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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

“Gay Power” ≠ “White Power”

posted by on November 11 at 13:39 PM

An accusation of racism can itself be hate speech. Take this editorial cartoon, which I found at the top of this blog, where the image was titled “White Racist Faggot Image.JPG”:


When dumb fucking racist white bigots in the south claimed that African Americans were trying to “take away [their] rights,” they were lying. What African Americans were pressing for “then” was equal treatment under the law—equal rights, equal freedoms, equal responsibilities. Nothing was “taken” from white people when blacks won the right to vote or to go to integrated schools or to eat at a Woolworth’s lunch counter or to marry a white person. Nothing was “taken” from white bigots except the “right” to oppress and discriminate against African Americans.

Gay and lesbians—including African American gays and lesbians—are “now” pressing for equal treatment under the law, equal rights and responsibilities. Nothing is taken from straight people when gays and lesbians are not discriminated against—nothing except the “right” of straight people to oppress and discriminate against gays and lesbians. And in California last Tuesday majorities of African Americans and Latinos—and others—voted to “take away” the right of gays and lesbians to legally marry. When gays and lesbians—including African American gays and lesbians—say that voters of color helped to “take away” our rights, it’s the truth.

Making a moral equivalency between “white power” and “gay power” is as offensive as it is ridiculous. It should particularly offend African American gays and lesbians. Who’s making you invisible now?

UPDATE: Dan Walters at the SacBee says new voters drawn to the polls by Obama helped put Prop 8 over the top. Not so, says Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, whose numbers crunching has to be afforded more credibility. (Silver, er, fingers older voters.) But I’ve never said that African American voters put Prop 8 over the top, only that African American voters went disproportionately for Prop 8, which is not in dispute. It’s the furious response to the simple statement of fact that is fueling this argument.

No one group of voters singlehandedly passed Prop 8.

RSS icon Comments


shut the fuck up dan. you've been something equally ridiculous with your trope about minorities passing prop 8. In fact this actually has more truth to it now than your position does. Both are scapegoating blacks for something they didn't do.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | November 11, 2008 1:44 PM

the fact you missed the comparison obviously has much to do with your seething latent racism.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | November 11, 2008 1:45 PM

See? See what happens when we give people we don't agree with the right to vote?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | November 11, 2008 1:47 PM

Correct, Dan.

Apparently the majority of Sloggers do not understand that criticism of a minority group is not inherently racist.

Again, it's the 5th-grade, hyper-PC, "colorblind" nonsense. . .bah.

Posted by violet_dagrinder | November 11, 2008 2:00 PM

I wish we still taught rhetoric in schools. This cartoon is easily identifiable as a false analogy and dismissed, but since our society lacks a vocabulary for understanding propaganda, we have to attempt to disprove the argument of the cartoon, an almost impossible task, since the cartoon does not present a coherent argument in the first place.

Posted by blank12357 | November 11, 2008 2:02 PM

That cartoon is so gay.

Posted by hotcha! | November 11, 2008 2:12 PM

I think the argument is that there are only so many rights and so much equality to go around, therefore, giving rights or granting equality to others inherently takes away from those who already have it.

Oh, America.

Posted by Chris in Tampa | November 11, 2008 2:13 PM


You are wrong to group together "African Americans and Latinos" as if both groups were equally complicit in this. Exit poll data shows that Latinos supported Prop 8 by a 53-47 margin. That is nowhere near the overwhelming 70-30 support among blacks, or the likely 90-10 support among Mormons. In fact, 53-47 is exactly the same margin by which Prop 8 won among male voters. So if you are going to blame Latinos, you should blame all men as well.

We should actually be impressed that 47% of Latino voters rejected Prop. 8, even though 90% of them are at least nominally Catholic and many still have ties to Latin American culture, which is extremely machista and homophobic.

