I recall all too well the conflicting feelings I had on election night 2008 — Barack Obama was elected as the first black President of the United States, and enough California voters cast ballots to pass Proposition 8, intended to “protect” marriage from gays. The despair turned into rage by some in the LGBT community, a segment that blamed black voters in particular for its passage (conventional wisdom was debunked as not true – Report on Prop 8: conventional wisdom on its passage based on myth).
But until that post-mortem set of facts hit the streets (and even afterwards, unfortunately), vitriol was hurled at blacks that evening, and I recall on the Blend being on the receiving end of angry commenters — as if I had burned my “gay card” as my blackness, which clearly was not invisible to them before, was now a threat. It was instructive, let me tell you.
Fast forward to Amendment One and North Carolina in 2011. It was time to for the media and pundits to stoke the black = homophobic meme, and again without facts. The NC NAACP came out against Amendment One, and hundreds of black clergy were highly visible and vocal before that vote; a rainbow of allies of color took a public stand against bigotry. Even with that factual pre-election information, tt took a fantastic post-mortem by NC journalist Barry Yeoman “Town and Country,” to outlined how the issue regarding A1′s passage had little to do with race in the state — it was a urban/rural divide. In each of North Carolina’s five largest cities, voters in majority-black precincts rejected Amendment One.
It should be noted that these new, broad coalitions have continued to hold today as Moral Monday protests, led by Rev. Dr. William Barber, who spoke out strongly against Amendment One, here challenge the unchecked Teahadist agenda of the first Republican-held legislature since Reconstruction (and we’ve got a Republican governor). (Charlotte Observer):
The Rev. William Barber, the head of the state NAACP, which has organized the weekly events, described the crowd as a diverse representation of the state. He railed against the contentions that several thousand people gathered on the Halifax Mall lawn outside the Legislative Building were outsiders.
“We are outside the influence of [Art] Pope,” Barber said describing McCrory’s budget director and influential political contributor whose organizations spent $2.2 million in 2010 on 22 state legislative races –18 of which his supported candidate won. “We are outside the influence of the Koch brothers. We are outside the influence of the Tea Party.”
The demonstrators were hoping instead to wield influence in North Carolina and change the tide of policies and votes rolling out of the GOP-led legislature and executive office of the governor.
Eighty-four demonstrators were arrested by the N.C. General Assembly police on Monday, bringing the total of arrests at the Legislative Building since April 29 to at more than 480.
Also see: Chris Kromm and Sue Sturgis, “North Carolina’s Tug-of-War: What happens when a state becomes more progressive and more conservative at the same time?” The conflicting politics and passions are roiling the state.
The impact of upcoming SCOTUS rulings
Now fast forward a bit more — with SCOTUS rulings coming up that could 1) undermine affirmative action, and 2) overturn Prop 8, we will yet again face the possibility of communities that will be elated/in mourning, with those at the intersection of these paths left conflicting feelings. How will the media and respective affected communities deal with this? There’s a great piece by black gay legislative/political activist Charles Stewart at FrontiersLA that mulls the possibilities, given time and coalition-building since Prop 8 passed.
‘It now looks like SCOTUS may begin to repeal or limit affirmative action, harming people of color, women and other minorities. It also looks like the high court may make it easier for lesbians and gays to validate committed relationships through marriage. If both happen, there will be celebration among LGBTs as there was among African-Americans when Obama was first elected, and there will be dejection among African-Americans just as there was among LGBTs when Prop. 8 became law.
The media’s coverage of the reactions of the two communities will be intense, creating echo chambers that magnify every joyous whoop and every angry outburst. It will be hard for minorities and LGBTs to be aware of and responsive to how the other community is reacting. At such times, when each community turns inward to nurture its own, misunderstandings and misspoken words become almost inevitable.
But this time, thoughtless words and strongly expressed feelings will not fall on barren ground but on fertile soil, members of each group remembering all too keenly the last insults endured. Their effect will be cumulative and could be much more harmful than either community would intend to inflict. Let us hope that this possibility won’t become reality, and that both advocates of LGBT rights and of minority interests will have cause for—if not celebration, relief. But if the worst happens and some of us are in pain while others are rejoicing, I hope that there are also some among us who, as in the past, once again reach out to offer solace and support.”
How well do you think the media, the various constituencies will react this time?