Thursday, November 6, 2008

Prop 8 And The African American Vote

I took a lot of heat yesterday from a regular commenter/troll for mentioning my frustration with the disproportionate support for Prop 8 in California's African American population, so I decided to back off the issue until I'd had more time to consider it.

Now I have and I stand by my original thoughts.

I think it's tragic that a group that has suffered as much as African Americans have in this country don't express more as opposed to less sympathy for other persecuted minorities. And it annoys me that African American civil rights leaders don't spend more time focusing on this issue.

Though I greatly appreciated hearing Obama address this problem on the campaign trail, I wish he'd put more effort into delivering this message in California to help defeat Prop 8. I'm not saying that Obama should have only targeted African Americans with this message, but I do think that he has the standing, particularly in African American churches, to help people see gay rights as part of the wider civil rights movement rather than as something immoral and to be fought against.

Ultimately, it's impossible to know for sure whether overwhelming African American support for Prop 8 put the measure over the top. But exit polls can give us an idea. And they indicate that it might have.

Obsidian Wings' Sebastian writes:
It appears that black people in CA may have voted in a greater share than that of their representation of the population. Right around 10% of the vote.

That would mean that given each 1000 voters black people in CA represent 100 of them.

At 69% Yes on 8 that would be 69 Yes and 31 No for each 1000. If they had voted like White voters they would have voted 45 Yes and 55 No. That would make the final vote equal 496 Yes and 504 No (proposition loses 49.6% to 50.4%).

Interestingly, at the 10% vote share level, if a small majority of black people voted against the measure it would have lost (49% Yes, 51% No gives the measure a loss at 49.9%).

Basically, if the black voter share is 10% or higher, the black vote difference from the white vote made the difference so long as the final total is at or below 52%. And if the black voter share is any higher than 10%, it made the difference even if black voters had only split 50-50 instead of the 45-55 shown in white voters.

Commenting on all of this, Dan Savage writes:
African American voters in California voted overwhelmingly for Prop 8, writing anti-gay discrimination into California’s constitution and banning same-sex marriage in that state. Seventy percent of African American voters approved Prop 8, according to exit polls, compared to 53% of Latino voters, 49% of white voters, 49% of Asian voters.

I’m not sure what to do with this. I’m thrilled that we’ve just elected our first African-American president. I wept last night. I wept reading the papers this morning. But I can’t help but feeling hurt that the love and support aren’t mutual.

I do know this, though: I’m done pretending that the handful of racist gay white men out there—and they’re out there, and I think they’re scum—are a bigger problem for African Americans, gay and straight, than the huge numbers of homophobic African Americans are for gay Americans, whatever their color.

I'm with Savage 100 percent.

Clearly, this isn't really about race. Race is purely a social construct anyway. This is about culture. And, for whatever reason, the African American community has a bigger problem accepting gay rights than many other groups in this country.

My goal in pointing this out is to encourage African Americans who support gay rights to speak out more forcefully to their friends and relatives.

I have on several occasions strongly criticized several of my aunts and uncles for making racist remarks. All I ask is that more African Americans make a special effort to do the same when they hear homophobic comments. That sort of pressure from within one's community is one of the best ways to facilitate change.

Finally, the greatest blame for Prop 8's passage obviously falls at the feet of the Mormons and other far-right religious extremists who largely funded and staffed the despicably dishonest campaign against gay marriage in California. And while I hope to see African American voters gradually become more accepting of gay rights over time, I would prefer to see groups such as the Mormons go extinct. Of course this is unlikely to happen, so I'd settle for them giving up their attempts to use the democratic process to force their sectarian religious beliefs on our society as a whole. But that won't stop me from dreaming of a substantially more secular future.


Nate said...

Now now. Watch yourself, Christopher. I've discovered the hard way that some are 'sensitive' to the designation of troll. Evidently they don't call them trolls at the New York Times, and that's something to take example from.

Brigid E. Marshall said...

Being a UI graduate who now works and lives in San Francisco, I was also disheartened by the passing of proposition 8, and I'm glad that you've taken another spin on this issue than the typical anti-Christian effort. Many Christians, like myself, can separate church and state, and can realize that banning things like marriage to gays can only lead to hatred, and that certainly is not Christian. Kudos, Christopher.

taco said...

And I'm with Savage's detractors 100 percent. Your "troll" problems are nothing compared to his.

Statistics are only numbers, interpretation of them is a completely subjective process and they don't inherently "prove" right and wrong.

By definition of the word racism, you and Slate and Savage and others making issue of these figures are being racist when you suggest that the statistics for African Americans being "high", suggesting the racial statistic should have been different, suggesting that Obama could or should have influenced them more politically in your favor. Your turning to skin color as an acceptable factor to blame the vote on, when the issue has inherently nothing whatsoever to do with race and the racial group you're blaming - like in so many other contexts - can statistically be shown to have only the tiniest impact on the matter.