Posted by Matt | November 11, 2008 2:21 PM

All bow to Bellevue Ave. His morality and knowledge is far superior to all others. Marines throwing live puppies over cliffs = Good. Gay people commenting that a number of blacks and latinos, like many, many whites are homophobic and played a part in passing anti-gay Prop 8 = Bad.
This Mexican-American would like to say to you Bellevue Ave: how about you shut the fuck up and go crawl back under the rock you came from.

Posted by Mark in Colorado | November 11, 2008 2:23 PM

#1 One racial minority overwhelmingly (among many) in California did in fact vote to deny Gay Californians the right to marry. Look at the polling numbers. What this tells us is that minorities can and do in fact discriminate against each other. It's not the end of the world, don't get all bent out of shape. It's a simple fact that the Radical Religious Extremists have poisoned the minds and hearts of far too many Americans for far too long. It's time that "WE" stop that.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | November 11, 2008 2:24 PM

If I make a criticism of the rich in general, rather than specific rich people, I'm being classist. If I criticize women in general, rather than specific women, then I'm being sexist. See? When you make a generalization about an entire group, that is described using the type of group, plus the suffix "ist".

So when you launch a critique of an entire race? Race + ist = racist.

Posted by elenchos | November 11, 2008 2:28 PM

That is a False Analogy.

Lisa Simpson would concur.

Posted by clearlyhere | November 11, 2008 2:30 PM

Isn't the real issue anti-gay bigotry promoted by fundamentalism? The people who voted for prop 8 did so because they he saw it as a "moral" issue rather than a civil rights issue. We've got to change hearts and minds and we aren't going to do that by blaming various ethnic groups.

Posted by carrma | November 11, 2008 2:31 PM

Mark in Colorado; still bent out of shape that the world went on after a puppy was killed?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | November 11, 2008 2:33 PM

the intent of the cartoon is clear; blame black people when things don't go your way.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | November 11, 2008 2:34 PM

But you think that the reason that black voters go disproportionately for prop 8 is because they are black and wah wah wah, or what else would your point be? Are white people supposed to feel superior? Or uh, what? Sorry you don't speak for all white people Dan.

Black religious traditions are really southern influenced, and when you hold for religion, blacks even come out as more accepting than whites, and they actually hold themselves accountable. There are plenty of major black religious leaders are actually committed to cleaning up homophobia in the church, but white religious leaders feed it if anything, and I have yet to see a single blogger, let alone you, call out white homophobia (you call out homophobia in general but that's not the same thing), but plenty of black folk calling out other blacks. You're completely oblivious. That cartoon is pretty grimey though.

Posted by EmmiG | November 11, 2008 2:37 PM

The only way forward is to be shrill and divisive! It's the only way!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | November 11, 2008 2:40 PM

Obama's biggest mistake was when he criticized the rural voters instead of courting them. One of the many errors of McCain/Palin was their attacks on the demographic groups that they did poorly in.

So what if this poll says gay civil rights does poorly among blacks? First, it's a fucking exit poll, so don't believe it. Second, if it's true, you don't turn that statistic around by beating up the whole group. You don't say "blacks are this, blacks are that, blacks ought to, etc" You turn it around by reaching out in a positive way.

Posted by elenchos | November 11, 2008 2:41 PM

Here's something. The same Bible that was used to persecute black people from slavery to South African apartheid is now used as an excuse by SOME black people to deny gay and lesbians their rights. Not all black people, some. And it was just as wrong then as it is now!

Posted by Vince | November 11, 2008 2:44 PM

It just feels like to me, that you are just digging a deeper hole. The more you try to rationalize, and justify what you've been saying, the more racist you come across. It's time to let this go. It was wrong, I agree, terribly wrong, and unfair, but it's done, and it cannot be undone. Rather than beat this dead horse to a bloody pulp, it's time to go forward and let the past be.

Posted by Charm | November 11, 2008 2:45 PM

uh no, the intent of the cartoon is not to blame black people, it's to equate the gay rights movement with the KKK. that should offend just about everybody involved, including white supremacists.

it is not racist to point out the fact that black people voted disproportionately in favor of prop 8. it is, however, racist to blame black people for prop 8 passing. the only people to blame are the proponents of gay marriage, who failed to make a strong enough case. now that we know who supported prop 8, we know where we need to focus our efforts. but you can't do that if you ignore the facts.

