There are a lot of mixed emotions flying around now that the election’s over, especially from the queer community and their allies. Like many, I’m elated about Obama’s victory, but I’m angry and disappointed that the bluest of blue states, California, voted 55% for Obama and yet 52% in favour of banning gay marriage.
But some of this anger is both misdirected and dangerous. Like that of sex columnist Dan Savage, who basically places all the blame for Prop 8 with Black voters, who voted 70% in favour of the ban.
I’m looking at the same exit poll data he cites, and it’s a little more complicated than that. Seventy-five percent of Black women voted for the ban - the exit poll was too small to calculate similar numbers for Black men. But Black voters in total make up just 10% of the vote.
True, this suggests a certain amount of homophobia amongst African Americans in California. The solution, though, is not to imply that homophobic Black folks are responsible for holding back the advancement of queer people in America.
First of all, why not put the blame on white voters aged 65 and over, who voted 59% in favour of the ban? Or on whites who never attended college, who voted 58% in favour? It’s completely arbitrary to single out 10% of the electorate and claim their votes made the difference.
And then there’s this:
“I’ll eat my shorts if gay and lesbian voters went for McCain at anything approaching the rate that black voters went for Prop 8.”
As if the two are comparable. Obama isn’t a special interest candidate. No matter how teary-eyed queer people in America are about the significance of the country electing its first black president, the vast majority of them didn’t vote for him because he was Black. They voted for him because he’s a Democrat, and because he’s for civil unions and he’s got the best healthcare plan, and since gay men were just about wiped out by AIDS healthcare’s been a pretty big issue for the community.
Savage makes it sound like queer Americans did Black folks a favour, and now they’re entitled to call it in. It’s hateful, it’s unhelpful, and this kind of thinking could set us all back decades.