noting particularly the Mormon mission to destroy American Indian families (who knew not of Jesus or the misrepresenters of his few inaccurately recorded teachings) before settler-genocidalists came West from Europe. Let's also keep in mind the ideas of gender and sexuality that are now popularly understood as normal and/or genetically based, were not on this land or part of the many nations' cultures before white folks settled here. (Yes, this does mean science is racist and heterosexist.)

For those who want to blame "the Black Church"--well, last time I checked anything homophobic or heterosexist being preached there was being sermonised by pastors in white churches--and, let me tell you, those white Baptists (among other white denominations) can really preach some vicious anti-queer hate. So fuck all the media--gay and otherwise--who made it seem as though Black Californians were "to blame" for the outcome of the election, re: Prop 8. Lest we forget, this is still a white supremacist nation, and no population of color has the institutionalised power, the economic and police resources to make that be radically different anytime soon. And, for the white folks who insist on arguing this idiocy: having a Black president, AND Oprah be prominent, wealthy, statused U.S. citizens doesn't mean the end is in sight for U.S. corporate white heteromale supremacy. As noted in an earlier post, I do firmly believe white supremacy took a blow when Barack Obama became president-elect. And I think the overall meaning and effect of that historic accomplishment cannot and ought not be underestimated or cynically dismissed with a very racially privileged roll of one's blue eyes. (I direct this to the cynical white "progressives" and "radicals" I know.)

As a matter of understanding the value of basic civil rights, I wouldn't organise against any Queer group working for "Gay Marriage" legislation or rights.

Nor would I put any of my activist energies into such a cause.

As noted elsewhere on this blog, I'm decidedly anti-marriage--particularly the kind that oppresses all women and further marginalises people of color and poor people from the mainstream, in part by promoting State-sanctioned middle and working class unions as necessary and desirable. Across much of the globe and throughout time, there have been many forms of partnership, kinship, and community, most of which CRAP has destroyed, stifled, or rendered null and void. Add to that the not-so-spotlighted effort by the powers-that-be in making such things as "best friends" not a legitimate or sanctioned category of relating.

"Best friends" do not have the rights that a husband and wife have. Why is that? The best friends I know are far less abusive and neglectful of one another than most of the married people I know. Is "marriage" geared, in part, to regulate and mandate certain forms of sexual behavior? If so, it only works to a degree: most of the married heterosexual couples I know, and gay couples, aren't having much, if any, sex. This is reported on talk shows as "a serious problem"--for the straight folks, that is. Not a peep on these shows about how this impacts gay or lesbian couples. Maybe it's just that many folks don't like sex as much as pimps, corporate pornographers, Madison Avenue, Hollywood, sex addicts, and incest perpetrators tell us we're supposed to.

The extended family, the close rural community--generally sustainable relative to suburban and urban neighborhoods, have all been shoved aside as mountaintops come crumbling down, after coal was ripped from those mountains' bellies, to pave and repave highways leading from one unsustainable, ecocidal place to another. Ecocide is not only the destruction of "the environment", as that terms is popularly used in mass media. "We" are part of "the environment." Not caring about it, neglected it, is neglecting ourselves and amounts to paving our own way right into a very ugly, panic-laden mass death. See Derrick Jensen's work for more on this. Although it is not reported on much, the destruction of ways of being among humans-in-relation-to-the-Earth, is systematic, on-going, and is synonymous with genocide. (Genocide is not just the mass-murder of one group by another. It is, among other things, a destruction of cultures, the elimination of a people's means of survival, the banishment of spiritual practices that don't worship a white male sky-god.)

There are indentifiable institutions and systems which, while seemingly benefiting the few (for the time being), are simultaneously killing us all. The activist support for these institutions and systems, while critically necessary for some, functions to make knowledge of other ways of doing things invalid, illegal, or evil.

From the lofty privileged place from which I sit, I see what what has become normalised and naturalised as "heterosexuality" and "marriage" as stifling-to-deadly social/religious/political/economic institutions, particularly for women. I refuse to "unknow" this, even while I must also know the ways that many people with far fewer privileges need these institutions in order to help them survive, in the ways CRAP wants us to survive.

For the time being, I want to publicly denounce the very white Dan Savage as a spokesperson for "Gay Rights." He doesn't speak for me as a white gay man, or for other radical queer, Two Spirit, and same-gender loving people I know and respect. Nor does anti-Black racist Arab American, Marke B. over at the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Should Dan or Marke happen upon this blogpost, may I make this recommendation: give the mic to Jasmyne A. Cannick. (See the prior post.) Revised on Dec. 1, 2008.

No-on-8's White Bias: a Black Lesbian Perspective

The right to marry does nothing to address the problems faced by both black gays and black straights.

