February 03, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Forgive me if I don't get too excited that Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs who pressured President Clinton into signing Don't Ask Don't Tell into law, has now come around on the issue. Don't get me wrong, it's always welcome when those who oppose our basic equality reverse their positions, regardless of how many earlier opportunities they squandered.
That's especially true in the case of Powell, who as the military's top uniformed officer acted in insubordinate fashion toward his new commander in chief back in 1993, calling Clinton out for acting to fulfill his public campaign promise to end the ban on gays in the military. Still immensely popular even among Republicans after a disastrous turn as secretary of state in the administration of George W. Bush, Powell spoke out against DADT one day after his Joint Chiefs successor Adm. Mike Mullen and Sec Def Robert Gates backed Obama on repealing Powell's policy:
“In the almost 17 years since the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed,” General Powell said in a statement issued by his office. He added: “I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”
In his statement on Wednesday, General Powell said “the principal issue has always been the effectiveness of the Armed Forces and order and discipline in the ranks.”
Powell's backing will be enormously helpful politically for Obama, Mullen and Gates, who unlike Powell showed true leadership on the issue. For years, DADT defenders found cover in Powell's position, since the first-ever African American to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs seemed so unimpeachable on issues of equality and discrimination.
In fact, gays in the military represented a real blind spot for Powell, whose historic career will always be tainted by his unwillingness to stand up to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney on Iraq, and his unwillingness to stand up to bigots in the military on service by gay soldiers and sailors.
Even today, Powell's reversal came with a caveat. The only reason he favors repeal is that "attitudes and circumstances have changed," meaning that gays are far more accepted in U.S. society, especially among the young people who provide that elusive "unit cohesion" we hear so often about when this issue is debated.
That means Powell's position is actually unchanged: The government can and should discriminate when bigotry among the ranks may result in some disruption if a minority group is integrated into the armed forces.
It is a truly remarkable and hypocritical view from a man who benefited so obviously from the courageous willingness of President Harry Truman and the top military brass of his day who implemented the executive order integrating blacks into the U.S. military. According to Powell's logic, Truman and his generals recklessly risked unit cohesion and military readiness with their social experimentation.
Taken to its logical conclusion, Powell's caveat argues against all sorts of laws against discrimination in the public and private sector, since these laws are needed the very most when prejudice is most widespread, meaning disruption in the workplace by mandated equality will be most significant.
The Powell principle of nondiscrimination is that equality is an admirable goal that justifies government intervention only when society has progressed far enough that the bigots are already outnumbered and the new rules come at little cost in terms of inefficiencies and unrest. Until that happy day, it is not just acceptable but laudable for government to cater and even give legal effect to privately held bigotry.
January 20, 2009
Posted by: Chris
With all the hoopla about the two-minute prayer that Rick Warren will offer during today's inauguration of Barack Obama, I am surprised to have heard nothing about (self-proclaimed) Bishop T.D. Jakes giving the sermon at this morning's inaugural church service.
Back in 2005, black gay activist Keith Boykin included Jakes among a series of black church pastors with anti-gay views who he believes are closet homosexuals:
Jakes is even more conservative than [George W.] Bush. Unlike Bush, who has hired gays and lesbians in the federal government, Jakes has called homosexuality a "brokenness" and said he would not hire a sexually active gay person.
And Jakes has also adopted another part of the presidential philosphy: his lifestyle. Jakes and his congregation refer to his wife Serita as "the first lady," and they live in a $1.7 million mansion on Dallas's scenic White Rock Lake next to a building once owned by oil magnate H.L. Hunt. As Time magazine explained, "He flies on charter planes or in first-class seats, sups with a coterie in a room known as 'the king's table,' sports a large diamond ring and dresses like the multimillionaire he is."
I don't believe that black preachers have a duty to be poor, but I do believe they should not make their millions off the backs of their struggling kin. It's one thing to create your wealth as a preacher. It's another thing to create your wealth with a message of sexism, heterosexism and homophobia directed against some of the hardest hit people in your own community.
Jakes has endorsed the so-called Truth for Youth campaign, which is distributing specially-made anti-gay Bibles to high school students all across the country.
"To date, I have not seen scriptural authority that allows me to stand on behalf of God and say I now pronounce you husband and husband, and wife and wife," Jakes told USA Today. "This is an issue the government is undecided about. The Bible is not," he said. But if Jakes still believes in the separation of church and state, it's not clear from his political activity. In fact, Jakes publicly endorsed the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have been the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution to legalize discrimination against a group of citizens.
As Time magazine put it, "gay Americans would have no reason at all to consider Jakes their preacher."
Ultimately Boykin's proof on Jakes' anti-gay past is much stronger than the rumors that Jakes may be a closet case. (A former male staffer went public with charges that Jakes repeatedly propositioned him for sex.) Regardless, it will be interesting to see whether activists take note of Jakes' high profile role.
My own view, of course, is that Obama is fulfilling his promise to unite the country -- and making a shrewd political move -- by including the likes of Jakes and Warren, along with openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, and pro-gay ministers Joseph Lowery and Sharon Watkins, in inauguration ceremonies.
December 09, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
For as long as I can remember, the leading national gay rights organizations (and their statewide cousins, in terms of imperial attitude) have made a great deal of noise to indicate they were "working hard" to reach out to the African American community in the United States. This was often couched in the language of building political coalitions to advance gay rights legislation and policy, as it should be. We need to do it.
Well, the results are in. And to say that their efforts were an abject failure is being kind.
The 2008 election proved decisively in California, and hinted strongly in a national way, that all the flowery announcements by Human Rights Campaign directors past and present, as well as the multi-hue-drenched righteousness peppering speeches at NGLTF's Creating Change conferences, amounted to a lot of hot air in an echo chamber.
When you read the latest Gallup Poll on African American moral and political attitudes on homosexuality, you can't help but think of the bullshit events on "diversity" sponsored by your state's left-wing gay rights juggernaut, or the dumb multi-racial hack love-ins among left-wing Democrats under an HRC logo-banner over the last 15 or so years. In reality, any statement by HRC or NGLTF today boasting of their outreach to the African American community smacks of Kenneth Lay telling investors that Enron was solid bet, just before the truth was revealed that he knew it was a sinking ship. Enron's stockholders had bankruptcy, we have the lovely Proposition 8 - and whatever else awaits us.
This is not to say that building a strong political coalition with black Americans isn't absolutely necessary. It is. But what this Gallup poll says is that our current and past gay leadership did nothing effectively, and continues to be a total and complete failure at this.
Since Prop 8 and the key fact that 70% of a tidal wave of African American votes in California voted against us on it, the issue of race has resurfaced for good reason. The gay African American voices have run the gamut from pointing the finger where it belongs -- at those hypocritical gay organizations with money and clout who pay lip service to this hard work but never listen or apply themselves to do it right -- to the same old blaxploitation songs of "gay whitey" this and "gay whitey" that.
But what is so interesting about the Gallup poll to me is the headline: "Blacks as Conservative as Republicans on Some Moral Issues." In a white liberal context, that headline must be like the sound of hand grenades going off: "conservative" (boom!)..."Republicans" (bam!)....."Moral" (ka-BOOM!). Because left-wing political hacks don't let themselves hear, say or deal with those three words in any real way. And now we're all paying the price. Because just like the way HRC did its "building bridges" with "fair-minded Republicans" after the 1994 election basically forced them, the gay establishment's outreach to the black community has been a front. Not real.
I will never forget one moment at the 2000 Creating Change conference in Oakland, California. I think it was the only one I ever attended, basically because I was a speaker on a panel. But I sat in on a different panel on "people of color" issues, and behind me were two folks who I guess were local gays from Oakland. The panel was the usual suspects whose jobs it seemed (to me) were to blather endlessly in person and in print in talking point-ese about "POC issues" (I always cringe when I hear that term). The panel moderator beamed regally while a usual suspect gushed about some meeting in what sounded like the most marginal, way-left church-of-the-misfit-toys in some mid-sized city, where "we melded in song" about "the equality of peoples." One of the folks behind me said in a stage whisper to his friend: "What the hell are they talking about?" I chuckled to myself, in agreement. It was funny to see these left-wing hacks talk about religion and morals the way an alien might discuss life on Earth. Or the Republican Party.
And here's where a gay Republican with a lot of experience with this now-generalized brand of incompetence can give advice to any African American gay activist who wants to channel their anger effectively right now. First step is to wake up. This isn't about racism - it's about competence.
The reason they failed is because they didn't do their jobs. The reason they didn't do their jobs is because they have no fucking clue how to build political coalitions outside their extreme political comfort zone -- be they white, black or fuschia in skin tone. They know how to hire people with the right color skin to run around saying "look at me, I'm Mr. or Ms. (fill in the blank) Outreach!". And as circumstance would have it, they've never been pushed to the wall so blatantly the way the Prop 8 results have nailed them.
