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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Frank Rich Comes Through

posted by on November 9 at 9:50 AM

Eleven NYT opinion columnists filed at least that many columns since the election last Tuesday, most celebrating Obama’s election, all noting the historic significance and symbolism of the election of our first African American president—but not until today did a NYT opinion columnist take note of the fly in the ointment. From Frank Rich’s column today:

On the morning after a black man won the White House, America’s tears of catharsis gave way to unadulterated joy.

Our nation was still in the same ditch it had been the day before, but the atmosphere was giddy. We felt good not only because we had breached a racial barrier as old as the Republic. Dawn also brought the realization that we were at last emerging from an abusive relationship with our country’s 21st-century leaders. The festive scenes of liberation that Dick Cheney had once imagined for Iraq were finally taking place—in cities all over America….

Though Rove’s promised “permanent Republican majority” lies in humiliating ruins, his and Bush’s one secure legacy will be their demagogic exploitation of homophobia. The success of the four state initiatives banning either same-sex marriage or same-sex adoptions was the sole retro trend on Tuesday. And Obama, who largely soft-pedaled the issue this year, was little help. In California, where other races split more or less evenly on a same-sex marriage ban, some 70 percent of black voters contributed to its narrow victory.

That lagging indicator aside, nearly every other result on Tuesday suggests that while the right wants to keep fighting the old boomer culture wars, no one else does.

I predicted that Rich alone would have something to say about last Tuesday’s anti-gay sweep.

RSS icon Comments


African Americans are not immune to the poison of the Radical Religious Extremists. Let's be clear, they are not the Enemy. The Radical Religious Extremists are. LGBT Americans need to understand that distinction.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | November 9, 2008 10:21 AM

I agree, Sargon.

Posted by Dan Savage | November 9, 2008 10:30 AM

There's also a distinction between those who think it's effective to name enemies (Nixon) and those who don't (Obama). Just sayin'.

Posted by tomasyalba | November 9, 2008 10:36 AM

All of you bitching about Dan's posting over the last few days always seem to miss the point he is trying to make. He's trying to engage the issues directly, not trying to whip up resentment against blacks. You can't change anyone's mind without knowing who has a mind that needs changing. If a community votes overwhelmingly and forcefully against something like prop 8, they should be confronted, with positive educational tactics of course, but confronted directly.

And he's not saying the blame lies at their feet either. That award is reserved for the mormons and their millions. I hope Utah's brand is forever tarnished by this.

Posted by Walrus | November 9, 2008 10:40 AM

Congrats, Dan, on the prediction. Gold star for you.

Enough blame, solutions please. Constructive dialogue please.

Have you talked to a LGBT person of color lately, Dan? If so, why haven't you included what he or she had to say to you about all this back-and-forth flaming? Did I miss that quote in a post of yours?

I'm honestly curious.

Posted by Andy Niable | November 9, 2008 10:48 AM

Here's one issue to overcome: Many blacks view gays as the catalyst for urban gentrification, driving long-time minority residents out to the suburbs, which often have very poor transportation available for their city-based jobs.

Here's another: Those blacks who are doing well economically are, more often than not, regular church-goers who view their prosperity as a direct result of God's providence; voting for 'immorality' puts this at risk. Cf. "The land will vomit you out" in the OT.

Amongst the urban poor, churchgoing is rarer and, subsequently, the economic prejudice (for that is what it seems to be at heart) loses a lot of its religious trappings, and is reduced to the idea that gays are less 'manly', i.e., less capable of surviving the lifestyle that poverty represents. (See: gangster rap)

This is economic. The 'fly in the ointment' is that the majority of the gay rights movement since the 90s has relied upon corporations, who are overwhelmingly fiscally conservative, courting the 'gay dollar'. Thus, even the current protests against Utah are taking the form of an economic boycott. My question: How can we attack the problem at its source, the (rising) economic disparity between blacks and whites, when that seems to go against the entire tenor of the gay rights movement up till now?

Posted by That annoying 'interest troll' | November 9, 2008 11:24 AM

I agree with Andy Niable @5. Progressives need to find allies within and directly engage the African-American community. I know it seems a far-fetched example, but it might help to learn from Cincinnati's recent experience.

In 2004, the lone bright spot for progressives in my city was the repeal of the anti-GLBT Article XII from Cincinnati's charter. This had been enshrined in 1993 through the machinations of asshat Phil Burress's (of Mapplethorpe fame) "Citizens for Community Values" group.

