Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Shoot the Rider, Not the Horse

In Issue 1096 of the Gay and Lesbian Times, published December 25, 2008, the editorial reads, in part:
In contrast to the half-hearted fight led by the No on 8 campaign, led in large part by out-of-state Mormon money and seven out of 10 black voters, Yes on 8 mobilized 52 percent of voters to pass Proposition 8, thus defining marriage in California as a union between a man and a woman, and writing hate into the state Constitution.
I wrote back:

While I agree with you that Prop. 8 wrote hate into the California State Constitution, I have a bone to pick with you over your comment that black voters voted 70% against gay rights. You are right to lay blame on Mormons, who contributed most of the money that bought deceptive ads, but why are you singling out “black voters”?

Blacks who voted yes were probably no more than 4% of the total.

But that’s not the real problem. The real problem is you’ve got something badly wrong. The adjective “black” in front of “voters” suggests there is something about these particular voters being black that made them vote a certain way. There is little doubt the black voters who did vote for Prop. 8 voted not because they were black but because they were adherents of a religious ideology that says there is something wrong with gay people. (And the corollary, of course, is true also – blacks who were not adherents of this ideology, but were among those with no church affiliation, are likely to have voted with the 90% in that category who voted no.)

It was the “Baptist” or the “Pentecostalist” or some other homophobic religious ideology in these people, and not their race, that prompted them to vote yes on 8. And they deserve no more blame (or credit, if that is the way you look at it) for this than any white or Asian person who voted yes. Stop blaming the race and put the blame where it belongs. To blame the race is not only racist by definition; it is also bad science. Bad construction of categories. Bad cause and effect reasoning. Later we can talk about how it wasn’t even the “Baptist” or whatever in them, but the particular (dominant but still not universal) school of thought within this religious domination, and go for the real culprit – closed-minded religion. But for now, since nobody is having at the Baptists but they are having at the blacks, let’s deal with that conceptual error first. Stop with this “70% of blacks” business.

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