So, don't lobby for them to hire some token staff person or launch some bullshit "outreach campaign". You'll just be participating in the ongoing failure. Think of the gay movement like a business - someone isn't do their job, you fire them. Demand the heads of those responsible, and demand they be replaced by someone of any race, any gender, who has the political and intellectual and moral skill to do the job in the African American community that nobody has been doing in this movement for decades. Someone proven. Someone who would be honorable enough to look at Prop 8, and at the Gallup poll results, and resign in disgrace.
Right now, this movement is all about electing Democrats, with this as the only result worth any real investment of time and money and effort. You see what that has gotten us. So let's make it about advancing the gay cause again, and let's leave absolutely nothing to window dressing or lip service anymore. Let's be bold and courageous, and demand leaders who get the job done.
December 07, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Left-leaning California’s horror about this newly revealed schism between two of its favorite sons is a situation that cries out for a villain, but the one that liberal white Hollywood has chosen for the role probably won’t make it all the way to the third act.
“It’s their churches,” somebody whispered to one of us not long after the election; “It’s their Christianity,” someone else hissed, rolling her eyes. Apparently the religion espoused by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is now the enemy, at least among the smart set, and if this sounds like a regional issue, it’s not.
But this intriguing little notion was news to me:
Many gay activists have begun quietly to suggest that had Hillary Clinton been the Democratic nominee, Prop 8 would not have passed.
I'd say that's a hard case to make stastically and smacks of never-ending bitterness that even Clinton herself seems to have admirably gotten over. Considering that black voters were only 6% of the total in California, it would have taken more than depressed turnout of their numbers to have brought down Prop 8, which passed by 4 percentage points. Remember that black voters alone were not responsible for the gay marriage ban's margin of victory.
That said, I can't help but chew on the question. Which would you prefer: President-elect Obama and Proposition 8 (e.g., what we have now), or Hillary as president-elect and Prop 8 voted down?
To read Kevin's repent (which I am as thrilled as you to see), I am guessing he'd pick Hillary/No 8, despite his antipathy for all things Clinton. I share many of those same sentiments -- multiplied by years of exposure due to my Arkansas roots -- and probably as a result I'm happier with what we got.
For one thing, the activism unleashed by the combination of Obama's empowering victory and anger over Prop 8 has the potential to transform a movement that has badly needed it for years. Maybe I'm too optimistic, but I would also expect Prop 8 to live a very short life, whether gutted next year by the California Supreme Court or rejected by voters in 2010 or 2012.
Of course, President Obama could still bitterly disappoint us the way the Clinton I administration did in the 1990s, but despite early worries I like our prospects -- and certainly more than under a Clinton II regime.
(Prop 8 illustration via New York Times)
December 06, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Yet more signs of serious cracks in the political alliance among racial/ethnic minorities and the cause of gay rights. Rhetoric among these traditional Democratic constituencies has been overheated ever since exit polls showed black Californians backed the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage, and blacks and Hispanics together overwhelmingly backed an even more draconian ban in Florida.
Now this report (discussed by Andoni here) that gay marriage may have also been the pawn in a struggle between black and Hispanic Democrats over wresting control of the New York state Senate, which has been in GOP hands for more than 40 years. With three Latino Democrats threatening to throw their support, and with it control of the Senate, over to the Republicans, Senate Democratic leader Malcolm Smith, who is black, cut a power-sharing deal.
Apparently even more important to Bronx Democrat Rubén Díaz Sr., another of the holdouts, was a guarantee from Smith "that there will be no vote in the Senate next year on legislation to legalize gay marriage, something which most Senate Democrats support but which Mr. Diaz strongly opposes."
Many gays were furious with the backroom deal, considering that New York Democrats had raised tens (perhaps hundreds) of thousands from gay donors by pointing out that with Democrats in control of the Senate, gay marriage legislation would no longer be held hostage. A marriage equality bill already has the backing of Gov. David Paterson and a majority in both the House and Senate, but it was kept bottled up by GOP Senate control.
“All civil rights movements have moments where they move forward, and moments of perceived setbacks,” said Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell of Manhattan. “If in fact our civil rights were bargained away, that’s deplorable. But in the end, I think justice and fairness will prevail.”
The stunned reaction from many gays is that the knives are out among groups considered friends within the Democratic and civil rights coalitions. It seems inconceivable that those who have suffered so greatly from discriminatory treatment could so easily slip into the shoes of the oppressor.
The reality, unfortunately, is that black and Hispanic Americans have never been as supportive of gay rights as their political leaders, as a Gallup poll this week once again confirmed: only 30% of blacks and 22% of Republicans support gay marriage, as compared with 57% of non-black Dems.
But before we wag our fingers at homophobia as the reason for that disparity, it's worth considering how the data suggest the real culprit is framing legal recognition of our relationships as a moral issue, rather than one of civil rights. The percentage support for gay marriage closely tracks views in the same groups -- including non-black Demcrats -- over whether our relationships are "morally acceptable": Only 31% of black Democrats said yes, roughly equal to the 30% of Republicans who agreed. As on marriage, moral approval of our relationships among non-black Democrats was double -- 61%.
Gay rights advocates aren't the only ones who have failed to convince African Americans that an issue they see as a moral question is in fact a civil rights issue. Look at support for abortion rights, from the same Gallup survey: only 37% of black Democrats and 25% of Republicans, as compared with 54% of non-black Democrats. Those percentages once again track the viewpoints among these groups about related moral questions, including whether to have a baby or even have sex outside of marriage.
If we accept for the sake of argument that blacks (and Republicans) are trailing in support for gay rights because they insist on letting their political view be governed by their moral and religious thinking, then the challenge is clear:
- Change their minds on whether gay relationships are immoral.
- Change their minds on whether their moral view is valid justification for their political position.
Either challenge is daunting, and the best course no doubt is to push on both fronts, as the movement as done so for decades. We are distracted from these very real challenges, however, when we revert to easy rhetoric about homophobia and hate. Unless we plan to shame these folks into voting against their conscience, we would be better served meeting them where they are on the issue, and addressing these two questions head-on.
(Photo of Rubén Díaz Sr. and his son, Assemblyman Rubén Díaz Jr., via the New York Times)
November 20, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Even the most rabid anti-gay conservatives rarely trot out the tired old chesnut about a looming "gay agenda." Anyone with access to the Internet can see that we can't even agree on who are enemies are, much less what it is we want from government.
Take this essay in the Advocate by young D.C. activist Lane Hudson, the former Human Rights Campaign staffer made famous by the anonymous website that outed Mark Foley's instant message shenanigans.
No one appreciates more than me Lane's initial observations about the failure of our movement "leadership" to raise expectations beyond what has already been promised and not delivered for more than a decade now:
The Human Rights Campaign Fund began in 1980 with the purpose of lobbying Congress for this very reason. Since then, no major piece of legislation has been passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president. On the contrary, we have seen a ban on gays in the military and the Defense of Marriage Act passed. Our only successful defensive maneuver was to prevent the passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Given our record, a change in strategy is warranted. The "stay the course" crowd's response to this is usually a "let's wait our turn" attitude. Our time at the back of the bus must end. Now.
Hudson's actually too young to remember firsthand the history he's reciting, but he's dead-on about the consensus outside the Beltway that hate crimes and ENDA are not nearly enough. His solution -- and one I've heard knocked around by some of my liberal friends in the gay media biz -- is back to basics:
Rather than ask for a version of ENDA that is vastly watered down from the version originally introduced by representatives Bella Abzug and Ed Koch 30 years ago, we will honor their leadership and ourselves by insisting that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. This will grant sweeping protections enjoyed by other minorities in America, in employment, credit, and housing, among other fields.
Put aside that 20 states already ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 7 of those (and D.C.) include gender identity protections as well. Put aside that earlier this year yet another federal court ruled that anti-trans discrimination is already illegal under Title VII (albeit a non-universal conclusion). Put aside the "third rail" nature of tinkering with the Civil Rights Act, and the further strain that will put on our already frayed relationship with many African Americans.
The fact is that the significance of such legislation would be largely symbolic. No one is marching in the street because we're refused rooms at hotels, service in restaurants and lunch counters or seats at the front of the bus. Has anyone ever seen a "queer-only" water fountain?
Many African Americans would justifiably find it downright offensive to suggest we are denied fair access to housing loans when they've witnessed how white gays gentrify their neighborhoods, flip their houses and leave behind sky-high property taxes.
The Civil Rights Act also brings with it disparate impact suits -- where employees can sue for discrimination based on percentage representation in the workforce and management. Given how personal and private many gays view their sexual orientation (and trans folk their gender identity), this presents enormous problems of its own.
And what about affirmative action goals for gays and gender-nonconformists -- is that really on anyone's agenda? It's a trainwreck only a mole for James Dobson would suggest!
Besides, look at the kinds of cases we see in states where such broad-based non-discrimination laws exist -- like today's eHarmony settlement in New Jersey, where our "victory" is a separate website to match-make for gays, as if any self-respecting homo should trust their love-connection to admitted homophobes.
No doubt real discrimination exists in housing and public accommodations, and in states where there's no existing legal remedy. For those cases, as they say, "there oughta be a law."