Cincinnati is 45% African American. This repeal was accomplished only through the support of progressive members of the black religious community.

Here's part of the story, from

and :

Lynch sits back in his spacious church office, its walls crammed with images: Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., framed clips of Lynch marching, several city proclamations, and a strange photo of Lynch and the Rev. Donald Jordan stiffly flanking George W. Bush. “I’ve been a proponent for gay rights for years—during the days when this city was intolerant,” says Lynch. “Me coming up in Cincinnati and Georgia before that, I know what that was about. Discrimination of any kind isn’t right.”

From 1996 to 1999, Lynch was president of the Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Greater Cincinnati and Vicinity. Lynch would intermittently come to public loggerheads with the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, the proudly conservative civil rights stalwart who has opposed gay rights. The disagreement reached its apex in the battle over Cincinnati’s human rights ordinance, which culminated in 2004 with the repeal of Article XII, the city’s so-called “anti-gay amendment.”

“I became the bad guy within the black ministers,” Lynch recalls. “‘Reverend—you go out there for those homosexuals
and those sissies!’” he adds, mocking black preachers who questioned his loyalties. “Shuttlesworth was saying, ‘If Martin was alive, he’d be siding with us.’ Miss Coretta King came here and said, ‘That’s not true, Fred,’” his voice affecting that of a genteel southern woman’s.

Despite some public grilling for his beliefs, Lynch doesn’t mince words about the homophobia still rampant in some black churches. “I think we’re the most homophobic going,” he says. “We can be as liberal as we wanna be on social issues but when it comes to sexuality issues, we’re hypocrites.”>>

Of course, Cincinnati (and Ohio) are far from sanctioning gay marriage, but the principles of engagement should be the same.

Oh, interesting side note: Procter and Gamble came out squarely on the side of progress and threw its $$ behind the repeal of Article XII--fundies were telling their followers to boycott Crest & Tide, and we saw how well that worked.

Posted by emma's bee | November 9, 2008 11:49 AM

#6, I've a couple of your posts now, and I really, really hope you get some kind of job in the gay rights movement. You'd be so much better running HRC than Joe Solmonese.

Posted by Tracy | November 9, 2008 11:50 AM


I've read. I've read a couple of your posts.

Posted by Tracy | November 9, 2008 12:01 PM

#4 We didn’t miss the point because he initially didn’t make it. From the first line of the original post

African American voters in California voted overwhelmingly for Prop 8, writing anti-gay discrimination into California’s constitution and banning same-sex marriage in that state.

He set the accusatory tone that AA voters were to blame. He did not parse his statement. Later in the post he added…

I’m done pretending that the handful of racist gay white men out there—and they’re out there, and I think they’re scum—are a bigger problem for African Americans, gay and straight, than the huge numbers of homophobic African Americans are for gay Americans, whatever their color.

Talk about condescension! To a gay, white male this is indeed true but I as a gay, black male (I have stated that I can’t tell which is a bigger problem. How the hell would he know!?) I find it insulting that he could and continues to minimize some of my issues in order to maximize an issue that is more important to him. I must admit a bit of wariness about his concern about an issue and community that didn’t seem to be an issue for him before but if it is a concern now I will take him at his word. Most of the entries on this issue from gay, people of color have understood. We have not excused the imbalance of the African-American vote or denied the homophobia in the community. I have a problem though with the way we as blacks are used to represent the reprehensible. It is like George H. Bush using Willie Horton to “demonstrate” softening on crime, O.J. Simpson to demonstrate domestic violence, loans to minority homeowners as causing the failure of the economy. It seems that often when whites need to amp up an issue they put a black face on it even when other factors or involved. Savage is smart enough to know what he was doing. Maybe he typed it in anger but even he should be able to see how it can be interpreted if he rereads his own words. He is a far better communicator than that. My shock at the tone of his initial entry has abated but I will not apologize for “bitching”. My problem with his entries is more than hurt feelings. I enjoy his column and his appearances on Bill Maher and will continue to do so but I don’t think his wording in this case helped anything. Savage may be trying to engage the issue but without proper perspective he (and you #4) know that he has “whipped” resentment. Resentment usually creates hostility and then there is no communication and no action. Positive educational tactics-bring it on! Accusatory statements and blame-leave it elsewhere. Just my opinion!

