Monday, July 5, 2010

Ongoing Challenge for Obama Administration: Bridging the Black-Gay Divide

On Saturday, Pam Spaulding posted a stellar piece of commentary at her House Blend blog, re: how the “pink beltway” community views the Obama administration’s accomplishments vis-à-vis LGBT rights.  Pam notes that, whereas the insular community of A-list gays in the beltway culture see Mr. Obama as a preeminent champion of gay rights, many gays and lesbians who aren’t part of that self-absorbed subculture beg to differ. 

For us, the Obama administration has been a singular disappointment.  We’ve seen what Pam calls the “Cinderalla crumbs” strewn along the trail to keep us connected to the Democratic party and to an administration many of us strongly supported in the campaign, and for which we have had high hopes.  And we’ve recognized that these are, indeed, crumbs, and they’re all we’re likely to get.  We’ve concluded, sadly, that the promises the president made during his campaign to be a fierce advocate for our rights were merely rhetorical.

I’ve been over this ground before, and I’m not going to rehearse again my reasons for thinking Pam is right on target with her analysis.  What I do want to draw attention to now, however, is the reaction to Pam’s piece in some sectors of the African-American community.  In my view, that reaction demonstrates how much work still needs to be done to put the African-American and gay community on the same page—and this, too, is an area in which I believe the president has exercised woefully poor leadership.

If anyone could have begun to bridge the divide between the LGBT community and the African-American community, Mr. Obama could have done so.  Instead, following his election, what I’ve seen taking place throughout the blogsphere is a growing entrenchment—particularly on the side of many churched people of color in their understanding of the LGBT community. I’ll be frank here: a great deal of disinformation is being spread about the LGBT community by some of the president’s African-American supporters.  This is not helping to build the coalition that the progressive movement needs in order to create lasting and effective change in our culture.

Pam happens to be a Facebook friend of mine, and when she posted a link to her House Blend commentary on her Facebook page, a string of negative remarks appeared immediately at her Facebook site.  Many of these were remarks from fellow African Americans who appear to think that the LGBT community is trying to attack the new administration, when members of our community ask this administration to keep its promises to us.

Similar commentary appeared on the original House Blend article to which I’ve linked above.  I read commentary in this vein on the Huffington Post site all the time, whenever that site publishes an article about gay issues, particularly if that article also has information about some members of the African-American community who resist gay rights (e.g., here).

As I’ve said repeatedly on this blog, I’m fully aware that there are some strong racist currents in some sectors of the gay community in the U.S., and I stand solidly against that racism.  I work within my own community and will continue doing so to confront racism.  There is an imperative need for marginalized communities to stand in solidarity with each other and not tear each other down, if we expect to effect the kind of substantive change that will make our society more democratic.

At the same time, I am appalled at the continued, overt homophobia of some sectors of the African-American community, and I applaud African-American thinkers like Pam Spaulding, who are also gay and lesbian, for calling their own community to accountability for its homophobia.  Someone needs to address the disinformation spread by some African-American supporters of the new administration who continue trying driving a homophobic wedge between the black and gay community—disinformation that does not do the administration any favor, and which Mr. Obama should long since have challenged up-front and proactively.
For instance, I see the claim repeatedly made—and it was made by some of those logging onto Pam Spaulding’s Facebook page to slam her article about the pink beltway and the record of the Obama administration—that white gays are mostly Republicans and did not want Mr. Obama to be elected.

This is a lie.  And it needs to be exposed as a lie. 

Information about the political affiliation of LGBT Americans is readily available in one easily accessed source after another.  Polls consistently show LGBT citizens voting heavily Democratic.  Follow most “gay” websites, and you’ll find abundant criticism of and bafflement about our gay brothers and sisters who choose the Republican party when it has consistently fought against our rights for years now.

Not only that: many of us who are gay strongly supported Mr. Obama.  I did so.  Check this website and you’ll see that I did so, and that as I supported Obama in the last election cycle, I cited many gay websites that also supported him.

We have taken him at his word, now that he’s elected, and have asked him to fulfill his promises to our community.  And so it is with ill grace that some of the president’s African-American supporters are now trying to drive a wedge between the gay and the black community, and are trying to defend the indefensible—prejudice and discrimination based on lies.