Posted by: Ophelia | November 12, 2008

“No-on-8’s white bias”

The L.A Times published an article from a black lesbian discussing the passing of prop 8

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. (Jasmyne A. Cannick)

It’s especially interesting how she dispels the myth that the fight for interracial marriage was especially important in the civil rights movement.  As far as weighing their concerns, interracial marriage didn’t rank particularly high when there were other concerns like voting, and unchecked violence to be handled. The illegality of interracial marriage was symptomatic of an unequal society and that particular feature would eventually need to be dismantled but it wasn’t at the forefront of the struggle. Cannick too suggests that for black gays, marriage is not necessarily at the forefront of their concerns.

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.

Note: Feel free not to comment if you haven’t bothered to read any of the running commentary on Prop 8 occuring all over the blogosphere and you’re still buying into the concept that the smallest percentage of California voters could pass anything single handedly. (Seriously if you think 4%>96%, you’ve got bigger fish to fry, like conquering second grade math).

Here, have another representation of the numbers at play here.



  1. Oh that’s funny!

    A Black lesbian is blaming Whites for the overwhelming support for Prop 8 among the Black voters.

    That’s rich!

  2. The issue isn’t about assigning blame but rather pointing out the gaps in logic that need to occur to blame the smallest portion of California’s voters based on exit polling. There’s a lot more that factors in to why people vote the way they do 1, and it’s funny how it’s not simply all voters in favor of prop 8 are being blamed, but just a few. What purpose does it serve except to provide an easy target? But I see you’re not here to discuss anything, you’ve crawled out from under your bridge to mock some thoughts you disagree with but haven’t taken the time to read so there’s no need to allow you to continue to embarrass yourself.

  3. Actually, I just couldn’t resist commenting in such a manner on the blame shifting evidenced by Cannick’s article.

    The Black community has a much higher degree of overt homophobia than do other groups. That’s been pretty much proven time and time again. It wasn’t a failure of “the white gay community” that led to a majority Black voters voting for Prop 8.

    Should they be blamed though, as if they’re votes tipped the balance? No.

    Sorry, it just comes across to me as Cannick making an emotional choice between Blackness and Gayness.

  4. That was really eye-opening–thank you for posting it. I think I’ve been so blinded lately about my rush for protests of Prop 8, etc. that I forgot about all of these other issues (poverty, unemployment) that, really, mean more than something like marriage.

    It never really occurred to me that we’d been pushing this gay marriage thing under the idea that, once gays could marry, non-accepting straight people would see that gays are human, too, and automatically come to embrace them and everything would be solved. But that’s not really the case at all. It would be a big step, yes, but that’s all. Maybe some people would become more accepting, but a majority of people wouldn’t. What’s more important is destroying disinformation, etc. (and not just about gays, but disinformation in general, about sex, race, orientation, etc.) that tricks people into believing bad things about minority groups and taking care of the people who’re being pushed down. Marriage is deserved but is, in reality, somewhat more of a luxury than anything else. So I can see where the communication gap fell, and why the plea for marriage didn’t reach as many people of color as the GLBT community would have wish for.

  5. It’s easy to find scape goats, and so much harder to fix the root of the problem. This was a huge rush to find what they thought was an ‘obvious’ reason for the proposition passing, when it’s really nowhere near that simple. The fact that exit polls were used to create those numbers and not hard polling data (seeing that in California, you do not state your race in your voter registration), the lack of focus of the advertising campaign and overall confusion of the issue lead to this whole problem. The commercials never explained what proposition 8 really stated, and they focused on white people only. You can’t read up on it in the voting booth because of the huge lines, and people were focused on the presidential election more than anything else.

  6. I heard an interview with Jasmyne Cannick on NPR. She was very explicit that this is not about laying blame, but about dispelling the myth that POC voters in CA are wholly responsible for Prop 8 passing.

    Her whole point was that yes on 8 went into these areas and these neighborhoods, while no on 8 didn’t even bother and assumed support from the POC community due to some perceived solidarity that comes from being part of oppressed minority groups. It reminds me of reading bell hooks for the first time with regards to second wave feminism. White middle-class feminists ignored the reality of WOC and ended up alienating them from the movement.

  7. Well, the feminism movement isn’t perfect, like everything else. I mean, from what I understand, for white women to get the right to vote, they threw all black people under the bus (so to speak), and took the right to vote away from all of them.

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