Posted by Dave | November 9, 2008 12:05 PM


Nonsense. I could never get a job at HRC because...I am not a crook. You see, HRC and others are against marriage, because it bundles all of the rights they wish to lobby for individually over a long, long time (say, until Joe S. hits retirement age?). Success in that realm=decreased donations raised by teary-voiced callers. It's a Ponzi scheme. I once made the mistake of working for an 'action' phone bank during college. Our job was to scare people into making a donation. If you didn't scare up the requisite amount each week, every week, you got shitcanned. HRC's phone bank was right next door to ours. They operated the same way. Don't believe the hype.

Posted by That annoying 'interest troll' | November 9, 2008 12:09 PM

While knowing who voted against us on Prop 8, is vitally important to our future education and outreach efforts. And knowing who funded Prop 8 and identifying those people and businesses so that we and our allies can be assured none of our money is going to anti-equality causes.

However, when it comes to the question of why we lost on Prop 8, the gay community should be looking at ourselves first and foremost. The simple fact is, for all the marching in the streets today, when it would have mattered we couldn't be bothered enough to make the effort. Think about it Mormons from throughout the nation were willing to give sums large and small to ensure that their values were endorsed at the polls, they were willing to forgo an evening out with their families or maybe even a family vacation. Now I agree this is a very sad comment on their priorities and values, but what does it say about the gay communities priorities and values when in all likelyhood more gay money was spent getting together fabulous costumes for Halloween and then getting rip-roaring drunk in those costumes than was spent protecting our civil rights.

When I looked at the WA state donors for and against Prop 8, what struck me wasn't the few donors in favor, who gave large amounts, but the vast number of well to do gays and lesbians I know, who couldn't be bothered to chip in so much as the cost of a dinner out. I wonder if we were to tally up the donations against Prop 8, if donations from gay would even comprise the majority, do our allies care more about our rights than we do?

I read a story I read online earlier this week about the protests in the Castro. They interviewed a young drag queen (just 18), who was marching in a train made of "No on 8" banners. When interviewed by the reporter, he said that he had forgotten to register in time to vote, so he felt like he had to "do something for the cause". Well, Mary it's too fucking little and too fucking late!

Posted by JohnnyC | November 9, 2008 12:32 PM


Maybe he wasn't trying to whip up resentment, but take a look at the comments to those posts. For every comment bitching Dan out for bringing it up, there's a comment heaping blame and hate on African Americans.

Posted by keshmeshi | November 9, 2008 12:37 PM

"To all of you African Americans who voted for Prop 8 due to religious reasons: you do know what the bible says about SLAVERY, don't you?"

-headline from

that pretty much sums up the hypocrisy/irony.

Posted by J | November 9, 2008 12:51 PM


Do you think that any of the blacks who did vote yes on Prop 8 (or would) are regular readers of SLOG? Please stop alienating those of us who are your allies. That's Dan's job.

Posted by That annoying 'interest troll' | November 9, 2008 12:59 PM

#10. We didn’t miss the point because he initially didn’t make it. From the first line of the original post...

What point didn't he make in his first post? That black people overwhelmingly voted for discrimination? They did, and he made that point.

That the Mormons and Catholics are the most at fault? They are, and he made that point.

That there's a problem with homophobia among African Americans? There is, and he made that point.

That African American bigotry does more harm to gays than gay racism does to African Americans? He made that point too, and it seems that in this election, he is right.

All of these points were made in his first post, yes. And what point wasn't made? African Americans are solely at fault for Prop 8 failing. He never said that. As a matter of fact, he's said just the opposite.

70% of homophobic African Americans voted for discrimination on Tuesday, and had they had the power, they'd have defeated Prop 8 all on their lonesome.

No, they didn't pass the proposition; they only helped pass it. Overwhelmingly so.

I just don't understand what's making everyone so angry. These are all true statements. Let's address them and try to figure out what to do about them. Our first step should be finding common ground. Our first step should not be to ignore what's staring us in the face.

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Posted by Pit Bull in Granite Falls | November 9, 2008 1:05 PM

@5 and 6.
Both of these posts place the blame at the feet of gays. They haven't done enough to "engage people of color". Not enough has been done to address the "economic disparity between blacks and whites" which the latter post claims is "the source" of the problem.
Nonsense. Whites are held responsible for their bigotry. I've never heard someone claim the way to stop racism is to see the white racists as the victim. Have anti-racist activists ever suggested that white supremacy can be stopped by improving conditions in poor white communities?

Posted by don't kill the messenger | November 9, 2008 1:23 PM

I should add, for all those who claim the fault lies with gays not engaging or doing outreach with the black community as the fault behind the 70% for vote. Gays also didn't do outreach in the Asian or Jewish community either. So apparently lack of outreach didn't stop some people from having a better handle of right and wrong.

Posted by don't kill the messenger | November 9, 2008 1:34 PM


The gay rights struggle and the black rights struggle are commensurate on almost every point. Perhaps the best palliative for a lot of this angst is to explore the parallels between certain very poorly thought out aspects in each. For example, the gay rights movement simultaneously uses bisexuals to pad their numbers and as tool for outreach; but behind the scenes, bisexuals are discriminated against in every possible way (here's lookin' at you, Dan). Compare this to how biracial blacks are treated by the black 'community': the majority of blacks who have made it into history have been biracial(Frederick Douglass, WEB DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Malcolm X, Obama...), and for the purposes of raising black consciousness, are therefore listed as being 'black'. Yet, behind the scenes, the prevailing attitude is: far from it. I myself heard, back before Hillary screwed herself over, that my fellow, darker, blacks thought that Obama wasn't black enough. This was incredibly offensive to me, as I am WAY lighter than Obama is.

Look up the word "Oreo"; it simultaneously means "sell out" AND "of white/black admixture". What may be gathered from this is that being mixed INHERENTLY makes one suspect. To bolster my point, here are some further examples:

The mixed girl on Aaron McGruder's "Boondocks" is constantly made the butt of racist jokes, as are her interracial parents.

This attitude has had currency since slavery. On the television series, "Roots", a character is rejected as a marriage partner for having light skin. Marcus Garvey, the black Hitler, characterized DuBois' "Talented Tenth", charged with the task of raising up their community through their efforts, as being composed of "Mulattoes and Quadroons". The prevailing attitude embodied in such remarks is what killed the Harlem Renaissance.

Here's Bessie Smith, "the Empress of the Blues" in her recording of 'Do Your Duty':
"I didn't believe a word that she said: she's the lightest woman in town..."

A whole host of examples are there to back me up on this. Where the gay 'community' can profit from this is to realize that we have an untapped resource in our bisexual minority as far as outreach is concerned. Rather than vilifying them (Here's lookin' at you, Dan) as closeted or self-hating, denying them sex, etc., perhaps it is time to have a 'big tent' philosophy that isn't just lip service.

The irony of all this is that since the gay rights advocates have only seen fit to apply the most superficial resemblances between the two civil rights movements (actually one big civil rights movement), they have not only revealed the insincerity of their commitment to the equality of all, but have also foolishly made the very same mistakes as their counterpart movement as a direct result.

My suggestion: outreach to bisexuals and also individuals of mixed race within the black community REGARDLESS of their sexual orientation. Another one of my sensible approaches which will, I'm sure, be ignored by Dan, now that he's got his "Irish" up.

Posted by That annoying 'interest troll' | November 9, 2008 1:54 PM

Messenger: Actually nothing you offer here is germane to post #5, which said nothing whatsoever about "placing blame at the feet of gays" or anything of the sort.

Do you agree with Dan, Messenger, that it is black gays and lesbians who are most affected by this issue? If so, do you not think it necessary to listen, and at least try to understand instead of dismissing offhand, when many of those most affected by the problem are saying that Dan's approach to the problem is not helpful?

Posted by Jay | November 9, 2008 1:56 PM

Don't kill the messenger:
The point I was making, over a series of SEVERAL posts, is that the organizations currently in control of the rights movement fail to engage POOR people as a CLASS. This has a merely RESIDUAL effect of ignoring blacks and Hispanics. The only reason I am bringing up the blacks instead of poor people in general is that the campaign to scapegoat them for the recent losses--conveniently overlooking the fact that one can neither consume one's way to either a stable identity nor a lasting equality in favor of continuing to sell 'gay-themed' products--has backed me into the current, distasteful, paradigm. The reaction against blacks, entirely engineered by the same media conglomerates who make their livings by advertising those very same products to the largely white, gay middle class, can hardly be said to be done innocently. Do you understand? I'm sorry I hurt your feelings. Watch LOGO for a few hours, and I'm sure you'll forget all about it.

Posted by That annoying 'interest troll' | November 9, 2008 2:05 PM

"But not until today did a NYT opinion columnist take note of the fly in the ointment." I think this is one of the points of divergence on this issue that many of us have. Prop 8's win takes nothing away from me regarding Obama's win. Not one thing. For me, as a gay black male, I have experienced racism, and homophobia.

