Monday, November 10, 2008

LGBT Community Must Blame Itself, Not Blacks, for Prop. 8

There has been much discussion from within the progressive movement and especially the movement for LGBT rights about the role people of color played in Proposition 8's passage in California last Tuesday. And activist Jasmyne Cannick ignited a firestorm of controversy with a scathing op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 8.

Below is a commentary written by long-time source and activist Herndon Davis that examines some of the issues Cannick and others have raised in recent days with regards to whether the campaign to block Prop 8 did enough to influence black Californians . The debate will obviously continue to rage as those within the campaign examine why it failed and LGBT activists and others across the country continue to take stock of what happened, what else could have been done and even demand arguable accountability.

LGBT Community Must Blame Itself, Not Blacks, for Prop. 8
By Herndon Davis

As a black and openly gay advocate/activist and resident of Los Angeles, I watched as Prop. 8 in California, which now allows for a legal ban against same-sex marriage within the state, was voted into reality. I also watched how within 24 hours many LGBT activists squarely placed the blame on black residents who voted 70 percent in favor of the measure.

I further watched and read how black gay protesters who were against the same-sex ban and in favor of same-sex marriage were called the “N” word during a demonstration march in Westwood.

And finally, I've read how blogger Jasmyne Cannick was assailed by everyone from City Councilman Duran of West Hollywood to fellow LGBT bloggers for her recent Los Angeles Times commentary concerning race relations within the LGBT community and its effect upon Prop 8.

My advice to the LGBT community, the organizers of “No on Prop 8,” the many different LGBT funders, and the remaining members of the “Gay Mafia” is that they should take seriously the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic factors of black and people of color communities as it endeavors further in its marriage equality quest.

As a advocate, activist and now a consultant within the LGBT arena, I can tell you from personal experience, there is a deep arrogance and belief among many within the LGBT community that black communities should instantly whip onto the civil rights bus for the LGBT community just because we too are a minority.

In some corners of our diverse LGBT community there is a blatant disregard for culture, religion, and the oppression of other racial and ethnic groups. Many working class black and Latinos are struggling to pay rent, put food on the table and dodging bullets to lift their eyes up from their burdens to see a reason and a connection to the white faced and seemingly privileged LGBT to support marriage equality.

These are points, issues and big chunks of truth that the LGBT community seems ill-prepared to tackle. In this new age of Obama, there still lies ahead a much deeper conversation concerning race relations that LGBT communities seem to quickly shy away from. So instead of focusing anger towards black communities, the LGBT community must seriously take a long, hard look at itself. Here a few things for starters:

1. For Prop 8, why couldn’t the LGBT community get the queen of all American cities, San Francisco, to vote in higher numbers on such a crucial vote?

Also please remember that blacks consist of a tiny six percent of California's total population. So this means that far, far more millions of non-black people voted YES to ban same-sex marriage than black folks. So why all the rage against black people?? Why not rage instead against the Castro district or the Bay Area that did NOT vote at all!

2. Why in Los Angeles were there seemingly six radio advertisements an hour to vote 'No on Prop 8' during the morning run on the Latino 96 FM station but absolutely none on the black 102.3 FM KJLH station or the black and notoriously homophobic, 106 FM radio?

Where were the funds for the media outreach there? Again, not fully funded or fully staffed by the LGBT powers-that be.

3. Why was there only [one] town hall that I know of that was held targeting African Americans in Los Angeles? And why was there less than five black people across the entire state of California trying to coordinate a 'No on 8' campaign targeted towards the black community?

Again black and people of color community outreach has been historically and consistently under-funded and understaffed by the LGBT establishment.

By the way the town hall conducted in Los Angeles was held just two weeks before the election at the mostly white and wealthy campus of USC in the middle of rush hour at 6:30 p.m. and required $8 to park then walk to the building where it was being held.

So why not hold it at a community center in Compton with free parking at 7:30pm maybe six weeks before election with follow up town halls in Lemiert Park , West Adams, Watts, Gardena , and in other areas South Los Angeles? I guess that was too much work to do for the LGBT community to earn the black vote on such an important measure.

4. And where was the door-to-door neighborhood canvassing and phone banking directly targeting black communities?

I know of only one organization in the entire state of California that initiated a phone banking activity a few days before the election directly targeted towards Black communities. I am not aware of any door-to-door canvassing specifically targeting black neighborhoods for 'No on 8.'

