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Come on people – enough with stoking the black = homophobic meme

Really now. The day after Amendment One passed, I received two phone calls from mainstream media reporters asking for my opinion on the “black vote” in support of the amendment when there was no exit polls or even data showing how blacks voters split on the marriage discrimination ballot initiative. They were feeding into the National Organization for Marriage meme of the black-gay divide without ANY data to support it in North Carolina’s outcome. It disgusted me. And then on social media it was more of the same. Take this tweet from a conservative friend of mine:

The problem with that Tweet? Well, number one, it came from the right-wing site Hot Air (“Black voters in NC supported Amendment One by 2-1 margin“). What was Ed Morrisey citing for that statistic in that piece? A link to The Politico’s “Gay marriage: Black voters remain divided.” What did the piece deliver as “evidence” of the black vote?

In North Carolina in 2008, black turnout was the engine that propelled Obama to a key swing-state victory; the president captured over 95 percent of that vote, according to exit polls. On Tuesday, however, reports from North Carolina indicate support among black voters for Amendment 1, defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman, and effectively nullifying the rights of same-sex partners. Public Policy Polling projected 60-65 percent of African-Americans would vote in favor of the ban.

“Reports from North Carolina” = NO HARD DATA. Remember — there were no exit polls, so how could Joseph Williams, the author of the piece, back up that statement as factual information about the black vote in NC on May 8? He couldn’t, but the tired meme had already started making its way around social media as fact. I responded:

Needless to say, no one responded with a link to any hard data. But from their perspective, the fix was in based on assumptions they wanted to see and cultivate. And it may have been an accurate assessment to make in the past in some cases, but the fact that no one could put their hands on data to support their eager proclamations in this case seemed to be of little interest.

I have to hand it to NC journalist Barry Yeoman, whose excellent piece for The American Prospect on what really happened with the black vote in the state, “Town and Country,” broke it down for the black = homophobic crowd. My emphasis below:

There’s a problem with this story line: It ignores the actual results of the election, which show that the fault line in North Carolina was not racial at all, but rather urban-rural.

It’s impossible to calculate exactly how black voters came down on Amendment 1, because there was no exit polling and voting precincts are rarely single-race. What is clear is that urban voters opposed the amendment; rural ones supported it; and that division cut cleanly across the color line.

In each of North Carolina’s five largest cities, voters in majority-black precincts rejected the measure: Charlotte (52 percent), Raleigh (51 percent), Greensboro (54 percent), Winston-Salem (55 percent), and Durham (65 percent). Durham’s results were dramatic: Not a single majority-black precinct supported the amendment. Several crushed it by margins of 3-to-1 and even 4-to-1.

Once you leave North Carolina’s larger cities, along with a handful of college towns and coastal resorts, the electoral map changes dramatically. Much of the state is small-town and rural, and those areas formed the backbone of the amendment’s support. Many of the strongest pro-amendment counties share isolation and low education levels. What they don’t share is race. Graham County in the Blue Ridge Mountains has one black voter out of 6,600 and voted 89 percent “yes.” Some 450 miles away, Bertie County on the coastal plains is 60 percent black and voted 73 percent “yes.”

Yes, even rural North Carolina had islands of resistance. The amendment failed 2-to-1 on the African-American side of Scotland Neck, a village that has witnessed forty years of civil-rights struggles stretching from a landmark school-desegregation case in the 1970s to the recent stun-gun death of a black bicyclist. The result, says former Mayor James Mills, is an “organized and sophisticated” black electorate. “We were able to communicate was that this really had nothing to do with same-sex marriage,” he says. “What this has to do with is hate.”

North Carolina may be the first state (and a southern state at that) where race was clearly not a factor on an issue related to LGBT rights — why wasn’t that story pursued by the mainstream media? The default assumptions were the first place they went. There is a sea change, and these folks need to stop making assumptions and shooting off their mouths propogating this black homophobia nonsense reflexively as fact.

No one is saying the problem of homophobia never existed or doesn’t still hold true in some elements of the non-monolithic black community. And it is not wedded to the churched vs. unchurched either, as we saw with the hundreds of black pastors of various denominations that spoke out strongly against Amendment One here, with special kudos to the NC NAACP’s Rev. Dr. William Barber, whose dramatic, eloquent and spot-on speeches and radio spots that discrimination and hate being enshrined into the constitution and underscored the separation of church and state.