Posted by brandon | November 11, 2008 2:46 PM

We all know by now that the real culprit here is conservative religious extremism, but go ahead and keep on humping the minorities angle if it makes you feel better.

If conservative black churches are homophobic, just like all other conservative churches, and a lot of black people are religious and voted for Prop. 8, just like other religious folks of different races, then is the problem black people or is it conservative churches? See where I'm going with this?

You're going for the easy target (blacks) at the expense of the underlying cause (religious fundamentalism). The result, as we see here, is just bickering and accusation. Why not adopt a tactic that might result in some actual positive progress?

Posted by Hernandez | November 11, 2008 2:50 PM

I see the old climb down after Nate Silver pointed out the obvious that anyone with basic understanding of math and population demographics could have seen. I hope you intend to dedicate a WHOLE post to the fact that you were WRONG from jump.

You are like George Bush. Always wrong, but think that you are right. First you support going after the arabs in Iraq and now you are going after African Americans. Enough. Trying thinking before you blog your racist shit and act surprised when you are called out.

Again, all those protesters who did no canvassing and did not participate in the outreach to younger voters need to take a hard look in the mirror and stop scapegoating African Americans and the Mormons.

Posted by Ann | November 11, 2008 2:52 PM
many still have ties to Latin American culture, which is extremely machista and homophobic.

Mexico City has civil unions.

Posted by keshmeshi | November 11, 2008 2:53 PM

All y'all need to read what Dan has *actually* written and quit being so knee-jerk reactive about it. Jesus Christ. Blacks apparently voted against Prop 8. It's not racist to point out.

Posted by Balt-O-Matt | November 11, 2008 2:53 PM

You're apparently determined to post about this until you drop dead at your keyboard, but it's "the furious response" to your infinite, permanent, unending posts about this subject that is "fueling this argument"?

Got it.

Even when you try to do the right thing on this subject, you still can't play nice -- or stop preaching to the blacks.

Posted by whatevernevermind | November 11, 2008 3:01 PM

how many black men has dan savage slept with? the answer should provide insight into how racist he is.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | November 11, 2008 3:02 PM

Interesting. Why in the cartoon are both the gay characters white? I thought there were latino, black, and asian gays too? Oh, that's right there is no such thing as reverse racism.

Posted by Mark in Colorado | November 11, 2008 3:03 PM

It's a clumsy analogy. He's taking a swipe at perceived racism among some white gay people and the marginalization of black people and their concerns and interests within the wider gay world. Didn't do too good a job of it. But really not much more simple minded than Savage's take on things.

For Dan it now always has to begin with blacks, Latinos, then the "others". But the black villain has to come first because he or she is the most (drumroll) Ironic!

Speaking of propaganda. Dan could teach a master class at this point. Of course there is no other way to look at the constituencies that put this thing over the top, there are no important questions to be asked about the problems of comparing the black civil rights struggle with the struggle of gays for civil rights, no questions about the use and misuse of polling data or its sources, and nothing about how we decide at what threshold homophobia gets a color. Black Homophobia!!!. Put the emphasis on the black please. That is all way to complicated for a blog and not nearly as cathartic as screaming "Black Homophobia!!!"

Thanks for including us among gays and lesbians, Dan. But it smells a lot like condescension given the race baiting that has preceded it.

As to who is making us invisible now? The usual suspects: black homophobes and white racists. The proportion of each varies with the situation. And navigating between the too is not as easy as it may seem to you. But I really don't know a lot of black people who haven't gotten fairly good at it. And survival is always something to be proud of.

I think a lot of this talking past each other could be untangled if we could acknowledge how tenuous the concept of a community based on sexual orientation really is and that it will vanish altogether once the long hard struggle for full civil rights for gays is won. That is ultimately the source of apathy and suspicion among gay black people. Or is it... maybe.... Black Homophobia!!!!

Posted by HDS | November 11, 2008 3:03 PM

I was done posting about this, @26, until I saw that cartoon. Barring some further outrage or idiocy, I'm done now. No one wants off this topic more than I do.

Posted by Dan Savage | November 11, 2008 3:04 PM

Sorry, also time to move forward to make a change. It will happen, I do believe that. It be hard, and it will take time, but the only way to make it happen is to move forward, and work together.

Posted by Charm | November 11, 2008 3:05 PM

Silver assumes that first-time voters = Obama effect, which seems like a logical jump to me. Also, 18-24 year olds were more pro-equality than first-time voters. The gap between the youngest and the oldest is staggering.

Posted by chicagogaydude | November 11, 2008 3:06 PM

here's the entire problem with the "pointing out that blacks voted in greater numbers for prop 8 than any other demographic isn't racist" malarky. Why cite such a statistic? and what purpose does it serve? how can you really do it without following it up with some kind of lecture towards black america respecting civil rights?

How do you cite something without qualifying it?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | November 11, 2008 3:06 PM

@25 "Blacks" voted for/against basically everything, even John McCain. You do know that a shared skin tone doesn't give them a hive mind, right? And that there are no racial reasons wrt Prop 8 for why any black people voted why they did?

If you don't know that, then yes, you are racist. And also stupid. Congratulations.

Posted by EmmiG | November 11, 2008 3:08 PM

The back-pedaling continues.

Posted by AJ | November 11, 2008 3:13 PM

No Mark. There is no such thing as reverse racism. Racism among non whites is racism. It's ok. You can call it that. It doesn't get put in reverse like you're backing out of your driveway unless you mean to presume that more whites than anyone else are racist. And I'm sure that's not what you mean.

Posted by HDS | November 11, 2008 3:14 PM

Was it really the cartoon or was it the "fuck Dan Savage" post below it?

This is exactly what happens when sex advice columnists try to stretch too far.

Posted by Bob | November 11, 2008 3:19 PM

@34. Sigh. Of course African Americans voted for everyone, 5% apparently voted for not-Obama. That's not the point. Forgive me for being inelegant; I left out the words "A majority of". I didn't mean to refer to Black people as one large monolithic group.

But thanks for calling me racist and stupid.

Posted by Balt-O-Matt | November 11, 2008 3:19 PM

for the love of CHRISTMAS! How many times does what 13 said have to be said?


Posted by Mike in MO | November 11, 2008 3:19 PM

Bellevue Ave doesn't really care about minorities and he doesn't care about the gays. He only cares about finding sticks to beat others with so he can feel self-righteous and therefore better about himself.

As for the post itself - give it up Dan. Okay, we get it, you are (still) trying to make a point and if you just hit us all with a hammer a few million more times, we'll eventually 'get it' and get on board your happy train. In reality, you're just making it worse - PUT DOWN THE HAMMER.

Judging by the crap we saw at the various rallies thrown out at people of color, our entire [gay] community needs to do some serious fucking soul searching ourselves. How can we talk to other communities about our lives when we can't even talk to each other about it without threatening supportive members of our community? Why not start talking about that instead?

Posted by Donolectic | November 11, 2008 3:22 PM

Also, "only that African American voters went disproportionately for Prop 8, which is not in dispute"

It is in dispute, that's the problem.

Posted by AJ | November 11, 2008 3:24 PM

Okay, so I'm not African American or either of them really. On a global scale as an Indian, I'm so totally not in a minority it's a bit of a problem but I am brown and don't think you're being racist Dan.
The point that Dan makes is valid and perhaps what people are objecting to is the tone of your language. It seems alright to me and his message is clear.
Anyone who's read through the Savage Love archives and Dans posts on Slog would know he's not racist and deserves the benefit of the doubt.