But why pick the speck out of the private sector's eye -- risking critical civil rights alliances -- when there is a giant log in our own government's? Our very own federal government won't let gays serve openly in the military and engages in blatant discrimination against same-sex couples in more than 1,200 ways.
What's more, the Obama-Biden transition team is already on board with a solution, whether it is full or half-repeal of DOMA or a full-fledged federal civil unions law. Measured almost any way -- number of people affected, political viability, scope of rights won, government vs private sector discrimination -- there is more important work to be done.
November 12, 2008
Posted by: Chris
It's been absolutely inspiring to watch the groundswell of daily -- sometimes hourly -- street protests throughout California since the passage of Proposition 8 last week. So much for the cynicism about Obama-mania on Election Night eclipsing the gay marriage defeats.
It's virtually impossible to know you're experiencing history in the making when you're right in the middle of it. But our present generation with their SMS texting and their Twittering (aka "tweeting") and their Facebooking are mad as hell over this, and it's lookin' to me like they're not going to take it anymore.
I sense the power could be shifting, from the suit-and-tie professional activists with their offices, their access, their press releases and their catered receptions, to the grassroots.
For the sake of the movement, I hope Rex is right. The focus-group dominated, hide-the-gays, Democrat-coopted approach taken by the Human Rights Campaign has been proven bankrupt once again. And it's clear from the HRC's radio silence about the Prop 8 protests that they have no idea what to do with gays who are energized enough to take to the streets.
Our so-called "leaders" at HRC and the Task Force aren't alone in their blank-face reaction to the week-long "Second Stonewall" protests in California, which will culminate in a National Day of Protest this Saturday. It's easy enough to see why the Beltway Boys are confounded by it all:
- The protests are grassroots, from the ground up, and the HRC (Activism 3.0) model is top-down, controlled by strategists wedded to focus group data.
- Because the anger and emotion is real, it's often misdirected, and D.C.-types can't associate themselves with protests that don't toe the line of political correctness.
- The focus of the protests is marriage and relationship recognition, which is not on "the gay agenda" that HRC et al have already acquiesced to: hate crimes in '09, ENDA in '10, and maybe -- just maybe -- federal D.P. benefits and repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell in '11-'12.
- Some of the protest anger is directed at HRC itself, and its top-down cohorts at Equality California, which ran a lackluster No on 8 campaign that refused to allow gay couples to be seen, much less make the case for their own equality.
To see just out of step the D.C. gay groups are with their supposed constituents, consider that the only real response so far to seven consecutive days of gay activism in the streets is to scold protesters about who they shouldn't be angry at.
Remarkably, the "Events" and "Take Action" links on HRC's website still list only the upcoming fund-raisers for the organization itself. It's unconscionable that a group that claims to be leading a movement is not at the very least leveraging its resources to get out the word for those who want to participate in the protests. Instead, HRC's only response to eight consecutive days of street protests has been to praise a memo from People For the American Way that calls activists to task for blaming minority voters.
In similar fashion, those on the crunchy Gay Left at the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force have been almost a caricature of themselves, ignoring the power of the protests to conclude what we really need is, you guessed it, to "get thee to an anti-racism training! Let’s learn how attending to our own internalized racism can bring new awareness to our work with colleagues of color." Yes, that's an actual quote. Could the Task Force be more calcified and paleo-liberal?
Those on the gay right, for their part, are warning the protesters not to blame the Mormon and Catholic Churches, despite their obvious leading role in funding the devious Yes on 8 campaign. Conservative gay law professor Dale Carpenter warned that it's bad politics -- and risks proving Yes on 8's claims about the threat to religious freedom -- to protest outside Mormon temples.
Carpenter's criticism is somewhat ironic, coming just weeks after he claimed he was quitting the gay rights movement. He's fundamentally wrong, in my view, to suggest that protesting the critical organizational role in Yes on 8 played by the church. In fact, he turns logic on its head to suggest the protests threaten religious freedom.
The First Amendment guarantees the Mormons' right to preach against gay marriage and refuse to perform them in their own churches. The real threat here is to the Establishment Clause, since the leadership of the Mormon, Catholic and conservative Jewish faiths have provided most of the muscle to enshrine into the California Constitution their own religious beliefs, at the expense of fundamental rights recognized by the state's highest court.
Carpenter argues that a better strategy for the protests would be to borrow a page from the black civil rights movement, and hold sit-ins in marriage license bureaus. Not only would such a strategy fail to make full use of the spectacular number of gays and allies energized to action, it's also misplaced. The government is not to blame here.
Clearly the judicial branch isn't to blame, having vindicated the marriage rights of gay and bisexual Californians. The California Legislature twice passed gay marriage laws, so their hands are clean. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both bills, but he opposed Prop 8 and since its passage has called on the state supreme court to once again declare gay marriage the law of the land.
No, the Mormon temples are as good a location to protest as any, in my book.
At some point, of course, these protests will die down and all these newly-minted activists will be looking for where to invest their energy. Neither HRC nor the Task Force has ever been about actual activism -- members are typically encouraged only to donate money and write emails and letters -- so it's my hope that the Join the Impact infrastructure will take on a life of its own.
Perhaps this new generation of gay activists can take the fight to Washington and demand the Democrats in control of Congress and the White House do more than the absolute minimum for GLBT Americans.
November 11, 2008
Posted by: Chris
As someone who rejects the view popularized by Dan Savage that somehow black Californians are the, or even a, primary culprit in the passage of Prop 8, I can only shake my head at how easily some black gay voices have taken the bait.
Over on the Rod 2.0 blog, a black UCLA student reported the "N bomb" was being thrown around by some of the white gay Prop 8 street protesters:
It was like being at a klan rally except the klansmen were wearing Abercrombie polos and Birkenstocks. "YOU NIGGER, one man shouted at men. If your people want to call me a FAGGOT, I will call you a nigger."
Talk about your sad commentary. It's hard to know where to start -- the ignorant white gay man who shouted obscenities, or the offended black gay man who responded by labeling the entire gathering as "a klan rally." Or, for that matter, the fact that only the reactive bigotry of the black gay student went unchallenged or even commented on by Rod himself or Pam Spaulding, who subsequently posted the same snippit on her blog. How depressing, then, that it took the National Review to point out the reverse racism.
Perhaps the most egregious passage in Cannick’s opinion is this: “There's nothing a white gay person can tell me when it comes to how I as a black lesbian should talk to my community about this issue. If and when I choose to, I know how to say what needs to be said.”
It would have been helpful for Cannick to share her all-knowing and powerfully influential ideas before Nov. 4. These are the words of someone suffering from extreme delusions of self-importance.
Cannick suggests the marriage movement is about white gays who are “racist and clueless.” Tell that to the multiple black gay and lesbian couples that have been plaintiffs in marriage lawsuits across the country.
The sad personal truth about Cannick is that she's long prided herself as some sort of "gatekeeper" whose ring must be kissed before access to her people is granted. I don't agree with Kevin that it makes her racist, but he's spot-on that she suffers from "extreme delusions of self-importance."
I found myself caught up in a similar debate on a gay rights list serve, when another black gay leader argued, as Cannick had, that marriage is somehow irrelevant to most African American gays, since marriage rates in general among U.S. black hover below 50 percent.
Huh? I'm not sure where he got his data but that certainly does not square with the U.S. Census. As of 2001, more than 60 percent of black men and women had married by their mid-30s, and almost 97 percent had married by the time they reached their 70s.
Considering life expectancies for both whites (78 years) and blacks (73 years) fall into that final column, it's safe to say that almost everyone marries at some point in their lives. Even factoring in declining marital rates, it's just not factual to argue that African Americans aspire to marry at dramatically different rates than white Americans do.
In fact, marriage rights and relationship recognition are arguably more important for African Americans than for other racial/ethnic groups. Many of the most critical rights that bundled in marriage and relationship recognition are the property protections that arise in divorce, and this chart shows, the higher divorce rate among black men and women.
But then again, what does a white gay guy like me know about the lives of black same-gender-loving Americans?
Posted by: Chris
Sarah Palin isn’t the only one facing flying fur after last week’s historic election results. While bitter McCain campaign aides accused their erstwhile veep of not knowing Africa is a continent, some bitter white gays were accusing African Americans of not knowing civil rights extend beyond race.
So much for Barack Obama’s election transcending racial politics in this country. Exit polls showed that increased turnout among black voters energized by his candidacy actually helped enact Proposition 8, the ballot measure that amended the California state constitution to take away same-sex marriage rights.
Most whites voted against the divisive measure, while black Californians supported Prop 8 at the polls by a margin of more than two to one. Those shocking numbers have prompted a white gay backlash, and sex advice-cum-political columnist Dan Savage was typical in his vitriol.
“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,” he wrote.
Not everyone was ready to pile on. Kathryn Kolbert, the partnered lesbian mother who is president of People For the American Way, warned against “lashing out at African Americans” as “deeply wrong and offensive — not to mention destructive to the goal of advancing equality.”
Kolbert argued that even factoring in higher turnout, black voters were too small a percentage of the California electorate to have made the difference on Prop 8.
