CommunityPam's House Blend

Ballot initiatives provide a wake up call to the LGBT community about race

I feel that a giant snowball of blame game is about to roll over and crush me as we wait for the final count in California on Prop 8. Who voted for Yes on 8 is clear now, as exit polls show 70% of blacks, (with black women at 74%) voted for the amendment. That’s about 20 points higher than any other racial group. But the blame needs to be put into perspective – blacks represent only 6.2% of of California’s population. There’s a lot to discuss in the post-mortem regardless of the outcome.

For those of us who are black and gay, a group too often marginalized within a marginalized community, I see this as a clear signal to the LGBT advocacy community. There hasn’t been enough outreach to those groups who voted against us. We haven’t reached them; there hasn’t been enough effort expended.

I’ve been blogging for years about the need to discuss race in regards to LGBT issues. I hope that this is now the wakeup call for our “professional gays” out there who represent us to come out of their comfort zones and help bridge this concrete education gap.

The belief that white=gay is big part of the problem, and as long as black LGBTs are invisible in their own communities and there is a dearth of color in the public face of LGBT leadership, the socially conservative black community can remain in denial that I exist as a black lesbian.

But the losses are about more than these racial hurdles. I thank Darkrose for her diary “Blame the Brown People = Recipe for Failure.” It puts the defeats in perspective. A snippet:

It seems like the frame for the passage of Prop 8 is going to be “It’s because Obama’s candidacy caused increased black turnout, and the black community is homophobic.”

Never mind that it was voters 65 and over who put Prop 8 over the top, or that one of the whitest institutions in America–the Mormon Church–funnelled millions of dollars from Utah to California to make sure that 8 passed. The parts of the state that went solid for 8 were the inland areas, which are overwhelmingly white.

…It wasn’t a black group that put Prop 8 on the ballot, and paid the signature-gatherers and bankrolled the ads. Nor is it fair to say that Obama’s have-it-both-ways position meant that black voters were going to march sheeplike to the polls and vote as Obama dictated.

Writing off an entire race as hopelessly unenlightened isn’t going to help

(CA returns aren’t completely in; you can follow the count here). More below the fold.

For instance, it’s time to spread the word about Jason Bartlett’s victory in Connecticut. He is an openly gay black man serving in the state’s House, and was re-elected.

Incumbent Democrat Jason Bartlett won the hotly contested race for the 2nd District seat in the state House Tuesday over Republican challenger Melanie O’Brien.

Both Bartlett, a small business owner of a mortgage company, and O’Brien, an attorney, are Bethel residents. The 2nd District covers parts of Bethel, Redding and Danbury, and Bartlett won in all three municipalities.

Bartlett, 42, was elated with his victory Tuesday night.

“All three towns voted to send me back to Hartford to represent them, and I am so grateful and appreciative,” he said. “In these tough economic times I pledge to look out for the taxpayers in the 2nd District and to continue all of the projects that I began in my first term.”

This visibility must be spread far and wide.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding