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Raymond Leon Roker

Raymond Leon Roker

Posted: November 7, 2008 04:29 AM

Stop Blaming California's Black Voters for Prop 8


Excuse me? I voted against Proposition 8. I'm among the 30 percent of black Californians that did so. And as much as I can condemn the homophobia and intolerance that drove a portion of the 70 percent of blacks that voted in favor of Proposition 8's ban on gay marriage, it's an outrage to lay its passage at their feet. I've read several editorials already about how the ungrateful blacks betrayed gays right after America gave them their first president. I know there are some wounds and frayed nerves right now, but this type of condescending, divide and conquer isn't going to help at all. And it's a gross oversimplification of what happened.

According to the exit polling, there's enough blame to go around. Don't forget the 49 percent of Asians who voted for Prop 8. And the 53 percent of Latinos who fell in line for it too. And then there is the white vote in support of 8. Slightly under 50% percent of them, a group representing 63% of California voters, voted "Yes" on 8. Last I checked blacks held little sway over all of those groups.

So who did? For starters, the churches, religious leaders and advocacy groups in support of 8 were a very formidable force. Surveys showed religion played a major role in voter's decisions. Even No on 8 supporters have admitted that their camp was too complacent, arrogant and far to unorganized. I told a friend the day after the election, that I thought the arguments needed to be much stronger to answer the lingering questions Prop 8 boosters had leveled, disingenuously or not. Even I had some personal misgivings before casting my vote against.

Perhaps gay rights activists needed to better explain how a No vote wouldn't force churches to perform gay marriage ceremonies. And how a No vote wouldn't affect schools or teach children about gay marriage. Maybe deeper outreach in the black and brown communities could have changed some minds. What about fostering a stronger dialogue beyond the good side of town and in the neighborhoods where some of the unfortunate prejudice takes root?

No on 8 also needed a better defense against Obama's own stance on gay marriage. He is on record as wanting to allow the states to decide, even though he still supported full rights for same sex couples under civil unions. It's clear that anybody hoping to get elected this year needed a position that was generally acceptable to the red states. And Obama came out strongly against 8. But those nuances could have been much better explained to those who might be excused to follow suit with Obama's somewhat loose position. The anti-Prop 8 forces couldn't just rest on the hope that entrenched and arcane beliefs would be washed away without both a robust defense and offense.

In the coming weeks, those of us who are standing against Proposition 8 -- including, I'm sure, millions of blacks nationwide -- are all going to need unity as we lobby, fight and advocate for either a reversal of this amendment or a new battle in 2010. There are very valid arguments against the presumptuous collapsing of Obama's win and the results of the Prop 8 vote, but we can table that for now. Regardless of your position, making scapegoats of blacks as a bunch of thankless homophobes is hardly playing the best hand.

This also appeared on my blog.

Update: Check this open letter from Kathryn Kolbert, President of the People For the American Way Foundation

Update: Please also check this recent post on Daily Kos addressing facts and figures about the vote on Prop 8

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