Stephen Thrasher over at the Village Voice is fed-up with this auto-pilot meme as well and asks “How Many Negroes Must Support Gay Marriage Before “Black Homophobia” Stops Getting Overblown?” I hear this garbage all the time :

1. This unimportant issue will cost Obama re-election!

2. Marriage equality would have happened by now, if not for those on-the-down low, religious, self-hating, homophobic black folks!

3. Marriage equality will never pass when it comes up for a vote, because it never has before, and therefore never will, especially in a state with a lot black voters!

Ever since President Obama came out for same-sex marriage, all three have been proven to be utter bullshit.

Why it seems easier to pin homophobia first on race as opposed to age, education, and locale (rural/urban) first I guess is less sexy for reporters who like controversy, but it’s really getting tired and dangerous as the polls are clearly moving in the opposite direction. Yeah, we know the closet is full of self-loathing pastors on the DL, but as I blogged incessantly prior to the A1 vote, the number of faith leaders who spoke out against the ballot initiative far outnumbered public statements by those on the other side. In fact the “black face” of Amendment One, the embarrassingly homophobic NOM partner Rev. Patrick Wooden, seemed to be the only one who got any significant media face time.

Facts, the underpinning of good journalism, must be expendable for some reporters these days. Stephen:

[If] politics makes for strange bedfellows, then the bed that got Dan SavageTouré, Maggie Gallagher and Ruben Diaz orgiastically together in it as they blamed black folks for the ills of gay folks was one hot mess. The problem for them is that it hasn’t turned out to be true. When the first black President — elected with 95 percent of black voters’ approval, and enjoying the same level support of today — came out for marriage, black people didn’t turn out to be Neanderthal, knuckle-dragging, single issue troglodytes who were going to chuck Obama aside for this one stance. In 2012, black voters did not prove incapable of rational thought or (gasp!) listening to and learning from the leader they’d invested so much in and for whom they had so much respect. Instead, it appears that it’s black people who’ve most taken cues from Obama on this subject and who are radically evolving (and not their allegedly more equality enlightened white brothers and sisters).

And on point 3 above — that marriage equality couldn’t possibly succeed in a demographically minority-heavy state — that’s even blown away in the latest Public Policy Polling data out of Maryland, which is 30% black.

The referendum to keep the state’s new law legalizing same-sex marriage now appears likely to pass by a healthy margin.

-57% of Maryland voters say they’re likely to vote for the new marriage law this fall, compared to only 37% who are opposed. That 20 point margin of passage represents a 12 point shift from an identical PPP survey in early March, which found it ahead by a closer 52/44 margin.

-The movement over the last two months can be explained almost entirely by a major shift in opinion about same-sex marriage among black voters. Previously 56% said they would vote against the new law with only 39% planning to uphold it. Those numbers have now almost completely flipped, with 55% of African Americans planning to vote for the law and only 36% now opposed.

-The big shift in attitudes toward same-sex marriage among black voters in Maryland is reflective of what’s happening nationally right now.  A new ABC/Washington Post poll finds 59% of African Americans across the country supportive of same-sex marriage.  A PPP poll in the critical swing state of Pennsylvania last weekend found a shift of 19 points in favor of same-sex marriage among black voters.

And then, in the wake of the President’s coming out regarding marriage equality, more dominoes fell across in different corners of the black community — the NAACP national, Colin Powell, Jay-Z — all went public with their support of the right of same-sex couples to marry. And they are not exactly all cut from the same cloth. Their public statements do prove that they move the needle in the right direction, and encourage discussion about these issues in communities where homosexuality is often a “don’t ask, don’t tell” issue. It also underscores the power of the bully pulpit by this President, something that enablers defenders of Barack Obama for remaining silent (or “evolving”) on a host of LGBT issues claimed he didn’t need to do or was too dangerous to do.

So what percentage of support by blacks for LGBT rights will satiate those continuing looking for conflict and strife? At some point those continuing to heap blame on “the black community” as the core problem in the advancement of LGBT rights need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask whether they are interested in facts, or are simply continuing to feed their personal color-arousal issues.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding