During Saturday's Taste of Soul Festival hosted by the Los Angeles Sentinel, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel entitled "The State of Urban Politics" alongside some phenomenal panelists and moderated by Sentinel executive editor Danny Bakewell Jr. Throughout the 90-minute conversation, it was clear that there were a myriad of issues on the minds of voters, including the issue of gay marriage and Proposition 8.
Now, it's no secret that I am a lesbian, but many who know me, also know that I separated myself from the gay marriage movement some ago. Not because I am about as close to getting married as Hillary was to being President but because I was no longer willing to actively engage myself in a struggle that from its beginning continues to be White and elitist. Plainly put, the gay marriage struggle is the perfect example of White gay America's "superiority complex" in action.
As a lesbian and a taxpayer, of course I believe that I deserve the same rights, benefits, and privileges as my heterosexual brothers and sisters, but I've decided that there are more pressing issues at stake this November that need to addressed to the benefit of all Blacks-both gay and heterosexual-I've chosen to focus on for the time being.
From the onset, the gay marriage movement has been about obtaining marriage for the White gay men and lesbian women who were also willing to fund it. Bottom line. Everyone else has just been along for the ride. And like with every civil rights movement since the 1960's Black Civil Rights Movement, the leaders of the gay marriage movement boldly adopted its language while reciting quotes from Black civil rights leaders on national television and in newspaper articles. Figuring if it worked for us Blacks, surely it will work for the gays.
Not thinking about how Blacks would take that message, they forged ahead on the backs of the Black Civil Rights Movement without ever instituting any if its core principles. So when Black ministers popped up on those same national television shows and in those same articles condemning the gay rights movement, Blacks were immediately labeled homophobic.
Enter the Black gays. What you may not know is that our worth in the gay marriage movement amounts to our willingness to be used in photo ops and carry the White man's message of gay marriage to Blacks. We're supposed to somehow put aside all other issues relevant to the Black community. But I can't go for that.
Sometime ago I wrote an article where I stated that even though the Black community can at times be homophobic, that I'd take my chances with homophobic Blacks than racist gays anytime, and today that's even more true.
Almost everyone I know is concerned with the economy, the price of gallon of gasoline, unemployment, whether or nor they can pay their mortgage, rent, and car note, and universal healthcare. Plainly put, regardless of sexual orientation or citizenship, most people are more concerned with those domestic bread and butter issues which have taken center stage everywhere, that is except for within the gay marriage movement.
Coalition building has never been gay America's strong part, at least not where Black America is concerned.
A perfect example of this is the fact that West Hollywood is all aglow with brides and grooms spending insane amounts of money in preparation to walk down aisle of holy matrimony, after the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
However, directly due south, there are gays and lesbians trying to figure out how to rob Peter to pay Paul, squeeze blood out of a turnip, and make money grow from trees. Marriage, while they may be interested in it, doesn't come before the basics-rent, food, bills, etc. But those aren't the gays that are on the evening news celebrating. And those aren't the images of gays that most Blacks see. What Blacks see are images of wealthy White men and women to which they connect to a group of White people who used the 1960's Civil Rights Movement as a blueprint to spearhead their own, and in California successfully.
So while I am going to vote no on Prop. 8, the days of me pushing the agenda of folks who do not have the best interests of Blacks at heart are over. And to the extent that I can expose White gay America's hypocrisy, I will.
Vote no on Prop. 8 because it's the right thing to do. Vote no, because today it's me and tomorrow they'll have a proposition against you. Vote no because we all have someone in our family who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Vote no because Blacks in California make up 6 percent of the total population and with numbers like that, we need every single one of us to be empowered. Vote no on Prop. 8 because it's not about who you love, it's about do you love.
At 31, Jasmyne Cannick is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class, sexuality, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times and Ebony Magazine. A regular contributor to NPR's 'News and Notes,' she was chosen as one Essence Magazine's 25 Women Shaping the World. She can be reached at www.jasmynecannick.com or www.myspace.com/jasmynecannick.