No-on-8's white bias
By Jasmyne A. Cannick
November 8, 2008

I am a perfect example of why the fight against Proposition 8, which amends the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, failed to win black support.

I am black. I am a political activist who cares deeply about social justice issues. I am a lesbian. This year, I canvassed the streets of South Los Angeles and Compton, knocking on doors, talking politics to passers-by and working as I never had before to ensure a large voter turnout among African Americans. But even I wasn't inspired to encourage black people to vote against the proposition.

Why? Because I don't see why the right to marry should be a priority for me or other black people. Gay marriage? Please. At a time when blacks are still more likely than whites to be pulled over for no reason, more likely to be unemployed than whites, more likely to live at or below the poverty line, I was too busy trying to get black people registered to vote, period; I wasn't about to focus my attention on what couldn't help but feel like a secondary issue.

The first problem with Proposition 8 was the issue of marriage itself. The white gay community never successfully communicated to blacks why it should matter to us above everything else -- not just to me as a lesbian but to blacks generally. The way I see it, the white gay community is banging its head against the glass ceiling of a room called equality, believing that a breakthrough on marriage will bestow on it parity with heterosexuals. But the right to marry does nothing to address the problems faced by both black gays and black straights. Does someone who is homeless or suffering from HIV but has no healthcare, or newly out of prison and unemployed, really benefit from the right to marry someone of the same sex?

Maybe white gays could afford to be singularly focused, raising millions of dollars to fight for the luxury of same-sex marriage. But blacks were walking the streets of the projects and reaching out to small businesses, gang members, convicted felons and the spectrum of an entire community to ensure that we all were able to vote.

Second is the issue of civil rights. White gays often wonder aloud why blacks, of all people, won't support their civil rights. There is a real misunderstanding by the white gay community about the term. Proponents of gay marriage fling it around as if it is a one-size-fits-all catchphrase for issues of fairness.

But the black civil rights movement was essentially born out of and driven by the black church; social justice and religion are inextricably intertwined in the black community. To many blacks, civil rights are grounded in Christianity -- not something separate and apart from religion but synonymous with it. To the extent that the issue of gay marriage seemed to be pitted against the church, it was going to be a losing battle in my community.

Then there was the poorly conceived campaign strategy. Opponents of Proposition 8 relied on an outdated civil rights model, engaging the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People to help win black support on the issue of gay marriage. This happened despite the warnings of black lesbians and gays that it wouldn't work. While the NAACP definitely should have been included in the strategy, it shouldn't have been the only group. Putting nearly a quarter of a million dollars into an outdated civil rights group that has very little influence on the black vote -- at least when it comes to gay issues -- will never work.

Likewise, holding the occasional town-hall meeting in Leimert Park -- the one part of the black community where they now feel safe thanks to gentrification -- to tell black people how to vote on something gay isn't effective outreach either.

There's nothing a white gay person can tell me when it comes to how I as a black lesbian should talk to my community about this issue. If and when I choose to, I know how to say what needs to be said. Many black gays just haven't been convinced that this movement for marriage is about anything more than the white gays who fund it (and who, we often find, are just as racist and clueless when it comes to blacks as they claim blacks are homophobic).

Some people seem to think that homophobia trumps racism, and that winning the battle for gay marriage will symbolically bring about equality for everyone. That may seem true to white gays, but as a black lesbian, let me tell you: There are still too many inequalities that exist as it relates to my race for that to ever be the case. Ever heard of "driving while black"? Ever looked at the difference between the dropout rates for blacks and for whites? Or test scores? Or wages? Or rates of incarceration?

And in the end, black voters in California voted against gay marriage by more than 2 to 1.

Maybe next time around -- because we all know this isn't over -- the gay community can demonstrate the capacity and willingness to change that America demonstrated when it went to the polls on Nov. 4. Black gays are depending on their white counterparts to finally "get it."

Until then, don't expect to make any inroads any time soon in the black community on this issue -- including with this black lesbian.

Jasmyne A. Cannick is a writer in Los Angeles.

Anachronism and American Indians

With thanks to the moderator at Racialicious, I repost this:

In many places in the midwest the American Indian is very present, but in other places in the U.S., like in California, Disney’s Pocahontas is as close as we get to “Indians.” The idea that American Indians are gone comes, in part, from the ubiquitous representation of them with feathers, buckskins, and moccasins. These anachronisms are everywhere (see, for example, here, here, here, here, and here).

American Indians are as modern as the rest of us, why are representations of American Indians, as they live today, so unusual? And what effect might that have on the psyche of American Indian people?

Via PostSecret.

This was originally posted here.