That statistic is valid because it is true! Despite your best efforts to be colorblind, it's freaking true that most of African Americans voted for yes on prop 8. This *is* particularly striking for the parallels it brings up and hence is relevant. Relevant in a different way than white bigotry, which is also present, is. If you can't see that then you need to step back a bit and see the argument for what it is.

Posted by indian_dude | November 11, 2008 3:25 PM

@40 Well apparently you have to get to 70% before we can start talking about it. But don't fear I'm sure there is a polling method that we can find that will get us there fast!

Posted by HDS | November 11, 2008 3:28 PM

I'm not disputing that blacks went for prop 8 my a large margin. I question the value and the end result of pointing it out, especially in the way dan has and is now backtracking from. Blacks voted for prop 8. And?

Donolectic, how do you know what i care about? I care about what I perceive as right and wrong.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | November 11, 2008 3:32 PM

I must protest. Bellevue Ave identifies with sociopathic Marines and he gets real mad when you say something mean about the loser parents of sociopathic Marines.

For everyone else here, I hate to burst your bubbles but there are latinos who don't like blacks, blacks who don't like asians, latinos who don't like asians, and on and on and on. The race issue isn't all black and white.

Pointing out race in polling stats does not a racist one make.

This whole conversation really is political correctness run amok.

Posted by Mark in Colorado | November 11, 2008 3:39 PM

Blacks went for prop 8 by a large margin. But the size of the margin is very much in dispute. Journalism is the first draft of history and its usually a sloppy draft. The separate issue is if that margin, whatever it is, has some special relevance(For Dan its the "Irony! Oh the Irony!), and whether race is the principle lens through which to assess the passage of prop 8.

Posted by HDS | November 11, 2008 3:40 PM

Mark, I said that the incident wasn't a big deal in light of all the human suffering marines cause in iraq, and the death threats against the parents of the marine were completely uncalled for and possibly even more deranged than throwing a puppy over a cliff. you still seem upset that people got over the puppy incident.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | November 11, 2008 3:41 PM

@45. Nah. We've come full circle from political correctness back to rank racism quite awhile back. I for one think its refreshing and honest. LIke going from an overheated apt for a brisk walk on a snowy day.

Though you're right minority status (including being gay) doesn't make anybody less bigoted, more tolerant, or more likely to fight discrimination other than their own. Its sad, isn't it?

Posted by HDS | November 11, 2008 3:46 PM

"Though you're right minority status (including being gay) doesn't make anybody less bigoted, more tolerant, or more likely to fight discrimination other than their own. Its sad, isn't it?"

I thought maybe empathy had something to do with gay civil rights in the constitution of South Africa.

Posted by chicagogaydude | November 11, 2008 3:51 PM

As I said in a previous post, progressives (not just the gays! all of us! black, white, brown! religious! agnostic! atheist!) need to do some major outreach in the African American community on marriage rights. Why? Because it is smart if we want to win on this. They and we are natural allies, given that we agree on most other issues. Something that is decidedly not true for rural white males, or white evangelicals or (name conservative group here).

Posted by emma's bee | November 11, 2008 3:56 PM

We need to work harder to enforce National Brotherhood Week.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | November 11, 2008 4:07 PM

Bellevue - I don't know what you actually care about, other than yourself. That's the point.

Posted by Donolectic | November 11, 2008 4:07 PM

@49 You're right. the leadership of the ANC did embrace gay rights (after a few years of cajoling from a couple of its gay members). I wonder what the attitude of the rank and file towards gay rights is. But mercifully its already in the constitution.

Posted by HDS | November 11, 2008 4:10 PM

Yes, it is terrible, terrible racism to point out that a portion of the African American community chooses to discriminate against another minority group. It is terrible, terrible racism to mention Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam might be anti-Semitic. It is terrible, terrible racism to mention the misogyny and sexism in Ludacris' or Nelly's rap lyrics.

Posted by yucca flower | November 11, 2008 4:36 PM

Well, @50, it's either worth it to do outreach or it isn't.

