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David Kaufman

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The NOM Scandal: No One to Blame But Ourselves!

Posted: 03/29/2012 12:06 pm

The outrage following revelations that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) sought to stoke a "race war" to hinder nation-wide marriage-equality initiatives has been as broad-based as it has been bombastic. From LGBT groups such as Freedom to Marry to hate watchers like the Southern Poverty Law Center to black leaders including former NAACP chief Julian Bond, NOM has been universally decried for its efforts to pit blacks and Hispanics against the LGBT masses.

Yet the one group that has yet to be held accountable for the NOM debacle is the LGBT leadership itself. Indeed, having spent much of the past five years playing their own dangerous race game, LGBT talking heads have helped stoke the very atmosphere of animosity that fueled NOM's craven, color-based policies. Erroneously blaming African Americans for the passage of Proposition 8, attacking our black president for his, well, blackness, denouncing the black church, demonizing black people (particularly black men), and recklessly encouraging anti-black blog sentiment have been a hallmark of leading LGBT figures ranging from David Mixner to Andy Towle and Dan Savage. Not only have these writers fanned the flame of community-wide hatred, but they've consistently reaffirmed the now NOM-exploited notion that gay and American equals white and male.

While homo-stream defenders will decry my allegations, the evidence could not be more compelling. Savage, for instance, famously posted, and then cowardly erased, a hate-filled screed in the immediate aftermath of Prop. 8. Then a year later, Mixner, a veteran civil rights advocate with a long history of righteous achievements, singled out the "threat" of non-white voters in the run-up to Maine's 2009 marriage-equality ballot. Meanwhile, there's Towle, who, via his blog Towleroad, frames post after post in the most racially divisive contexts possible while cynically hiding behind a veneer of impartiality. Towle's readers have a love affair with the word "nigger" -- which Towle apparently feels no need to remove from his comment feed.

Such unrepentant (and unchallenged) racism, however, is only half of the gifts LGBT talking heads have handed NOM. Nothing if not cleverly comprehensive, NOM leaders understood the implications of an LGBT leadership almost completely void of black faces. Brazen in their unabashed whiteness, LGBT entities ranging from activist groups such as the American Foundation for Equal Rights and Equality Matters to television programs like The A List and In the Life are nearly devoid of black faces. As GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios put it bluntly some 18 months ago, "Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender African-American people remain largely invisible in the media today."

Take this clip from a fancy AFER fundraiser last year: lots of smiling faces, but not one black or Hispanic. Or this In the Life episode criticizing Barack Obama; once again, it's black-free. Indeed, the only black person regularly seen on Logo's gay reality program wasn't even gay. As for African Americans who do appear within the gay-stream (folks such as Pam Spaulding, John Amaechi, and Don Lemon), rather than add much-needed diversity, they typically parrot their Caucasian patrons while offering little context and scant criticism.

With such as sorry state of internal LGBT affairs, it's little wonder NOM seized upon this dangerous divide. But with NOM clearly taking a blow from their idiotic blunder, the real challenge is for LGBT people themselves to diversify their ranks. Some, like Equality Matters scribe Kerry Eleveld, have promised reform: "We will definitely ensure there's a wide range of voices ... [W]e're certain to develop an [Equality Matters] diversity advisory board," promised Eleveld in an interview I conducted with her last year. Nearly 18 months later, that "advisory board" has yet to appear. Color me surprised!

While LGBT leaders gorge themselves on NOM's takedown, they must also embrace this moment as an opportunity for much-needed introspection. NOM's action, while deplorable, merely reflects a sorry state of affairs sowed by a self-appointed gay-stream that rivals the Tea Party in its disdain for diversity. By arming our enemies with the façade of uniform whiteness, LGBT groups ensure that a truly progressive social justice movement will never take hold. And the results hurt no group more than LGBT people themselves.

 

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