She’s right about the electoral math. Black voters contributed only 3 percentage points to the “Yes on 8” vote, which passed by a margin of 4 points.
If anything, Savage ought to look a lot closer to home – like in the mirror, for example. It’s true that whites overall voted 51 to 49 percent against Prop 8, but white male voters backed the measure by a similar margin. Given their higher percentage of the electorate, it was good ole white guys – not African Americans – who actually provided Prop 8’s margin of victory.
Savage and others nonetheless vent that black voters ought to better appreciate the importance of civil rights issues, and the way marriage laws can be used to discriminate. Unfortunately, no one was making that case, at least according to Mario Solis-Marich, who wrote in Huffington Post that the “No on 8” campaign all but ignored black and Latino voters.
Would a more effective outreach to African-American voters have really made a difference? Not according to relentlessly self-promotional Jasmyne Cannick, who claimed in a venomous Los Angeles Times column that black gays view marriage equality as a white gay issue anyway.
“I am a perfect example of why the fight against Proposition 8 … failed to win black support,” wrote Cannick, who is herself a lesbian. “Why? Because I don't see why the right to marry should be a priority for me or other black people. Gay marriage? Please.”
Here was Cannick, happily projecting her own unsuccessful love life – about which she blogs frequently – on everyone else, never stopping to consider whether homophobia in the African-American community might be responsible for disinterest in same-sex marriage. Tying the knot doesn’t exactly fit the “down low,” “gay thug” lifestyle.
Conveniently, Cannick prefers the grievance/victimization route, claiming economic worries were more important to black voters. Well, duh. They were for white voters, too, in California and across the country. That’s why a black man is now the president-elect.
It’s divisive and simplistic for Cannick and others to present economic trauma and gay marriage as zero-sum options. Voters of every race could have voted their pocketbook in the presidential race without voting their bigotry further down the ballot.
The failure of so many whites and blacks within our “community” to see past their own race is discouraging proof of just how much remains to be said in our national “conversation” on race. We elected a black president, and still we can’t just all get along?
What’s worse, the cultural conservatism that seduced African Americans on Prop 8 was profoundly against their own interests, which is usually the way bigotry works. Because while Cannick may not see immediate marriage prospects, her black gay brothers and sisters do.
The statistics don’t lie: African Americans marry at the same rate as the rest of the population – more than 96 percent will tie the knot at some point in their lives. The extensive bundle of fundamental rights and responsibilities that come with marriage and divorce, at the federal and state level, often determine on which side of the poverty line many will live.
Marriage equality and relationship recognition aren’t simply the clearest example of our own government discriminating against us. In the real world, no single item on anyone’s “gay agenda” has a greater impact on real lives, of all races.
April 02, 2008
Posted by: Chris
The deposition given last month by Democratic Party chair Howard Dean shed some ugly light on longtime operative Donna Brazile, who headed up Al Gore's 2000 election and is a regular political analyst on CNN.
Dean admitted it was Brazile who objected most strenuously to a proposal put forward by gay Democrats to add GLBT delegates to affirmative action guidelines states follow when selecting those who attend the party's national convention:
Dean said some “influential individuals” within the DNC Black Caucus, such as Donna Brazile, opposed the plan because it was seen as “an affront to the civil rights movement.”
Brazile, who chairs the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute, declined to comment for this article.
Dean said the dispute grew to the point where “we had two very important groups of people in the DNC disagreeing with each other” and several DNC and caucus officials were asked to broker a deal that would make peace on the issue.
“I wanted equal representation for gay and lesbian Americans,” he said, “and I wanted to achieve it in a way that wasn’t offensive to the history of the civil rights movement.”
On the one hand, the DNC's infatuation with quotas -- even the committee itself adheres to rigid gender parity -- hardly needs encouraging with the addition of another category, whether or not GLBT folks are deserving. On the other hand, the dismissive slap-down from Brazile reeks of competing to see who's been more seriously oppressed, a pointless contest that only serves to divide groups that ought to be combining their efforts.
We've seen this before, of course. One particularly galling example was when the National Association of Black Journalists vetoed the inclusion of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association in an umbrella group of minority journalists called -- ironically enough -- UNITY. Groups representing Hispanic, Native American and Asian American journalists OK'd NLGJA's participation but NABJ balked, and even pressed UNITY to change its name to UNITY: Journalists of Color.
It's bad enough that Brazile would stoop to something similarly petty, especially claiming "offense" to the idea of greater gay inclusion. But perhaps it's more understandable when we remember that Brazile herself is a closet case.* That's right.
After she was named Gore's campaign manager in October 1999, I assigned a reporter at Southern Voice to look into why the press releases omitted all mention of her role on the steering committee of the Millennium March on Washington, the massive GLBT rights event that listed "coming out" as the No. 1 item on its agenda.
When Brazile and the campaign ignored repeated inquiries, our intrepid reporter showed up at an Atlanta fund-raiser, where she was again rebuffed. Undaunted, she walked up to the microphone and asked Brazile why she had so studiously avoided acknowledging her own sexual orientation when the MMOW platform celebrated the importance of being open about such things. Brazile said she was, you got it, "offended" by the question.
A week or so later, when the Washington Post asked her the same question, Brazile was ready with a much better quip in response: "If I had a personal life, I'd have time for a sexual orientation." Clever, but still closeted.
It's not much of a stretch to see why a closet case like Brazile would find little sympathy in the importance of sending as many openly gay delegates as possible to the Democratic National Convention. But shame on Howard Dean (again!) for allowing her messed up personal situation to create a black-gay wedge within the party.
* = In anticipation of the inevitably comments I'll get, calling Brazile a "closet case" doesn't mean she's a lesbian, anymore than calling Ken Mehlman the same thing is saying he's gay. A closet case is someone who is hiding their true sexual orientation, whether or not they put on a public front of being straight or gay. So a closet case could be a gay person pretending to be straight, or a person of unknown sexual orientation who refuses to answer the question. Brazile and Melhman are the latter.
March 24, 2008
Posted by: Chris
With all the well-deserved attention paid to "The Speech" by Barack Obama on race and politics last week in Philadelphia, most of us missed the introduction he received from Harris Wofford, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. I am very proud to call Harris a friend, even though he turned 80 exactly one year and one day after I turned 40.
I can only marvel at the amazing life he has led, from advising Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy on civil rights issues, to helping launch the Peace Corps. It is to Pennsylvania's credit that Harris was re-elected to the Senate in 1991 over Dick Thornburgh, the heavily favored former governor and U.S. attorney general. It's to the state's eternal shame that Wofford subsequently lost his seat in a razor-thin election to Rick Santorum, the arch-conservative, anti-gay Republican.
Harris' lifelong commitment to bridging the gap between the races made him the ideal choice to introduce Senator Obama in Philadelphia last week. His high praise reinforces the notion many have that this presidential campaign has truly unique potential:
Originals of this kind don’t come along often – maybe once every few generations. They come when they are most needed. When I heard Barack Obama speak at the Democratic Convention in 2004, I saw him as such an original. Since then I’ve read his two books and listened to his words that are reaching the soul of America. And in this campaign we’ve seen him putting those words into action.
We’ve waited a long time to meet a leader whom the country needs as badly as we needed John Kennedy in 1960 and Robert Kennedy in 1968. And today, I’m more convinced than ever that Barack Obama is that leader.
He closed his introduction with a story about King and Kennedy that merits retelling:
I’ll never forget one moment in the early weeks of President Kennedy’s thousand days. The President had to tell Dr. King that he was committed to the full civil rights agenda, but that he would have to delay proposing the far-reaching legislation that had been pledged in the 1960 Democratic Platform. He had decided that to go forward with legislation at that time would have been self-defeating -- triggering a Southern filibuster, exposing the weakness of the Democratic Party, and revealing the inability of the new President, with a razor thin majority, to control the Congress.
It was a difficult discussion. But it was Kennedy and King at their best; both calm and determined to reason together to find their way forward. Martin was disappointed. But he accepted the decision, and said he wasn’t going to attack the President for it.
On his way out of the White House, Martin turned to me and said, “I had hoped when I came here today that this would at last be a President who had the intelligence to understand this problem, the political skill to solve it, and the moral passion to see it through. I’m convinced now that he’s got the intelligence and the skill. We’ll have to see if he has the passion.”
Kennedy eventually proved that he had the passion, as did Robert Kennedy in his turn. Now, as we aim to complete the work that we began all those years ago, I’m convinced that if Martin Luther King were alive today, he’d say Barack has all three.
The introduction in its entirety is available in the jump to this post.
March 20, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Barack Obama and many other parishioners of the Trinity UCC in Chicago have said that Rev. Jeremiah Wright has been unfairly caricatured by the brief excerpts of sermons playing in endless loop on cable TV and YouTube.
It does seem that whatever ugly intolerance and divisiveness he spews on those videos, Wright has been more accepting of gay parishioners than many in the black church, especially those who preach "black liberation theology":
As a leader, Wright defied convention at every turn. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune last year, he recalled a time during the 1970s when the UCC decided to ordain gay and lesbian clergy. At its annual meeting, sensitive to the historic discomfort some blacks have with homosexuality, gay leaders reached out to black pastors.
At that session, Wright heard the testimony of a gay Christian and, he said, he had a conversion experience on gay rights. He started one of the first AIDS ministries on the South Side and a singles group for Trinity gays and lesbians—a subject that still rankles some of the more conservative Trinity members, says Dwight Hopkins, a theology professor at the University of Chicago and a church member.
None of that excuses Wright's hateful rhetoric in the pulpit, but it gives a fuller version of the man than we've been getting.
March 18, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Barack Obama's speech today in Philadelphia on the race-related controversy raised his pastor's remarks was, in the grand scheme of things, both brilliant and uplifting. He spoke about the racial anxieties of not just black Americans but whites and Latinos as well, and he recognized in a very rare way in politics that real grievances run in all directions.
Here's a video of the speech, in case you missed it:
In some ways the furor over the incendiary sermons by Rev. Jeremiah Wright played right to Obama's strengths -- a controversy he could address with a powerful speech, expertly delivered. Certainly anyone with an open mind who heard Obama speak so forcefully about his love for country and faith will accept that no part of Obama agrees with his pastor's outrageous statements.
For the immediate future, however, Obama did not do all that he could have to relieve legitimate doubts raised by the controversy. He has certainly used all the right words to condemn Reverend Wright's race-baiting and anti-Americanism in a way that will satisfy almost everyone. This primary season is already too consumed with Hillary's game of rejecting vs denouncing, etc., and it's downright ridiculous to see conservative pundits joining in now, since they generally abhor such silly semantics when practiced by the P.C. left.
Still, Obama would have dealt with his political problems more effectively if he responded to the utterances with specificity. He mentioned several in passing, including Wright's attempt to cast Israel as solely responsible for Middle East violence. But it would be reassuring, for example, to hear Obama directly refute Wright's exploitation of the urban myth that the U.S. government somehow infected African Americans with AIDS. That sort of ludicrous paranoia doesn't just sow distrust toward the government and white people, but is at a more fundamental level an attempt to deny the very existence of black gay and bisexual men. (President Ahmadinejad, anyone?)
But as a journalist I know that the key to settling a controversy is to give satisfactory answers to the lingering questions, the way Obama tried to with his three hours of meeting with Chicago journalists over the Mike Rezco matter. Yet on Wright, at least today, Obama may have succeeded in raising as many "nagging questions," as he called them, as he did settling others.
When it comes to specifics, Obama said:
Did I know [Reverend Wright] to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
It was a mistake to be so stingy with details, when the media will not let up until he is more forthcoming. What type of controversial statements did Obama here? On what topics? How frequently? Did he hear about other controversial statements from other parishioners? On what topics? How frequently? Did he ever raise with Wright directly his objections to any of these remarks? Did he and Michelle Obama consider leaving the congregation? You get the idea.
At the same time I recognize the political reality that Obama needs to answer these additional questions, I would also like to channel Hillary Clinton just long enough to complain that this whole line of questioning is being unfairly applied in practice.
As I've noted before, there is a real double standard in how the story has been covered. The second place candidate in the just-concluded Republican primaries was not just candidate with a pastor but a pastor himself -- former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. And yet Huckabee has refused help to release tapes or written copies of his own sermons. And what about Mitt Romney, whose Mormon faith is so poorly understood -- were we entitled to hear tapes of all the sermons from his church?
The videotapes of Wright's sermons made this an irresistible controversy, but the media should at the very least ask conservatives using Wright to tar Obama whether the sermons by Huckabee and by Romney's pastor are similarly fair game.
March 17, 2008
Posted by: Chris
There's been no shortage of opportunities to hear Barack Obama condemning the racially incendiary sermons of his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and explaining their relationship. A quick list:
- Blog post by Obama on Huffington Post: Uses strong condemnatory language and clarifying that Obama wasn't in the pews when any of Wright's "greatest hits" were uttered.
- Interview with Anderson Cooper: By far the best interview in the bunch; Cooper presses Obama on whether he at least heard secondhand about Wright's post-9/11 sermon blaming the attacks on the U.S. and saying rather than "God Bless America," blacks should say "God Damn America." Obama makes the interesting point that Wright, like Geraldine Ferraro, is the product of a different time, and still harbors anger and frustration from that era. Obama sees himself part of a new generation that while benefiting from the efforts of Wright's, nonetheless moving beyond seeing the world through "a racial lens." Funny -- I can't imagine Hillary Clinton drawing the same kind of contrast with Ferraro, positioning her presidential candidacy as moving beyond gender victimization.
- Interview with Major Garrett on Fox News: The first third is a sophomoric set-up by Garrett that Obama handles well. Eventually Garrett moves on to the crux, whether Obama would have quit the church if he had been aware of the sermons.
- Interview with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC: I've linked to and commented on this one earlier.
- Obama's remarks yesterday in Plainfield, Ind.: Obama makes a powerful analogy to a speech by Robert F. Kennedy the night Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, and the choice we have to allow hate to divide us even further or to tread a common path that embraces commonalities.
- Interview with the Chicago Tribune: Second half of the interview focuses on Wright.
- Obama campaign posts YouTube video on Wright:
Some will no doubt never be satisfied that Obama has sufficiently denounced Wright's rhetoric, but that part is settled for me. I also accept his unequivocal statement that he was not present when the sermons were given and had not heard about them secondhand.
If you have been a regular churchgoer or have spent time around regular churchgoers -- I have both -- then you know it's common to hear someone say, "I just love Rev. Smith. He's so kind and his sermons or so powerful -- except when he starts talking about [subject x] and then he just goes off the deep end."
The lingering trouble I have is based on how fundamentally Wright's rhetoric conflicts with the core message of Obama's campaign. Maybe words really don't matter, as Hillary keeps claiming, if Wright could simultaneously preach such hate while providing someone with Obama's beliefs a happy church home.
What's more, Obama's appeal for so may is based upon his ability to heal divisions and bring people together. But will Obama really be effective in reaching the rest when he couldn't even reach his own pastor and (from the video it appears) many members of his own church?
That said, there is a very real double standard in how the story has been covered. The second place candidate in the just-concluded Republican primaries was not just candidate with a pastor but a pastor himself -- former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. And yet Huckabee has refused help to release tapes or written copies of his own sermons.
And what about Mitt Romney, whose Mormon faith is so poorly understood -- are we entitled to hear tapes of all the sermons from his church?
This Wright story still has legs and deservedly so, but at this point I am cautiously optimistic that it will prove a "Sister Souljah moment" that establishes Obama's own principles in contrast to even some of his closest associates.
March 15, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Color me disappointed. The message of unity and "new politics" championed by Barack Obama is one that has resonated deeply for me, after years of watching in frustration while bitter partisanship and Rovian wedge politics undermined the common ground our system depends upon.
But it's hard to square Obama's message and rhetoric with the incredibly incendiary racism and anti-Americanism of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his pastor of 20 years. You've no doubt seen the videos of Wright exhorting his congregation to replace "God Bless America" with "God Damn America"; or when he rails in support of Obama over Hillary Clinton because he knows black America is held down by "rich white people" and she's never been called the "N-word."
In one sense, Wright is only the latest in what appears an unending stream of supporters of each of the three remaining presidential candidates with outrageous views that must be denounced, rejected, repudiated, whatever. It's a game Obama tried to avoid last fall but now is fully a part of. But Wright's relationship to the candidate is of a different order than John McCain's John Hagee, Clinton's Geraldine Ferraro or Obama's Louis Farrakhan and Donnie McClurkin.
The Trinity UCC pastor has played a much more central and formative role in Obama's personal development, even providing the inspiration for the candidate's signature "audacity of hope." Only it's hate, not hope, that Wright is preaching in the videos making the rounds in the media, the internet and (of course) the right-wing talk shows.
I've waited to hear how Obama would respond to the specific sermons that have come to light, and late yesterday he took some important steps in a blog post on HuffPo and an interview with Keith Olbermann to put Wright's outrageousness in context.
First and foremost, Obama forcefully and unconditionally condemned Wright's rhetoric, which couldn't have been easy on a personal level:
I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.
He also confirmed that he hadn't been at the church when those sermons were delivered and insisted they weren't characteristic of the pulpit message he absorbed for 20 years:
The sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn. The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation.
That's the crux of the matter for me. If in 30 years of preaching Rev. Wright got (very) carried away a few times that have been cherry-picked by the media or oppo research, that's one thing. But if Obama sat through versions of that hateful message on more than very rare occasions over two decades, then it risks undermining the credibility that lies at the heart of his unique appeal.
Late yesterday, Wright dropped off the Obama campaign's African American Religious Leadership Committe, certainly the right decision for all concerned. But it will take more reporting about their relationship and more openness from Obama to sort through the contours of this story. Whatever effect it might have on his candidacy, short or long term, this isn't a two-day story to be swept under the rug. And better to air it now than in October.
