Cornel West And Carl Dix Would Agree: Marriage Equality Needs More Black Public Support

Michael Robinson, one of the Dallas organizers behind the LGBT racial inclusivity group GetEqual NOW, has said that after Prop 8 passed a lot of gays blamed the black community for the loss even though No on 8 organizers didn’t approach the black community until a mere 5 days before the vote. Indeed, looking at the HRC’s video campaign for New York marriage equality, you get the sense that gay organizations still do a poor job reaching out to people of color. Out of the HRC’s 35 celebrity endorsements (way to connect with the common man) a whopping four come from African-Americans (Whoopi Goldberg, Russell Simmons, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, and Bill T. Jones), two from Asian-Americans (Lucy Lui and David Chang) and one from a Hispanic (Daphne Rubin-Vega).

So considering that Tavis Smiley, one of America’s biggest African-American radio personalities, just stated his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, it’s nice that Jeff Girard, a gay activist currently filming his life as he lives in his SUV, took the time to get Smiley’s radio co-host Cornel West and civil rights activist Carl Dix on record stating their support for marriage equality. West added that the civil rights movement and queer rights movement have a lot to learn from each other and that each group should not get into a game of “our suffering is worse than your suffering.”

Of course, West and Dix don’t exactly represent the everyman either, nor are they apart from controversy. Apart from being Smiley’s co-host in their radio show “Smiley & West”, West is also a Princeton University professor, an author, civil rights actvist, and prominent member of the Democratic Socialists of America. He has called the U.S. a “racist patriarchal” nation where “white supremacy” continues to define everyday life for “degraded and oppressed people hungry for identity, meaning, and self-worth.”

Carl Dix, the national spokesperson for the Revolutionary Communist Party, has said “the development of capitalism in the U.S. is a history of the most savage oppression of the Black, Native American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Hawaiian, Asian, and other oppressed peoples.” He also called George W. Bush “a Christian Fascist.”

But their political views aside, getting black intellectual, spiritual, and social leaders to speak out in favor of marriage equality would continue to break down the false idea of marriage equality being purely a rich, white person’s issue. It would also begin the much needed dialogue about how marriage equality can strengthen black communities in terms of health, religion, family, and voting power. The black Christian community operates as a part of the larger Christian faith. We as a movement should learn more about their convictions in liberation theology in order to speak to a larger segment of religious America about the Bible’s teachings on helping the oppressed.

Even gay black New York documentary filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris has seen the necessity of putting African-American marriage equality support on film. So why has the HRC campaign not included more people of color, actual LGBTs, or lower-income, everyday people in their campaign? Most of their YouTube videos have celebrities yammering on to the same music about “equality and commitment”—not particularly inspiring. Yes, it’s nice having white celebrities supporting us, but has watching them inspired you to call a New York senator? No? Then what makes us think it’ll inspire anyone who doesn’t even read gay blogs to give a flip either?

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  • Joetx

    1. The reason why Gay, Inc. consistently does such a poor job of outreach to communities of color is b/c Gay, Inc. is run by wealthy white people. They have no understanding of and/or desire to engage people of color.

    Now, this doesn’t mean gay people of color are absolved from engaging & educating their racial/ethnic communities. But it would help gay people of color tremendously if Gay, Inc. had their support.

    2. I had no idea re: Tavis Smiley’s views on same-sex marriage. I always thought he was a poor interviewer. Now I’ll refrain from watching this bigot’s show on PBS from now on.

  • Daniel

    @Joetx: To be fair, in the link Smiley did acknowledge that even though he has his opinion, the President and the country’s opinion seems to be “evolving” away from his.

  • Pannyx

    So, 11.4% of the celebrity endorsements were African-American, and they make up 12.6% of the population of the US based on 2010 census figures. 5.7% of the endorsements came from Asian-Americans and they make up 4.8% of the population. Granted the one hispanic endorsement is not representative, but the article focuses on the African-American support of marriage equality. I’m not sure that tidbit of information helps your arguement.

  • Caliban

    One obvious reason for homophobia in the black community is the centrality of religion and churches and there are good reasons for why the church is so important. Black churches were a major source of strength and comfort during the Civil Rights era and the REVEREND Martin Luther King is most closely associated with that movement’s success. So even when people aren’t religious the church is still a major influence, recognized in many ways as the “backbone” of the black community. So one effective way to reach that community, and one that’s so far been ignored by “Gay Inc” and everyone else for that matter, is through progressive black ministers and churches. Between that and the masculine (some would say hyper-masculine) posturing in “urban” culture, gay POC don’t have much of a place in their own communities.

    But these men are right that “dueling oppression” or games of “who’s got it worse?” aren’t productive, are in fact destructive to both groups. But like everyone else that whole “my skin doesn’t equal your sin” thinking really pisses me off.

    It’s probably true that blacks and individuals from other ethnic groups have faced more prejudice and oppression than most gay people because they can’t hide or disguise their difference. But there are some huge and important exceptions to that. Racial and ethnic groups don’t face oppression in communities where they are the majority or in their places of origin. Gays face it EVERYWHERE because there is no “Queeristan,” a mother country. And I’ve never heard of a kid getting kicked out of their home when their parents discovered they were black. So don’t give me that “you don’t even know what prejudice is” business. But that’s not the issue because Gay people deserve rights because we were guaranteed them, born with them according to our Constitution, not whether some quota of suffering has or hasn’t been met.

  • Even Steven

    Hm. Interesting. We’ve gained the public support of a communist and a socialist claiming to represent the black community. Whose opinion will we seek regarding the stance of hispanics on marriage equality, Hugo Chavez?

    Hate to sound cynical, but this shout-out means nothing in the scope of things.

  • Ted B. (Charging Rhino)

    Err, is having the support of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Democratic Socialists of America REALLY a good idea?

    It was the presence of prominent Communists like Harry Hay and Will Geer and suspected fellow-travelers in the early gay rights movement that stigmatized much the pre-Stonewall effort. It also contributed to the growth homophobia within the military teh Government in the 1950s and 1960s on the grounds of potential subversion, the possibility of blackmail, and “otherness” = un-American.

  • WillBFair

    I like your point about learning the basics of biblical justice and liberation theology. It would be a great way to dialogue with the AA church, and even with the fundies.
    Unfortunately, it won’t happen because of the huge number of anti religion bigots in the gay community. It’s always surprising to see bigotry among the oppressed. But it makes sense in our case because many queers were severely stomped by fundamentalism. Now they’re unable to think rationally about religion, and they can’t tell the difference between the liberal church and Phred Felps. Just take a peek at what’s happening at JMG and elsewhere. Those people are sabotaging our movement by spitting venom on a daily basis at our freinds in the liberal church. And they have a mountain of rhetorical games to disguise their bigotry. It’s sad.

  • IAbuseGays

    In fairness to us gay people of color, we feel like we will not find support from white gays. So, as between a community that we know- one which tolerates us even if they don’t accept us- it is better than the total rejection we feel with white gay. I have never felt as ignored as when in the middle of a crowd of white gay men. I used to think it was me, but I almost every gay man of color I’ve met (whether Black, Latino or Asian) has recounted similar experiences. So, we are often caught in the middle- between like I said a community that we know, and one that rejects us. So, while it requires courage to be gay- it requires even more to be gay and a person of color. I often feel at home in neither place.

  • Shannon1981

    @IAbuseGays: I’ve caught a fuckload more crap for being gay than for being black. Which is why the gay part has shaped my identity more than the black part. Hell, even as obviously as I am, there are still family members that can’t deal with it, so they act like it isn’t there.

    I think what you are talking about may be more prevalent with gay m en than with gay women. I could be wrong…but I hear a lot of that with gay men than with the female side of this equation. Take me to a gay bar full of white gay rather than a church full of blacks any day.

  • IAbuseGays


    I am speaking in generalities rather than specific individuals. The general situation for most families (at least what I know anecdotally and from reading the accounts of others) is that while being gay is tolerated or denied, the individual is not completely rejected in the black family because of the “he may be gay (which they think of as a sin) but he’s our sinner.”

    Again speaking in generalities, you are right that your experience as a lesbian in terms of race and sexual orientation are likely the opposite of gay black men. From talking to a few black lesbians about this, – race is still a problem with some white lesbians, but no where near as much of a problem as it is with gay white men.

    I should emphasize this is not all gay white men. I have had some really good friendships with gay white men who are not racist or seeking privilege. One guy and his boyfriend in particular shocked me one time in a gay white bar that they took me too by noting the bigotry that I was experiencing, and telling the wait staff that they had better start treating me with respect or they were going to have a problem with the establishment.

