Yes, I saw President Obama’s comments endorsing same-sex marriage. I thought it was an extraordinarily risky political strategy for an incumbent with a very tight race ahead of him. I also thought it was a position that put him in direct opposition with his most loyal voting bloc — Black folks.
But, hey, what do I know?
Let me say, early on, that, as a Black American, who has been, and continues to be, subjected to racially insensitive and overtly racist behaviors, I’d be right up there among the last people on earth to condone harassment or discrimination against people who are different than I am.
At the same time, let me be clearly on the record as saying that I do not believe that mainstream media, elected officials and national activists should continue to compare the public debate about “same-sex” marriage to the Civil Rights Movement.
That’s simply a disingenuous, and highly inaccurate, analogy. It’s also an insult to millions of African Americans who were brutally enslaved, here in this country, since 1619; who had never been granted the right to vote, until 1965; who were deprived of the opportunity to provide for their children because of racially oppressive employment practices; who couldn’t (and still can’t) live in segregated neighborhoods and, who, finally, were savagely lynched, by the thousands, simply because they were born Black.
Don’t get me wrong.
I do respect the challenges that people in the gay and lesbian community face when they want to have their civil unions respected as full-fledged marriages. As long as people don’t create hardship, pain or deprivation for other human beings through their lifestyle choices, I say they should have the right to do as they please.
But, again, I do resent reading or hearing that the “same-sex” marriage debate is the “Civil Rights Movement of the 21st century.” It most certainly is not, in my opinion.
The Civil Rights Movement was focused on a comprehensive set of goals, each of which was designed to finally convey full U.S. citizenship to Black Americans, who had been living in this country for hundreds of years, without it. There was a demand for Federal works programs; for full and fair employment; for equal access to housing; for adequate, non-segregated education, and even, for the fundamental right to vote.
Over a period from about 1942 to about 1958, rallies were held at hundreds of Black churches; Black children required the assistance of federal marshals, simply to attend classes at previously all-white schools; thousands of marches had to be held; hundreds of restaurants, businesses, transportation systems, bowling allies and entertainment venues had to be boycotted and picketed; and millions of Black folks had to be registered to vote, for the very first time — often at substantial risk to their own lives, and to the lives of those who had encouraged them to do so.
When more pacifist elements of the Movement seemed to be stalled in their rate of progress, despite the water hoses, cattle prods, attack-dog bites and sniper bullets they had endured, other, more-strident, less-patient, segments of the Black community came to the fore, in the form of the so-called “Black Power” advocates. They added some “teeth” and a much-needed, “good cop, bad cop” element to the long-suffering Civil Rights model.
Unfortunately, at this stage of the Movement, Black folks were feeling so frustrated by the lack of meaningful progress that “rebellions” against racist authority broke out in several major cities (mainstream media, of course, referred to them as riots). In the process, scores of lives and millions of dollars worth of valuable commercial and residential property were lost.
This happened in places such as Harlem, in 1964; Watts, in 1965; Hough, in Cleveland, in 1966; and in Plainfield, N.J., Newark, and Detroit, in 1967. There was even a very small “riot,” in Philadelphia, in 1964. These actions, at the grassroots level, really did get the attention of lawmakers who were encouraged to make changes, sooner, rather than later.
Given all of that, I find it difficult to see the “same-sex” marriage debate being compared to the Civil Rights struggle. As difficult as some gays and lesbians may feel that their lives have been, here, I would humbly submit that this country has yet to move to wholesale job discrimination, housing segregation, or to massive economic and financial services disparities against the LGBT community.
While I don’t want to harp too much on the differences between the legitimate plight of gays and the legitimate plight of Blacks in this country, I do need to remind readers that, according to the most recently available data, the median household net worth for Blacks dropped by 83 percent, between 2007 and 2009, to $2,170. By comparison, the median net worth for whites fell by just 24 percent, during the same recessionary period, to $97,860.
In addition, the Phoenix Wealth Survey has recently reported that, between 4 percent and 7 percent of “high net worth” households (those with investable assets of $500,000, or more) identify themselves as either lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgendered. Conservatively estimated, at even a 6 percent level, that would equate to 450,000 “gay” high net worth individuals, in this country.
I say all of this to point out that I believe that there is some justifiable resentment among members of the black community when they hear the comparisons being made, and when they recognize that the President has been nowhere near as outspoken on the need for specific support for black people, as he seems to be for the LGBT community.
In addition, there still seems to be a significant degree of discomfort among black folks, who tend to be disproportionately religious, to having their government make them choose between the “same-sex” marriage issue as a political platform for an elected official, and their long-held religious beliefs.
A Pew Research report last year disclosed that, while 58 percent of all Americans believe homosexuality should be accepted, only 29 percent of white evangelicals agree with that position, and just 45 percent of blacks do.
Not surprisingly, therefore, a NewsOne poll of 400 Black people, immediately following last week’s “announcement” found that 63 percent of the respondents did not support the president. Perhaps even worse for Mr. Obama, as of Friday, Al Sharpton, who hasn’t disagreed with him, on anything, in about two years, was the only Black minister in the country who said, publicly that he agreed with the president, on “same-sex” marriage.
For the president, this issue also has international implications. There are just ten countries in the world, out of 194, in total, wherein gay marriage is legal. Seven of those countries are European, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Portugal and Iceland; an eighth is Canada; and the final two are Argentina and South Africa. The collective population of those ten countries stands at just 224.6 million, or about 3.2 percent of the total number of people on earth.
It seems that the president has his hands full. On a purely political basis, he has also given ultra-conservative, white evangelicals the “religious, moral high ground,” if, and when, they vote against him, in November. With the president’s same-sex” position now on the table, right-wing conservatives won’t be voting against him simply because he’s Black (wink, wink!), they’ll be voting against him because to do otherwise would cause them to violate their life-long religious principles.
To top it all off, North Carolina, the state where the Democratic National Convention is scheduled to be held, in early September, last week voted down its own “same-sex” marriage law. The Convention should be especially lively.
I hope the Obama people like an uphill battle. They just chose one.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.