It doesn't matter that the black Yes statistic is 70%! It's meaningless! You're getting that statistic from the arbitrary independent variable of skin color. Not religious blacks, not inner city blacks, no necessary ideological links whatsoever. Only skin color.

Izzy9 is exactly right. You're only passing the blame because as a gay rights activist, you're far more culpable than any Californian voter is. I don't remember hearing you get involved and organize for speakers to get the message out in the Californian black churches, or anywhere in California for that matter. Again, the black vote is only the very smallest part of the equation here. The margin of passage was only 401,000 votes and there were some 1,000,000 voters in the state that didn't even vote on the ballot measure at all!! Where were you to convince them?

It's petty and insanely intolerant of you to make assumptions and try to pin the blame on a meaningless racial statistic under those circumstances. That's exactly how the racism mechanism has always worked, and I hope you realize that.

Christopher Patton said...

Taco, you clearly know very little about this very complicated issue. The 70-30 vote spread in favor of Prop 8 amongst African Americans in California on Nov. 4 is just a symptom. The disease is homophobia. And there's plenty of evidence that it is more rampant in the African American community than in the general population in the US. Taking note of this problem and suggesting that action be taken to fix it does not mean that I dislike people for being an African American. That's an entirely stupid thing for you to suggest. Your inability to recognize this just shows the extent to which I am wasting my breath in responding to you at all. Which is why I won't anymore. Continue to scream into the vacuum of cyberspace if you so desire. I really don't care.

taco said...

Your persistent refusal to listen to reason and hateful platitudes about "disease" in the black race are disgusting. You have no evidence to back up your racist preaching. The personal judgments you have made based on "black gays you know" (comments in previous posting) are evidence of your personal problem, not a social problem. Again, that's exactly how the menace of racism functions in our society and if you have any interest in truth and equality as opposed to being right, you would agree with me.

Your oversimplified, discriminatory train of thought is exactly what made people draw prejudiced judgments from black incarceration rates and single parenthood rates to espouse racist ideas about African Americans being "diseased" with violence and parental responsibility, when in reality the factors you're encompassing when you try and group everyone together by race are much too complex to draw any real conclusions from. You are living proof that the civil rights movement of the 90's did not completely dispel those misconceptions.

Again: The black exit poll data for Prop 9 considers only skin color, not broken down any further according to lifestyle or ideology. Therefore it is racist to claim the statistic is wrong or that it indicates a social illness. Prove me wrong.

Christopher Patton said...;jsessionid=54D1220CFB102819EC0C13E0DAC968CE?diaryId=8051

taco said...

taco said...

Should have linked this instead:

Anonymous said...

Part of what upsets many people about the way the Prop 8 vote turned out is that a large percentage of its supporters came from peoples who have historically been persecuted and discriminated against (blacks and Mormons), even as to their marriage rights. It has also been pointed out that many supporters come from religious traditions that teach love and respect for others. And according to the numbers, many Prop 8 supporters had to have also been Obama supporters. It might be reasonable to think that those who voted for Obama tend towards attitudes that are more along the progressive spectrum.

So, what gives...? Could it be possible that given the demographics of the Prop 8 supporters -- people who can empathize with discrimination -- that the yes vote was based on something OTHER than the wish to discriminate...?

The reason this is such a mess is that marriage is not the proper role of government period.

A conflicting right was exposed when a number of gay couples decided to sue churches that did not wish to perform gay weddings or adopt children to them -- and those couples won. Had these couples been content to take their marriage or adoption plans to churches that welcomed such unions, few would have felt threatened. Instead, they brought the aggression of the government down on those who held differing viewpoints, meaning that there is a very tangible threat to religious liberty.

Religious liberty or gay marriage liberty...?

Well, there is only a conflict because marriage is not the proper role of government in the first place. Marriage is a religious issue. Civil unions are the domain of government.

Basically, litigious people who think they have a right to never get their feelings hurt set their own movement back a decade.

Christopher Patton said...

Anonymous, you said:

"A conflicting right was exposed when a number of gay couples decided to sue churches that did not wish to perform gay weddings or adopt children to them -- and those couples won."

Could you give some citations for this? I'm unaware of any such cases.

Christopher Patton said...

As to the marriages, that is. I'm aware of the adoption case in Massachusetts and fully support it. Any such marriage cases would be ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Homosexuality is not a race and cannot be directly compared to the discrimination against blacks or other racial minorities. According to what I have read in this post, racial discrimination is alive and well in those voting against proposition 8.