    To be honest, I am at a point where I prefer to avoid both straight black crowds and gay white ones. I will hang out and become friends with gay white guys on an individual basis as I get to know them and see that they will treat me as an equal, but as a general rule I avoid situations where I am the only black guy in the crowd because I tend to be completely ignored or rejected. The difference here is that with my family and friends who are black, even if they are straight, there is less chance of complete rejection.

    I am by nature a geek and by nature not much of a boy in the hood type. Yet, you would think in many of the occasions in which I have interacted with these sorts of parties where I am one of may be 2 people of color in a room that I was walking around with gold teeth and a boombox with my pants hanging down and my underwear out. I am more, therefore, guarded with white gay males until I get to know them to see if they have any issues with race.

    From reading and talking to people of color this experience- across racial groups seems universal. So, i know its not just a black thing. Because of the circles gay white men hang in, many (again- not all) tend to want to replicate that in how they fight for equality. They are not particular inviting of diversity.

    By the same token, I don’t feel comfortable around large black straight crowds either. So, like I said, I feel at home in neither world despite the fact that I am out as a gay man, have a strong since of black identity as far as the struggles that have and are occurring regarding race and have been for years.

  • Shannon1981

    @IAbuseGays: Yeah I’ve heard this, and in general, I think you are right. Even before all the trouble I encountered for being queer, I wasn’t a hood type either. Very bookish and geeky, and the black kids all thought I wanted to be white or something…so even pre outing, they had an issue with me.

    As an adult though, I’ve caught a lot of crap from black straight churchy types, for the gay and for my absolute disdain for xtianity. I am sure I could calm down the mocking if I wanted, but why should I? They’re horrible to me, so I am horrible to them.

  • IAbuseGays

    @Shannon1981: Got the “you are trying to be white” as a kid too. Unfortunately, I think that comes with the impact of oppression on the black community that it feels like it has to create a single identity rather than accept many, which is ironic because there actually many black identities rather than one. Its all just kind of not real on some level. In that way, it reminds me of being gay where everyone kept telling me how I was suppose to be an out gay man, and then, finally one day, like with the racial closet, I realizd there is a pressure that’s on gay men to be one thing by the straight society around us. So, I came out of my second closet by saying, you know what- I didn’t come out just to act like something I am not. I am going to be me.

  • Shannon1981

    @IAbuseGays: Good on you. I no longer care either. I’ve gotten to where if someone takes issue with me as I am, for any reason whatsoever, they are not worth my time. Only way to live. Closets of ANY KIND are for clothes.

  • TheRealAdam

    @IAbuseGays: I’ve never understood why support and acceptance from white gays is so important to gay blacks and other gay minorities. If you have some sort of issue with white gay men not liking you or not giving you the time of day, then find other gay people of color who will like you and respect you for who you are. I’m sure they are out there.

  • Danny

    It is impossible to blame white people or asian people or hispanic people for black gay people not coming out to their families, churches, and communities. Coming out rests squarely on the shoulders of the individual. You want change. Come out. Be out. Be proud. Hiding does nothing for making the black community more accepting. Be who you are and be visible to friends and family does. Black, white, asian, hispanic, indigenous, or any combo. “Better to be hated for what you are than loved for what you are not.”

  • Shannon1981

    @TheRealAdam: I have to say, I have identified more closely with the mainstream gay community than the mainstream black one, always. Like I said upthread, I’ve caught much more heat from black for being gay than from whites for being black. In fact, white chics dig me. IDK why, but they do. In fact, there is one who is actively pursuing me right now…

  • delurker

    @Shannon1981: is she a fatty? fat white chicks are such fag hags…

  • Shannon1981

    @delurker: Nah I am fatter than she is LOL. I’m not terribly fat, but cutely pudgy, as I like to call it. Butch, white, dykes love me. I love them too.I’m a butch/genderqueer who likes other female bodied butch/genderqueers.

  • IAbuseGays

    @Danny: I said I am out. I said that non-acceptance in the gay community means that one essentially is left alone in that process.

  • IAbuseGays

    @Danny: We are discussing the most visible part of the gay community. You don’t understand how that may affect people as far as coming out when they have no one else to turn to during that process? You are looking around when you are coming out for things to validate that its okay. That’s a human thing to do. Everyone does it. Yet strangely here blacks, as usual, are expected to be something other than human. So when you ask why would I be looking around for support- it is not the whiteness ofyoru skin that I was thinking about when I came out. it was the fact that I was coming out as a gay man, and there were not many images or groups that I could turn to, regardless of race. THe vast bulk of reasources goes to gay white groups. This is a fact. I have a friend who works with at risk youth who are queer. He makes this point all the time.

