Monday, November 10, 2008

Proposition 8....trying to blame it on black people?

So there's sort of an eruption happening in all the blogs I read in regards to Proposition 8 and the fact that 70% of the black vote went to "YES" on Proposition 8. Lots of people are voicing their VERY strong disappointment that even as a black man makes history and cuts through centuries of racial division, black people are voting, in larger percentiles than any other demographic, to pass a law that fundamentally changes the California constitution to say that everyone should not be treated equally.

It's easy to be upset over this because it seems like such an obvious cut and dry case- the black community must be homophobic if they're voting like this, and, it's worth being upset at them because they might just have been the deciding factor on this issue. But obviously, when things seem that cut and dry, there's more going on. I wanted other perspectives so I've done a little bit of research. If you want a black perspective, I advocate going to Racialicious and checking out the compilation of links from black bloggers that they've acquired on the subject. It's very interesting and opens up more perspective on this issue of blame.

But basically, I've been thinking about it, and you know what? It's not my issue. It's not my issue who black people decided to vote for as a demographic. I cannot claim them as my demographic and thus, cannot blame them on issues as complex as this either. I think that the farthest I can go in respect to the black vote, would be to express surprise and disappointment that their demographic would support it the way that it did. Any further than that? I'm outta my league.

I'm out of my league because I don't understand. When is it appropriate to criticize a demographic of people not your own? I guess, I don't know. In many respects, I just don't think it's appropriate for me, as a white person with very limited access to black culture, history, etc., to criticize black people as a demographic because then it becomes a discussion about RACE that I don't feel qualified to have. I would be fine to criticize someone who was black for doing something I didn't agree with, because it's about an issue or a personality or an individual not about race. Criticizing based on race seems like a surefire way to make yourself look like an idiot and talk about things you don't understand.

Especially when, as far as critiquing goes, I've got my OWN demographics to worry about. I guess I just think that's what people should be doing, rather than pointing fingers elsewhere simply because it's more convenient and requires less self-assessment.

My demographic is the LDS church and the LDS background I come from and the fact that, with few exceptions, my very large California-based family HEAVILY supported Proposition 8. These people are the people with whom I am shocked and frustrated with the most. It sickens me to think that, once again, due to the "righteousness" of the LDS church members, basic civil rights have once again been denied to vulnerable populations, including children. The church will regret their position on gay marriage, just as they regret their past position on blacks and the priesthood. Their position will have to change as time passes; evidence of this change is already apparent in the fact that they are subtly changing their dialogue and approach to homosexuality. These days, gay members of the church are not told to get into a heterosexual marriage; they are not put through electro-shock therapy; they are not excommunicated and shunned; the church extends to them all the rights of long as they remain celibate. No longer is it a sin to have homosexual desires- it is only a sin to "act" on them. It's a fundamental change to previous church doctrine. My heart hurts to think that so many people I love, and a church who has so many qualities I respect, acted in such a short-sighted, hateful manner. This is my demographic and they are largely to blame.

Secondly, I am white, and despite the fact that the for/against white vote was closer than the black vote on this issue (49%/51%), the fact of the matter remains that 51% of white people are still against gay marriage. And this liberal percentile is only in California- in more white-based conservative states (Arizona? Arkansas? Utah?), the numbers are MUCH higher. California is not indicative of the white vote elsewhere, as is made obvious by the ease with which gay marriage amendments have passed in other states. White people still deal with large amounts of homophobia. This, too, is my demographic.

My roommate and I were talking today about the things we do in our individual families to keep the peace, despite having very different ideologies than the majority of our family members. Most of the time, this means we don't start fights. We want to love our family members, despite vehemently disagreeing with them on issues like abortion and gay marriage. But at what point does this become complacency? Where's the fine line between respect and undue deference? What amount of responsibility do I have to tell my family how I feel about Proposition 8 and gay marriage? A part of me says it wouldn't even matter- I am a second class citizen because I'm not a member of the church any more. But maybe conscience demands more.

Until I can even figure out my OWN family, you can sure as HELL bet that I'll leave the question of black responsibility alone.

UPDATE: Portlydyke at Shakesville has a great post about this (as do many others), but I wanted to include a direct quote because I think it is especially pertinent to my earlier musings about criticism.

To apply this lesson more generally: If you're ever wonder whether you're "laying" Blame rather than letting Responsibility "rest" where it belongs, notice how much effort is involved -- and where the Power is.

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