Again, under-funded and understaffed, but still the LGBT community expected the black vote on Nov. 4. A bit naive don't you think?

5. Also where was the outreach to black affirming clergy to assist with black churches in California ?

Yes I am fully aware that there was some work done in this area just two weeks before the election, but again it was not fully funded or fully staffed enough to make a significant impact.

6. And why on earth did the LGBT community expect to run a few advertisements in historically black newspapers in California just two months before election to sway voters? Think about it.

After all these years in existence then suddenly the LGBT community places public educational advertisements hoping black folks would help and support on Nov. 4. I don’t think so. It takes much more of an effort than that to earn the black vote.

7. And finally, where was the all important “ask” and with it the justifications of “why?” Again there is this blanket assumption that all black folks will do black flips onto the civil rights bus for gays and lesbians. Think again.

To reach black and people of color communities it will take a well thought out and fully FUNDED and fully STAFFED strategic plan, time, and patience.

Remember blacks went from slavery to 'separate but equal' to desegregation to tolerance to gain. Blacks for instance still lag behind in many areas of social justice although we have all of our rights.

From under-employment, under-education, income inequities to literally driving-while-black, African-Americans still face steep odds despite a black man heading to the White House.

So if the LGBT community would like to continue to compare itself to the Black civil rights struggle, it may want to readjust its timeline a bit. It has taken several hundred years for Blacks in this country to go from slavery to President.

Could it be that the LGBT community may have to just wait its time as well? Maybe not hundreds of years but perhaps a whole lot longer than previously expected?

These are just a few things for all of us to think about going forward as we have marriage pending in New Jersey, New York, Iowa, and possibly D.C. and of course California.

Herndon Davis is media consultant, author, TV/Radio Host. He can be reached directly at and


Unknown said...

Though I agree with most of what you say, you should know that USC is the most ethnically diverse campus in the United States, it's hardly white or wealthy. Over 85% of the student body receives financial aid.

Anonymous said...

What a load of pc baloney. African-Americans are still the only group who voted 7 out of 10 for prop 8 to pass. They were what was needed to push 8 over the top. If the AA voters were even greater in number, Prop 8 would have passed by an even higher margin. That's not racist to say that, that's just math. As far as "outreach" goes, don't waste your time. Asians didn't get any gay outreach, and they were smart enough to vote mostly "no" on 8. When gays stop wasting time with politically-correct lies, instead of dealing with cold hard facts, we'll start getting actual tangible results.

Anonymous said...

Chamara, the endowment at USC is $3.6 billion with a yearly tuition just over $35K. I think $3.6 billion is considered wealthy.

Also blacks consist of only 5.57% of the total student body while whites comprise of 47%.

H said...

Sorry I meant to show my identity.

Chamara, the endowment at USC is $3.6 billion with a yearly tuition just over $35K. I think $3.6 billion is considered wealthy.

Also blacks consist of only 5.57% of the total student body while whites comprise of 47%.

H said...

Anonymous I know its easy to scapegoat the AA community with the astonishing 70% number but go back to my very first point.

Only 6% of California is black. This means that far more whites and non-blacks voted for Prop. 8 than did blacks.

And according to the Daily Kos, even if African-American voters in California had reflected the more moderate views of the rest of the electorate, Proposition 8 still would have passed by 81,000 votes.

The problem in California was not blacks but instead it was the vast number of non-blacks voting conservatively.

Anonymous said...

But herndon davis, that doesn't change that 70 percent of blacks voted that way. What you're saying is like, "We can't blame blacks because luckily there's so few of them." You're making the point that, lucky for gays, there ARE so few blacks.

H said...

I'm not denying the 70% is a high number. As I mentioned in the piece, there was very little if any outreach to AA communities on this issue.

But what I am saying is that the AA community did not blow this for gays. Yes there needs to be more education and outreach in AA communiites, but Prop. 8 did not pass because 6% of the population carried it to victory.

Prop. 8 passed because of a poorly conceived and executed strategy crafted primarily by the gays. It's just that simple.

Even if 100% of backs voted for Prop. 8, there was still more than enough room for the gays to still win if they had their act together.

As hard as it is to admit it, the AA community did now vote this into existence. Non-blacks did this pure and simple.