  • IAbuseGays

    @TheRealAdam: How you can interpret my comment as I am looking around for gay white men only is beyond me. My issue is the racism. I have a problem with that regardless of whether I am trying to be friends with someone or not because I have to deal with the repercussion of racism just like gay people have to deal with bigots too. Its an odd suggestion that I get to ignore white gay racism. How exactly would you suggest I do that when the vast bulk of resources go to white gay groups when I was trying to volunteer or deal with that when I am with myf riends (who are of different ethnic back grounds) and we go to a bar and I experience racism at the bar? and on and on? The real question is why can’t you accept the fact that there is a problem with racism in the gay white community and that this impacts how people of color who are coming, looking around at what they have to face, may not want to deal with that visible gay community. The visible part being those in media, those that are the loudest about being gay, etc. There is an out black community, but unlike the gay white one, especially when coming out, they aren’t visible. The white one is. Its the one that gets the attention so its the the one that I knew about when I came out. Again, this is not theory. I can give you some practical examples from my own experiences as well as from others as well as suggesting you look up the data regarding representation regarding funding and media access. I have suggested outreach to black queer youth to organizations with the money so that more people of color can meet each other to gay groups that I could find who would have the resources. They weren’t interested.

  • Blake White

    @TheRealAdam: I’m not so sure why people like you are so obsessed with getting straight homophobes to like you. Now, let this concept bounce around in that retarded brain of yours, make a connection, and then ask for forgiveness.

  • Caliban

    Based on my experiences living in Houston and Memphis, in workplaces where black people were the majority, including management, I was surprised by how much of the daily conversation was dominated by talk of churches and religion. Particularly Monday mornings when a lot of the talk would be about yesterday’s sermon, what a fine speaker their minister was, and invitations to other (black) people to come hear him for themselves. It was surprising and not something I was used to, but given how important churches were before and during the Civil Rights movement it made some sense.

    Another man topic of conversation, particularly among women but also with men, was the need for black men to “step up” and take responsibility, “be a man” and by that of course they meant a straight man. There was a mostly unspoken assumption that being gay was “a white thing” and a form of weakness as well as sin. It seemed to me that black lesbians had a slightly easier time of it, partly because of an assumption the reason they were “that way” was once again due to the failures of black MEN, as if black lesbians wouldn’t “need” to do that if more men were worth having.

    I socialized with and dated black men but it was frustrating (especially dating) because many kept their lives compartmentalized. Yeah they were gay, but not out at church if they attended, and often not out to family. I really don’t think it’s fair to blame anyone else, including white gay men, for this failure to come out and challenge those assumptions. I don’t care who you are, I don’t think coming out is easy for anyone and it’s not fair to make broad generalizations. Is it easier for a white kid from an Evangelical family to come out than a black person? It’s potato/potahto, a distinction without a difference. And if it IS easier for some white gays to come out that’s due in large part because we’ve been doing it for so long, in such large numbers, that we’ve made it so.

  • IAbuseGays

    @Caliban: Your experiences are that of a small Southern city in the deep south. They are not representative across the board.

  • Jeffree

    Julian Bond, who I believe is neither socialist nor communist, has spoken out on issues of LGB equality. I wish that Gay Inc. would be able to find a forum for him & other prominent POCs to speak out on the issue. I realize JB has a lot on his plate, but he seems like an overlooked ally.

    This issue of young AAs being accused of trying to “act white” hits sorta close to home. Two of my neices are biracial & feel rejected by many (most?) of their Black classmates (for being biracial & focused on academics) & by their white peers for looking “different.” Sad to say, their teachers ignore the problem to the point where they may need to find another school.

    Gotta fly, work awaits.

  • TheRealAdam

    @Shannon1981: I know. My comment was directed more toward “IAbuseGays.”

    @IAbuseGays: I understand what you’re saying.

  • IAbuseGays

    @TheRealAdam: Sorry to get annoyed. It is just that people tend to mistakenly believe that minority groups can ignore the majority. Its simply not possible. Although the reverse- they can ignore us is true. No matter what minority group you are talking about- gay, racial or whatever.

Comments are closed.