March 13, 2008
Posted by: Chris
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann weighs in on the Geraldine Ferraro-flap, comparing the former V.P. nominee to Klansman turned Republican David Duke, among other things:
As with most Olbermann rants, there are some solid points buried amidst the overwrought prose, but can he spare us all the drama? Does he really take himself so seriously?
March 12, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Barack Obama's remarks today in response to Geraldine Ferraro "threaded a careful needle," as Ben Smith put it, and got it exactly right as far as I'm concerned.
I don’t think that Geraldine Ferraro’s comments have any place in our politics or the Democratic Party. I think that anybody who understands the history of this country knows they are patently absurd. I would expect that the same way those comments don’t have a place in my campaign, they shouldn’t have a place in Sen. Clinton’s.
Ferraro's upside-down logic is as ridiculous as Gloria Steinem's similar delusion, when the feminist icon claimed Hillary Clinton's gender was a greater obstacle to her candidacy than Barack Obama's race was to his. Keep in mind that there've been only five black U.S. senators or governors since Reconstruction. By contrast, there have been 35 female U.S. senators and 29 female governors.
And even though Ferraro has complained repeatedly, including tonight on the "NBC Nightly News" that the Obama campaign has called her a racist, Obama expressly refused to go there at a press conference:
He said Ferraro's remarks had been "ridiculous" and "divisive," but he also described his own wariness about allegations. … "I don't like to throw out words like 'racist,'" Obama said. "I would defy anybody to look though the rhetoric for the last year-and-a-half or the last year and a couple months to find one instance in which I have said some criticism of me was racially based."
Of course Ferraro is not a racist, but she is playing that favorite game of identity politics -- my demographic burden is heavier than yours -- and her claim happens to be patently ridiculous when applied to a black man named Barack Obama running for president.
The only explanation of Ferraro's comments that I've heard that rings truer for me came from Chris Matthews, who argued on MSNBC's "Hardball" that she really meant that the central thread of Obama's appeal is that he can, as a black politician, transcend racial politics in a way that a white politician could not.
Also on that program, Pat Buchanan (of all people) noted that a lot of white voters feel a greater excitement voting for Obama because they feel like they're doing some constructive to put the nation's bitter racial history behind us.
Those are both valid observations about how Obama's race has played an important role in his overall appeal to "a new politics" of unity rather than division. They're also very different than what Ferraro said, even before she started playing racial victim herself as she dug her hole deeper and deeper.
Posted by: Chris
Aside from the obvious race-baiting in Geraldine Ferraro's pronouncements about the reason for the success of Barack Obama, she's also just plain wrong. Originally, Ferraro said that the reason for Obama's success is that he's black. She's quick to add, as in this Fox News clip, that she has long said that the reason for her nomination as vice president in 1984 was that she is a woman.
"In 1984, if my name were Gerard Ferraro instead of Geraldine Ferraro," she said, "I would never have been the nominee for vice president."
Maybe so, considering she got the nomination based on one vote (Walter Mondale's), but what does that have to do with Obama? If all it took was being black, then Jesse Jackson would have been the Democratic Party nominee in 1984, not Mondale (and again in 1988 rather than Michael Dukakis).
Then there's this absolute gem from Politico's Ben Smith: Who said this in April 1988: "If Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race." That's right; Geraldine Ferraro. So being black was the primary reason Jackson was able to run and yet somehow for Obama it explains not only why he's running but beating a candidate with enormous built-in establishment advantages? The identity politics explanation for everything.
The real reason that Obama has succeeded is that his candidacy is about much more than his race or, as the Clintons like to claim, a speech he gave in 2002. It's about a "new politics" that eschews the fear-mongering and sleaze of the past by appealing to the best in people rather than their worst. It's also about a candidate whose positions on the issues jive with voters and who has run a far more effective campaign than the ultimate pros, the Clintons.
The second reason Ferraro is wrong is about Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama. Because Hillary Clinton's gender has far more to do with her candidacy than Obama's race has to do with his. I don't say that because I think Hillary's success is because women and male feminists are enamored of the idea of a woman president -- which would be the sexist equivalent of Ferraro's jaw-dropper. I say it for the simple reason that being the wife of the president eclipses by a mile all other reasons for her political starpower, subsequent Senate career and White House run.
Ferraro's has things bassackwards, just as Gloria Steinem did before her.
(May 2005 photo of Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
February 28, 2008
Posted by: Chris
In the Cleveland debate earlier this week, Tim Russert pressed Barack Obama on whether he would reject the endorsement he recently received from Louis Farrakhan, who is of course famous for his anti-Semitic fulminations.
Obama tried simply denouncing the Nation of Islam founder for his anti-Semitism, but that didn't satisfy either Russert or Hillary Clinton. For her part, Clinton related how she actively "rejected" support from a New York political party controlled by anti-Semites and demanded Obama do the same. Obama ultimately caved to the impossible politics of the moment:
I have to say I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting. There's no formal offer of help from Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it. But if the word "reject" Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word "denounce," then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce.
"Good. Good. Excellent," nodded Clinton.
Of course there is a difference between denouncing a view espoused by a supporter and rejecting all support from that source. Remember this is the same Barack Obama who refused to reject the support of Donnie McClurkin, a black gospel singer who claims to have been "cured" of his homosexuality? Back then, Obama saw the practical impossibility of combing the views of his supporters for those he finds objectionable:
One of the things that always comes up in presidential campaigns is, if you’ve got multiple supporters all over the place, should the candidate then be held responsible for the every single view of every one of his supporters? And obviously that’s not possible. And if I start playing that game, then it will be very difficult for me to do what I think I can do best, which is bring the country together.
That struck me as exactly right. Once a candidate starts "playing that game," then there's a slippery slope about which views among which supporters are so beyond the pale that denouncing the views isn't enough, and the supporter has to be "rejected."
But now Barack Obama is "playing that game," goaded or not, and the slippery slope between Farrakhan and McClurkin begs for some sort of explanation.
The same questions could be asked of Hillary Clinton, of course, who pushed Obama into not just "denouncing" but "rejecting" Farrakhan. Why, then, did Clinton accept the endorsements of African-American ministers like Bishop Eddie Long and Rev. Ralph Mayberry, who like McClurkin preach that homosexuality can be "cured"? And yet unlike Obama, Hillary has never "denounced" their anti-gay rhetoric or "rejected" their support.
Just last week, Hillary gave an interview to CBN News, the "news department" of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, even though Robertson has a long history of being virulently anti-gay, even blaming gay Americans for hurricanes in central Florida and the 9/11 attack. Does anyone doubt how the Clinton camp would have reacted if Obama had sat down for a chat with Farrakhan's Final Call newspaper?
Then today, when Clinton learned that prominent Dallas Hispanic supporter Adelfa Callejo had said some very intemperate things about why Hispanics won't support black politicians like Obama, Clinton's initial response sounded very much like Obama talking about McClurkin:
You know this is a free country. People get to express their opinions. … You can’t take any of that as anything other than an individual opinion.
Later, after confirming Callejo's remarks, the Clinton campaign issued a statement saying, "After confirming that they were accurately portrayed, Senator Clinton, of course, denounces and rejects them." Notice that, like Obama on Farrakhan before Hillary pushed him, Clinton has denounced and rejected the views she finds repugnant, not the endorsement or support from Callejo.
John McCain has his own denouncing and rejecting to do, according to Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo. The presumptive GOP nominee appeared on stage yesterday with Christian Zionist Pastor John Hagee, who Kleefeld said "considers the Catholic Church to be the Anti-Christ, and has said that Jews brought their own persecution upon themselves."
And last year, McCain famously gave the commencement address at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, the same Falwell who joined Robertson in blaming 9/11 on gays. Liberty also treats students in gay relationships the way Bob Jones University treats interracial couples, expelling all involved. And unlike Obama (with McClurkin and Farrakhan) or Clinton (with Callejo), McCain hasn't done anything to distance himself from Hagee, Falwell or Liberty.
My point here is that this particular "political game" will ultimately sting anyone running a nationwide campaign, and Obama was right the first time that politics really ought to be about addition, not subtraction. It's ultimately pointless to pressure presidential candidates into "rejecting the support" of even their most extremist supporters. So long as the candidate denounces the offensive views, in clear and uncertain terms, then ultimately it's up to the supporter to decide whether to stick with the candidate.
Personally, I am tickled pink that unreconstructed types like Donnie McClurkin or Eddie Long are supporting presidential candidates like Obama and Clinton who are committed to a wide array of gay civil rights protections. I hope they do all they can to get them elected!
So long as the candidate doesn't waver from denouncing their bigotry, that ought to be enough.
Posted by: Chris
Politico's Ben Smith just posted about an energetic Barack Obama rally in Beaumont, Texas, that was largely attended by boisterous African Americans:
An interesting moment came when he was asked a question about LGBT rights and delivered an answer that seemed to suit the questioner, listing the various attributes — race, gender, etc. — that shouldn't trigger discrimination, to successive cheers. When he came to saying that gays and lesbians deserve equality, though, the crowd fell silent.
So he took a different tack:
"Now I’m a Christian, and I praise Jesus every Sunday," he said, to a sudden wave of noisy applause and cheers.
