Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Gay Marriage and the African-American Community

Providing an example of the oft-repeated proverb which tells us that even a stopped clock can be right twice a day, Marion Berry was the only D.C. Council member to vote against the the legalization of same-sex marriages performed outside the District:

D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), the only council member to vote against the bill today to legalize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, predicted today there could be a "civil war" in the District if the Council decides to take up a broader gay marriage bill later this year.

"All hell is going to break lose," Barry said while speaking to reporters. "We may have a civil war. The black community is just adamant against this."

Barry made his remarks a few hours after a group of same-sex marriage opponents, led by black ministers, caused uproar in the Wilson Building after the Council voted 12 to 1 to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. They caused such a ruckus that security guards and police had to clear the hallway. The protesters shouted that council members who voted for the bill will face retribution at the polls.

Although he has been a longtime supporter of gay rights, Barry said he voted against the bill to satisfy his constituents in Southeast Washington.

"What you've got to understand is 98 percent of my constituents are black and we don't have but a handful of openly gay residents," Barry said. "Secondly, at least 70 percent of those who express themselves to me about this are opposed to anything dealing with this issue. The ministers think it is a sin, and I have to be sensitive to that."

It has to be frustrating to the gay rights movement that despite their continued effort to link their "fight" for gay "marriage" to the civil rights fights of African-Americans which preceded it, the African-American community by and large rejects this conflation, and has shown itself to be even more opposed to gay marriage than other ethnic groups are.

But I think it's very understandable that the African-American community would, indeed, reject this tendency of the gay rights movement to see themselves as following in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or other civil rights champions. To a people that once knew slavery, and then knew decades of unequal treatment and open discrimination and violence against them based only on the color of their skin, the idea that two rather wealthy and successful men, say, might adopt the language of victimhood and say courageously to each other "We shall overcome!" as they plan a wedding even more lavish than anything Liza Minnelli has ever had and contemplate a move to Boston (if they could just deal with the climate, that is) is just a little bit insulting.

Moreover, the African-American community has had to deal firsthand with the fallout of the destruction of marriage. Fatherlessness is rampant; children grow up suffering the effects of poverty and family instability and so many similar ills which settle upon communities where a family is a loose assortment of independent adults and some children who might be biologically related to some of them, but who have no connection at all to the others. The decline of marriage has been devastating to African-Americans; while the out of wedlock birth rate is now at 40%, there is a big difference between such groups as Asian and white Americans whose rates are approximately 20 and 30 percent, respectively, and African-Americans, where nearly 70% of all children are born to unmarried mothers.

Anyone who expects the African-American community to cheer for a societal innovation that will have the effect of further weakening and destroying marriage is not looking at the reality of life for so many in that community. It's a little unrealistic to expect African-Americans to jump on the gay "marriage" bandwagon, or to agree that keeping two men or two women from marrying is exactly like forcing African-Americans to sit at the back of the bus. There's no real equivalence, here, and I don't think that the African-American community is wrong to fear an even greater destruction of marriage than what they've already seen in their families.

The truth is, though, that the pro-gay "marriage" supporters really don't care if the traditional family is further destroyed, in the African-American community or elsewhere. The attitude I've encountered says that since heterosexuals have been unable to preserve marriage, it no longer matters if homosexuals destroy it completely; we've lost our ability to complain credibly about the matter, according to them.

But making that argument is a little like saying that since the house is already on fire, it won't matter if we throw gasoline on the conflagration. The rapidity with which marriage will cease to matter as a social institution will hurt all of us, in some future gay "marriage" world; but the people who will suffer most are those who already have to deal with rampant out-of-wedlock births and familial instability, and whose children are already feeling the effects of growing up without both a mother and a father. It's not surprising that even a liberal politician like Marion Berry would hesitate to alienate his constituents who can already see the smoldering embers, and who would like the government to pour water, not incendiary solutions, onto the rising flames.


Amy said...

You absolutely hit the nail on the head here. Absolutely 100%.

Anonymous said...

The discussion in attempting to correlate 'rights' of those that are homosexual to those that unfairly were born into a system in which slavery was the unrectified instigating factor, just points out more eloquently that it would be more honest if homosexuals were not campaigning for 'marriage rights' but for rights due to some other legal union based on their sexual relationship; but it is NOT marriage, and to once and for all to stop trying to push over the sanctity of that sacramental union.

However, are there any homosexuals that refuse to call a spade a pickaxe and don't support the sham liaison of duplicity?

VegasTeaRoom said...

Coretta Scott King disagrees.

But who was she, really.


Anonymous said...

She didn't say anything about allowing two people of the same sex to get married, and to then sue a local church for not renting their church hall to them. She didn't say anything about teaching a kindergarten kid about gay marriage. She didn't say anything about someone suing a dating website founded on religious principles for not having a "gay" option.

Black people live first-hand everyday the breakdown of the family, and this article is right on, we not only have to maintain the definition of marriage, we have to strengthen it.

If gay people want to get married, so be it, but leave us out of it.

Shacoria Robinson said...

as a black person i say that gay marriage is not a civil rights issue. sorry gays, it just isnt.

David said...

It's doubtful whether or not you will read this, but I feel the need to point this out just for my own sake.

I'm an African American living in North Carolina. I was raised by Southern parents and I go to church every day. I have not been born into slavery and there isn't a single black person alive today who has. I've never been turned away from a job because of my race, I've never had to drink from a colored water fountain and I've never been turned away from an educational institution because of my race.

But I have, and likely will continue to be harassed for being part of the LGBT community. I grew up learning about Matthew Sheppard on the news - how he was tied to a fence, pistol wipped, and left there to rot - I grew up knowing that this could happen to me anywhere, at any time, for any reason. I grew up doubting whether or not my own parents would still love me. Today, I know the very fate of my family rests on people who don't even know me.

There's not a single black man, woman, or child that would trade in their race to be gay. And to tell me they know discrimination - no, a LOT of you don't. Your parents knew it, your grandparents knew it, but most of you truly do not. As a gay person, I've seen it personally and I don't think anyone who did would want to wish it on their worst enemies. This is an unfortunate product of ignorance within the black community.

Also, let me tell you something about marriage in general. Marriage is between you, your significant other, god, and the love you share together. In and of itself, no one else's union and no one else's love, man, woman, Christian or no can be blamed for anything that goes on within that marriage. Fidelity, divorce, domestic abuse, it never happens because of some random person whom they don't know got married somewhere, and saying so does more harm to these families because it is irresponsible and creates a scapegoat rather than a real solution.

Finally, I would like to leave you with this. The amount of discrimination you've experienced makes NO DIFFERENCE whatsoever. No one anywhere for any reason should be discriminated against, or have their rights taken away - and supporting discrimination just because "you've been discriminated more" is nonsensical, illogical, and ridiculous frankly. At best, it's only another reason why you should be AGAINST discrimination rather than for it.

I hope you read this, and I hope many people in the African American community reflect on it.

David said...

Anonymous, I found your comments particularly interesting.

A) Anyone has the right to sue anyone for any reason (ie sueing Mcdonalds for making you fat) - whether or not they WIN in these cases is another matter entirely, and you shouldn't blame all gay people collectively over the actions of a few individuals. Furthermore, same sex marriage has nothing to do with any of these issues.

Same sex marriage legislation has nothing to do with anything but same sex marriage legislation. It does not force churches to do anything, it will not change school curriculum's, it will allow gays and lesbians to marry each other. That's it. Anything else you might have heard would be a scare tactic to influence voters.

B) As I said earlier, there isn't a single black american alive today who was ever born into a system of slavery. One thing that I find most appalling is how opponents of marriage equality are now advocating the idea that separate can be equal. We've been there, and it's disturbing that we're now again having this conversation. I also continue to not understand how some cannot at least see parallels within the 1960s civil rights movement.

We're not going to create a whole new union that does the exact same thing as marriage. It's based on a separatist idea that we should have straights only marriage and gay marriages. As for the sarcasti quote "rights" bit - when you say that your right to marriage is a right and my right to marry somehow isn't, you're turning me into a second class citizen, where the constitution just doesn't apply to me. We don't do that in this country.