But, if I were a white gay man, my point of contention in life might largely be homophobia, and therefore, maybe Prop 8 would have a greater sting. But for me, I worry far more about incarceration rates, disparities in health care and education in the black community. I despair at the idea of whole communities being left behind in EVERY aspect of American life, not just marriage rights because of those deficits. I cringe every time I take a call at my health care job when it's from a young black mother with three kids, three different fathers. I have been pulled over, questioned in hit and runs, and robberies I had nothing to do with (same old story, DWB); had my car searched, been followed by store security.

If your primary contention in life is homophobia, then I can see how this issue may be another civil rights issue, and I agree it is an issue of civil rights. But from where I stand, whether or not I can marry in CA, I'm still first and foremost black, and I have been far more affected by my race than because I'm gay.

Posted by hal | November 9, 2008 2:47 PM

One more thing. I'm shocked at the fact that this exit poll is being taken at face value, in spite of the fact that they are inherently unreliable, and that there are great big holes in the "math" being thrown around. 90% of African Americans voted in CA? Doubt it.

Posted by hal | November 9, 2008 3:10 PM

I don't doubt that there is a lot of homophobia in the AA community, as there is among a lot of ethnic groups. What we shouldn't forget is that AA political leaders are extremely pro-gay. Don't take my word for it; take Rep. Barney Frank's. He was quoted, just in Aug. 2008, I believe, as saying that the AA political leaders in in the US Congress are more pro-gay than the gay representatives themselves--if you include all of the self-hating gay Republican politicians! I'm sure that that pro-gay attitude will one day be widespread among the general AA community. But we can't do it by blaming them first. Does anybody know if the No on Prop8 people worked in the AA neighborhoods? I recall only seeing white and hispanic faces in ads. Not to mention that the No on Prop 8 people hardly mentioned "gay"!

Posted by ThomasG | November 9, 2008 3:34 PM

I wish I knew your name #20, because I don't want to call you "annoying" or "troll" because I think you're so fucking awesome. Maybe I'll just call you "interest."

Your point that prejudice and discrimination against our own "bi's" happen within both gays and African American communities is something that hadn't even occurred to me in all of this hurt. And it is a great point, and definitely should be addressed and worked on. I think sometimes that when bisexuals settle down into monogamous different-sex relationships, they don't feel compelled to work with the LGBT community anymore. I wish this wasn't the case. It certainly isn't for me.

What we're coming to grips with, I think, is that gays, lesbians, and bisexuals are realizing that there is a powerful voting block within the Democratic Party that is religiously conservative (to put it the nicest way I can). I'm beginning to think that our next question should not be, "Black people, how could you?" but rather, "Democratic Leaders, what you going to do about it?"

I'm afraid, however, that if we ask them this question, we won't like the answer.

Posted by Tracy | November 9, 2008 4:09 PM

I'm not awesome; Don Hertzfeldt is awesome. Check out his cartoons. I call myself 'troll' because that is the visceral reaction I get when I offer up reasons and solutions to people whose bitching constitutes what will end up as their only substantive effort in this mess. For my part, I am going to contact a few people and see if I can't get the children's homes in my area to stop using their charities as juggernauts of captive evangelism. I will also up my volunteering, although I can't really afford to do so. I'll see what Facebook has to offer as far as politicking is concerned. One of my buddies in Massachusetts is friends with that Hediwig and the Angry Inch guy; maybe he'd like to get on board. You can call me Sergei if you want. Pleased to meet you.

Posted by That annoying 'interest troll' | November 9, 2008 4:55 PM

My god, Don Hertzfeldt is wonderful! Why have I never heard of him before?? Thank you for recommending him.

I'm with you on keeping on, keeping on. Writing, protesting, educating, donating... I'm in this fight until we win or I die, whichever comes first.

On November 5th, I felt temporarily helpless, but not anymore.

This will be my last post on this topic (I need to read more and talk less), but I am extremely pleased to have met you, Sergei. I hope I run into you on Slog again after all of this had died down. Keep "trolling" thoughtfully.

Posted by Tracy | November 9, 2008 6:11 PM

I swear to fucking god if I make this mistake again, I'm banning myself.

In my #16 post, this paragraph:

And what point wasn't made? African Americans are solely at fault for Prop 8 failing. He never said that. As a matter of fact, he's said just the opposite.

Should read:

And what point wasn't made? African Americans are solely at fault for Prop 8 passing. He never said that. As a matter of fact, he's said just the opposite.

Nobody seems to be making this mistake but my dumbass self!

Posted by Tracy | November 9, 2008 6:28 PM

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