Since the African-American vote wasn't large enough to make Prop 8 pass, it's very unlikely that it will ever be large enough to defeat it either. Therefore, is it tactically worth it to reach out to such a small demographic? Do we focus our energies on getting 50% of a small group to change their opinion, or 4% or a much larger group?

I don't think we owe it to anyone to "enlighten" them through outreach - we should only bother if we think it'll help us win. I'm skeptical at this point, but who knows.

Lastly, it's hard to think of many civil rights successes that triumphed through respectful appeals in hostile communities. MLK, Malcolm X, Act Up, etc. used confrontation and condemnation, and that's what worked. The sympathetic came to them, not the other way around. And the unsympathetic finally got beaten - not redeemed.

Posted by Yeek | November 11, 2008 4:38 PM

It's terrible, terrible racism to mention that different ethnic and racial groups have conflicts with each other.

Posted by yucca flower | November 11, 2008 4:39 PM

We must never, ever point out a minority group could possibly be biased toward another minority group. NEVER!

I don't think it is racism to point out a fact. It is racism to blame Blacks solely for the passing of Prop H8.

Posted by yucca flower | November 11, 2008 4:42 PM

One of the great tragedies of this country is that you do not have to be racist to reinforce racism.

Why does your blog entry on "Black Homophobia" reinforce racism?

Because you do not place the "facts" in their proper context. The fact that 70% of African Americans voted for Proposition 8 serves to hide a great deal of equally important facts, Mr. Savage. It tells us nothing about the conditions on the ground that made that happen. It tells us nothing about the social situation of those African Americans; it tells us nothing about the long and complicated history of African American-queer relationships; it tells us nothing about the divide-and-conquer strategy thanks to which powerful groups have always thrived in this country; and it surely helps to feed the ignorance, the unwillingness to reach out to other marginalized populations, and the self-segregating bigotry that got us into this hole in the first place.

Let me give you an analogy that will hopefully clarify what I am saying. The New York Times reports that 12 percent of African-American men ages 20 to 34 are in prison, compared to 1.6 percent of white men in the same age group. ">>

If I throw this fact out there without telling you a whole bunch of other facts, Mr Savage, many people would be inclined to believe, quite simply, that blacks are “inherently” more criminal than white men. On the opposite end of the spectrum, but just as simplistically, other people would explain this fact by saying that the justice system is controlled exclusively by whites and that whites are nothing but a bunch of racist bigots. My “innocent” statement of fact would serve to reinforce racism among whites AND blacks. There are many, all too many “facts” that miss or hide the point.

More worrisome coming from someone of your stature and reputation, in your blog entry you have fallen into the typical trap of only being able to explain social phenomena through the lens of race alone. Where is your socioeconomic analysis of Proposition 8? How many working class voters supported Prop 8? How many of the unemployed? And what does it mean if blue-collar workers supported Prop 8? Does it mean that they’re ungrateful because gays helped to elect a president that intends to tax them less? Or does it say something about the failure of queer groups to engage in critical analyses of ethnicity and class alongside those that have to do with sexuality? And I say this as a queer person who opposed proposition 8.

Just as with your initial support for the war in Iraq, Mr Savage, it is time to stop trying to save face and take back your destructive arguments. At the very least you should put your facts in their proper context.

Posted by Montero | November 11, 2008 4:42 PM

@58 There you go again Montero. Playing that race card! Deal me in!

Posted by HDS | November 11, 2008 5:07 PM


This post is a good deal better than your other ones on the topic. I agree the cartoon is a totally unfair comparison. However, i think you need to re-read the last line of your own post "No one group of voters singlehandedly passed Prop 8."

So take your own advice and stop focusing so much on only the Black voters :-P

Posted by Hunter | November 11, 2008 5:09 PM

@54 You forgot Al Sharpton and Malcom X (pre Hajj). I think you might be working from an outdated list.

BTW the rappers have their own list now. There are just so damn many of them!

Posted by HDS | November 11, 2008 5:12 PM

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