"I hear people saying things that I don’t think are very Christian with respect to people who are gay and lesbian," he said, and the crowd seemed to come along with him this time.
I won't just remark that Hillary Clinton would never attempt something so forceful before a largely black audience because the comparison's not entirely fair since she's white. But how about a largely white, working class audience, or if the issue had come up in her recent interview with the "news department" of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network?
(Photo of Barack Obama in Beaumont via Southeast Texas Record)
February 15, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
The headline in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this afternoon read: "Rep. Lewis: Report of delegate switch to Obama 'not accurate'"
So what's going on here? Based simply on politics and not inside information, I'd point out that "not accurate" does not mean something is "not true." It means only that something in the story is not correct or the story is not 100% correct. For instance, if someone said that I robbed a bank with a gun and got away with $10,000 driving off in a black Pontiac, this story could be labeled "not accurate" if I had robbed a bank with a gun getting away with $8,000 driving off in a black Pontiac.
Politicians use this all the time to wiggle. I'm not pleased to see one of my heroes John Lewis resort to this type of wiggle talk, but here's what I think happened:
- It's possible that Congressman Lewis was in the process of switching to Senator Obama from Senator Clinton and word got out before he had a chance to tell the Clintons. Opps, not good. This would be embarrassing and result in the back peddling we see today. However, it would be odd (if possible) for something like this to happen to a politician with Lewis' experience. Things leak and the New York Times is a good paper with lots of sources, and they could have gone to Lewis with the evidence of his imminent switch already in hand.
- It's possible Lewis did make this decision to switch, but hadn't let the Obama people know. Once the Obama people heard about it
and the possible stampede of many other black congressmen, they got
worried. They certainly want superdelegates, but the publicity
surrounding black Congressmen, if not the entire Congressional
Black Caucus, coming on board en masse would raise the race thing again,
just as it had been put to bed. So it's possible the Obama people put
the brakes on this at this time.
They don't want white voters retreating back to Clinton. Internally, it would be beneficial for the Obama people know that they were picking up these superdelegate votes, but I'm sure they would want to control the timing and the numbers. If they had their druthers, they would rather that several white superdelegates, preferably women, switch now.
Save the Congressional Black Caucus for later in the game, as long as they know that these people are now on their side while they are in holding pattern to announce.
I don't know what actually happened, but the fact that Lewis' press release today did not call the Times article "false" or "totally inaccurate" to me means one of the above possibilities is likely.
Anyone else have a thought on this?
January 24, 2008
Posted by: Chris
More and more dirt is emerging from the suit by Donald Hitchcock challenging his ouster doing LGBT outreach for the Democratic National Committee, and with it more light is being shed on the way Howard Dean's unlikely obsession with evangelical voters has come at the expense of gay interests within the party.
The particulars of the latest revelation are in a report posted today by the Washington Blade and involve more nasty skirmishes among party insiders over how issues of race vs. sexual orientation were handled, both in the selection of party convention delegates and in a controversial Alabama state legislative race.
In the thick of things in both battles was Dean's chief of staff, Leah Daughtry (pictured), a Pentecostal pastor who grew up speaking in tongues -- and now employs her own forked tongues while wedging black Democrats against gay Democrats at every available opportunity. Daughtry's machinations apparently reached such a point that an unnamed Stonewall Democrat said angrily in an email to Hitchcock's successor, Brian Bond:
Imagine what Dean could do if people like Leah were confronted for their bigotry and fired. … I think Samuel L. Jackson said it best when he said "I'm sick of these mother fuckin' snakes on this mother fuckin' plane." It may be time to drive the snakes from the DNC.
It's no wonder, then, that Howard Dean went on "The 700 Club" and erroneously asserted that the Democratic Party platform opposes gay marriage. Daughtry no doubt planted the pipe dream in Dean's head that he could be the evangelical pied piper for the party and pretending official opposition to gay marriage was just a convenient, if inaccurate, way of finding common ground.
More DNC revelations are sure to follow…
January 16, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had apparently called a truce by the time of their Las Vegas debate last night in their sometimes bitter debate on race. Someone apparently forgot to tell Bill. Or maybe he forgot to tell himself.
Either way, in a speech the same day in Sparks, the former president turned attack dog managed to play the race card and the gender card and lie, all at the same time:
"Hillary has an enormous amount of African American support and Barack Obama has a lot of white people for him," he said in Sparks.
"There's still some African Americans who support Barack, even though they like Hillary, because they think he is the first African American to have a chance to be president," Clinton said. "And there's a lot of women who are voting for Hillary, even though they like Sen. Obama, because they think it would be better if a woman broke the glass ceiling."
So blacks and women like Hillary, and most of both groups support her; while no one likes Obama, but a minority of blacks support him because of his race.
And it's not even true. The latest Gallop poll shows Obama backed by 57 percent of African Americans nationwide, an advantage of 25 percentage points over Hillary.
Keep up the shuck and jive, Bill.
January 14, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Are [the Clintons] really today's version of LBJ? In fact, unlike most others in this race, we have some direct evidence of how the Clintons, given the power of the White House, responded to the civil rights movement of their own time.
In the 1990s, we saw a burst of grass-roots activism, protest and rhetoric in defense of gay and lesbian equality. Out of the ashes of the AIDS epidemic, the gay rights movement rose like a phoenix. And the Clintons, seeing a fund-raising opportunity, reached out to some in the movement to finance their own campaign. Those donors trusted them. I wrote the TNR endorsement. But as soon as the gays had performed their role - financing the Clintons in power and supporting their campaign - the Clintons turned on us.
They dropped their promise to end the military's ban instantaneously and then presided over a doubling of the discharges of gay service members under the hideous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. They then used the other emerging civil rights issue - marriage equality - to triangulate against gay couples. They ran ads on Christian radio stations bragging about the Defense of Marriage Act that president Clinton eagerly signed.
And the only gay people they embraced were those willing to continue to trade money for access - and loyalty to the Clintons. Who helped them devise this anti-gay strategy? Dick Morris. Who recommended hiring him in the first place? Hillary Clinton.
Johnson risked his entire coalition on the issue of civil rights - a heroic act that still reverberates today. The Clintons wouldn't risk a smidgen of a percentage point in a Mark Penn poll for the duration of a news cycle. That's the difference.
January 05, 2008
Posted by: Chris
…Barack Obama is well-spoken for a black man.
No word yet on whether Mitt thinks Barack is "bright and clean" as well.
November 02, 2007
Posted by: Chris
One week after the gay blogosphere went ballistic over Barack Obama's ties to an "ex-gay" gospel minister, the Washington Blade has an interesting story about two prominent anti-gay black ministers who Hillary Clinton has embraced as supporters.
[Clinton supporters] said they’re generally unconcerned that anti-gay ministers Bishop Eddie Long and Rev. Harold Mayberry are supporting the campaign.
Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta once marched against gay marriage and hosts an “ex-gay” ministry. Mayberry has preached against homosexuality to his First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Oakland, Calif.
In interviews this week, Wilson and others said they were not concerned that Clinton had accepted a $1,000 donation from Long or that she recently thanked Mayberry for “fighting for civil rights and equality,” because she has not allowed either minister to speak for the campaign.
The Clinton backers tried to draw a distinction between Clinton accepting support from Long and Mayberry and Obama "handing a microphone" to "ex-gay" singer Donnie McClurkin. Actually it was the Obama campaign that picked McClurkin and the candidate chose not to disinvite him, but whatever.
Unlike McClurkin, who is a gospel singer, Bishop Long is an anti-gay leader active in anti-gay poltics, gathering thousands to march in support of Georgia's anti-marriage amendment. Likewise, Mayberry said of gays,
"I'm comfortable in what I believe in. I'm not rejecting people. As God
loves, we love. I don't reject thieves, I reject thievery."
Another blogger, MyDD, has highlighted Clinton's ties to yet another anti-gay black minister, who has a $10,000 "consulting contract" with the Clinton campaign and spoke out in favor of the state's anti-marriage amendment.
There is an even more important distinction. Obama issued a forceful statement and gave a half-dozen interviews drawing sharp disagreements with McClurkin on gay issues. Clinton, on the other hand, has made absolutely no effort to distance herself or "speak our truth" to these anti-gay leaders.
A Clinton spokesperson told the Blade the candidate “has been very clear” she supports gay rights, which is entirely different than making clear the views of Long and Mayberry on gay issues are not the same as her own.
“But in campaigns, you can never expect all your supporters to agree with you 100 percent of the time,” said Jin Chon. “Hillary Clinton is a leader who will bring together people with differing opinions and have an honest and open dialogue to find common ground.”
Where is that "honest and open dialogue"? We saw it with Obama, in a joint letter issued by anti-gay black religious leaders and gay activists. There is no hint of it from the well-oiled Clinton campaign machine.
Brad Luna, a Human Rights Campaign spokesperson, said the organization had no plans to issue a statement regarding Clinton’s ties to Long and Mayberry.
