Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why Now? (Yet Again): Finding Common Ground: The Gay and African-American Communities in Obama's America

§ And in this election, 27% of the gay community—a higher percentage in the last election—voted for McCain-Palin.

§ I haven’t seen a racial and gender breakdown of that vote, but I would be very surprised if those casting their vote for a team with an abysmal gay-rights record and against one that holds promise for gay Americans were not largely white men, and disproportionately white mean of economic means.

§ Racism is alive and well in the gay community. And it is a cancer that eats at the heart of the community and thwarts its ability to create solidarity with people of color. I suspect that it takes little effort for people of color to recognize condescension, utilitarian mock-solidarity, and exploitation on the part of those from other communities—including the gay community.

§ Solidarity is a serious challenge for the gay community not only as it interacts with other marginal communities. It is a challenge within the gay community itself.

§ If we do not have our own house in order, how can we expect to instruct others to put their houses in order?

§ The gay “community” is, all too often, not a community at all. We are not bound together by a solidarity rooted in the experience of marginalization that thwarts all of our lives as LGBT Americans. We are often bound together, if at all, by passing fads and consumer-driven tastes and dictatorial assumptions about what it means to be an insider or an outsider.

§ We are fragmented along lines of gender, age, class, and region (red-state, blue-state; urban-rural), as well as along lines of race. Reports are coming out about the lack of cooperation among many of those fighting the anti-gay initiatives in various states in the last election.

§ We succumb all too readily to turfism, to hierarchies in which LGBT A-listers, who often have little sympathy for or lived experience of the everyday economic and social struggles of some brothers and sisters, dominate political agendas.

§ These hierarchies are incapable of effecting substantive change. Their instinct is too often to concede to the wishes of the powerful among whom they move on a routine basis—the very interest groups combating our emergence as full human beings in American society.

§ We also marginalize those within our community who continue to interact with religious groups, as if they are out of sync with the “real” political agenda of the gay movement and are caught in emotional and psychological immaturity because of their interest in faith and spirituality.

§ In the process, we lose sight of—we do not seek understanding of—the roots of much institutional homophobia within communities of faith, as well as the solidarity offered by other communities of faith.

§ We can and must do better in the new America of Barack Obama. If we don’t, we will remain open to charges that we do not deserve the rights for which we are rightly pressing.

§ Again: solidarity cannot be taken for granted. It must be built. It comes at a price. It has to be rebuilt again and again, with each generation and with each new threat to solidarity that comes along.

§ If we are wise, we will recognize in what has happened in the various homophobic initiatives of this election a wake-up call—to greater solidarity among ourselves and with other communities that experience unmerited suffering imposed by controlling power centers in our society. We have to recognize this if we are to contribute to a platform of solidarity and human rights that will enable this administration to realize its goals.