He said the Obama campaign’s decision to let an “anti-gay reverend” headline a campaign event was “a unique situation,” but that HRC’s advice to Obama stands for Clinton, fellow candidate Sen. John Edwards and others.
“If it’s Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama or Sen. Edwards or whoever,” he said, “we would encourage them to seek out places to have discussions among their campaign supporters and try to bridge the gap between religious leaders who might not be as good on these issues as we’d like and their GLBT supporters.”
What crap. Can anyone imagine either Clinton or John Edwards having those kinds of discussions among campaign supporters? Meanwhile the only candidate who has, Obama, got its hand slapped by HRC, which as usual is doing the bidding of its pre-selected candidate.
One of the most appealing things about Obama's candidacy is how he doesn't always tell a given audience exactly what it wants to hear. And given his ability to unite and not polarize (the way Clinton does, fairly or unfairly) his candidacy holds a much greater promise for the kind of honest and open dialogue we give so much lip service.
October 03, 2007
Posted by: Chris
I promised in an earlier post to publish a more thoughtful response I received to my Jena 6 posts, considering all the noise with so little light that we've seen on the subject. The response comes from Darryl! L.C. Moch, who despite the unusual first name (that exclamation point is no typo) is a longtime black gay activist from Atlanta (and now Washington) whose views I definitely respect.
I've posted all of his email, which he's given me permission to publish, in the jump to this post. But I'll respond to the gist of each point.
- First you trivialize the need for the "gay" community to be actively involved with the issues at heart with the black community. It is more than back scratching it is about building a stronger more diverse movement.
Guilty as charged. The post wasn't intended to be my overall view on the Jena 6, and a number of folks who took me to task for not telling "the whole story" or short-handing too much treated it as if it were. I thought (naively) that by saying I understood and agreed with the broader issues being raised by the Jena 6 that I could focus on the narrow issue of whether a gay rights group should get involved.
I do think the gay community should support issues important to the black community when they align with the issues we are fighting for in our movement. I don't believe so much, however, in support that's merely the result of scratch-your-back politics or white guilt. It's important for black gays not to pander or guilt white gays into supporting them. If you respect us, then you should make your case and hear what we have to say in response. Real dialogue goes in two directions.
- The LGBT community has a lot of work to do in really seeking to understand the magnitude of pain (historically from generation to generation) that Black and other communities of color feel in response to systemic and institutional racism and discrimination.
I know this wasn't intended to be patronizing, but that's how it is received. I have done a great deal of "work" in my life to educate myself about racial discrimination. Far, far, far more than the average black heterosexual has done to understand my own victimhood. Do you honestly believe that the average white person is going to go running to the encyclopedia in response to an exhortation like that? There is racism among whites and blacks both in the gay community, and I confront it everywhere I see it, including in myself. For the most part, however, there is far less racism among gays than among straights.
One thing I'm pleased to see is that many African Americans seem ready to move past this history, now that the laws in the U.S. have been equalized for a generation and so much has been done to eradicate racism. They realize there are lingering issues, including those raised in the Jena 6 case. But they also recognize that victimhood is a big ole trap that sucks out energy that could be spent making a new future. That's why Barack Obama is so popular and such a breath of fresh air. He speaks in a positive way about the future without wagging the figure about white guilt for the past.
And just since we're being real here, it is a bit tiresome to hear young black folk who were born long after Jim Crow was dismantled complaining about slavery and generations of discrimination. I heard the same thing in law school, from black fellow students who came from far greater economic privilege than me and still benefited from affirmative action (in college, law school, and hiring and promotion afterward).
- We all want to see justice done and served for everyone of them; but we want that justice to be dispensed fairly and appropriately. How often in this country do you hear people being charged with attempted murder during a high school fight?
I have heard that but it's always said in passing. And when it's said in a way that dismisses the Jena 6 beating as "a high school fight," then I frankly don't believe it. How often does "a high school fight" involve six guys blindsiding, beating and kicking the other unconscious and sending him to the hospital? That never happened in my high school!
What happened in Jena was also not a "fight," and here's where I'd like Darryl! and others to really listen. This is the heart of what set me off. It's not "a fight" when six guys surprise and beat up one. It's an attack, and in Jena, it was a very violent attack. Not attempted murder, I agree, but then that charge was dropped. But not "boys will be boys" scuffle either. To say so doesn't just diminish what happened in Jena, it is a slap in the face to gay teens and adults who've experienced similar cowardly beatings by jock-types. Including me. Understand now?
- I also want to say that I think Donna Payne was where she needed to be doing what we both expected and needed her to do. Stand for us and represent us. I think again you threw her name into your article and glossed over her purpose and representation. Do you or have you gotten to know her perspective on this issue?
Donna wrote her op-ed piece on Advocate.com and said what she said mischaracterizing what happened at Jena. I didn't attack her personally; I responded to what she said. In response to the email from Darryl!, I asked Donna to share her views. Like others at HRC, she chose not to even reply.
(The complete email from Darryl! is available at the jump.)
July 03, 2007
Posted by: Chris
For someone who claims to be censored, Isaiah Washington sure does talk a lot. By my count he's given a half-dozen well-publicized interviews since being canned from "Grey's Anatomy," but there he was again last night on "Larry King Live," saying no one had heard his side of the story on the "F-word" flare-up that cost him his job.
Washington has been a moving target all along, taking responsibility without actually taking responsibility — apologizing to castmate T.R. Knight, who came out as a result of the October incident, even while repeatedly denying he used the word in reference to Knight in the first place.
Of course not much light was shed by Larry King, who in his inimitable kid-glove style walked Washington through his October clash with castmate Patrick Dempsey.
Readers' digest: Washington claims Knight had complained to him during a long plane flight about abusive treatment by Dempsey, and Washington encouraged Knight to raise the issue with "Grey's" producers. In October, after several unrelated incidents in which Dempsey was late on set, the two actors got into a heated exchange.
KING: So why does that lead to this word?
WASHINGTON: [Dempsey] got un -- became unhinged, face-to-face, spittle to spittle, in my face -- first. I did not start it. And I'm asking him why is he screaming at me, why are we doing this? Get out of my face. Several times. Several times. And he just becomes irate. But I'm not understanding why am I being berated to this point in front of our crew, particularly after what we experienced in Seattle [when Dempsey was several hours late]. You know, I mean, I think you owe me on apology and I'm being berated.
And by that time I pushed him out of my face and it just took off from there and I began to say a lot of -- a lot of things that I'm not really proud of -- but all referring to myself and how I felt I was being treated.
KING: But how did the bad word come out of that?
WASHINGTON: Well, I said several bad words, as well as he did.
KING: To him?
WASHINGTON: To him about how I was feeling. I said there's no way you're going to treat me like a "B" word or a "P" word or the "F" word. You can't treat me this way in front of our crew.
KING: So you weren't referring to him as being an F person?
WASHINGTON: Never. Never.
KING: Or anybody else being one?
WASHINGTON: Never, Larry. Never, never, never, never.
King (of course) accepted the explanation at face value, but later in the show, in retelling the story, Washington's account changed significantly, in a way that explains the connection with the in-flight conversation Washington previously had with Knight, and in a way that explains why pretty much everyone but Washington took his "F-word" reference as a shot at Knight.
WASHINGTON: I said, "I don't -- I don't want to bring anymore attention to this than I already have. I don't want to throw anybody under the bus, but I've got to clear my name. I -- this is misinterpreted. I did not say" -- I said yes, you're not going to "B" me, "P" me, "F" me, because I'm not T.R. I never said you are T.R.
Going back to me thinking that I could be the big brother, to defend my family and T.R. which is not my place to do, against so- called bullying.
So Knight had complained to Washington about Dempsey's abusive behavior, and when Dempsey became abusive toward Washington, he wanted to be clear with Dempsey that he was no faggot, like T.R.
Even accepting Washington's account, he was referring to himself but by way of contrast with Knight. "You can treat T.R. like a bitch or a faggot. But you won't get away with it with me." "I'm a man," in other words, "unlike that faggot Knight." With defenders like Washington, who needs bullies?
Can anyone imagine Washington accepting a similarly half-baked explanation if the roles were reversed? What if Dempsey had an on-set blow-up with a castmate and said, "I'm not your [N-word]. I'm not Isaiah." Would Washington have agreed the "N-word" wasn't used in reference to him? Methinks not.
I do agree with Washington that the situation was blown completely out of proportion, though Washington contributed more than his share by repeating the "F-word" at the Golden Globes, ruining the celebratory mood after the cast won several trophies. And his failure — to this day — to accept responsibility for the fact he did use the word in reference to Knight, only made matters worse.
Even still, I don't believe Washington should have been canned from the cast. And as a big fan of the show since its first episode, I'll miss Dr. Preston Burke and his quirky relationship with Cristina Yang (played by Sandra Oh).
But I am happy to see the "F-word" move closer and closer to the off-limits territory occupied by the "N-word," where it's no longer acceptable to use in any context, no matter how innocuous. A few semi-guilty folks like Washington may get overblown treatment, but it's a small price to pay for the societal good that will result -- in playgrounds and workplaces and TV sets everywhere.