Proposition 8 and the Black Vote
While Tuesday was undoubtedly one of the seminal days in the history of America, especially significant to Black America, an event took place in California that concerns me. Proposition 8 was an amendment to the California Constitution that aimed to limit the legal definition of marriage to that between a man and a woman, thus banning gay marriage. The amendment passed with over 52% of the vote. I fully expected this to occur. It is clear that America is not a country that is ready for gay marriage (even our new president has stated that he is against it, but in support of "strong civil unions.") What concerns me the most is that 70% of the black voters who voted for President-Elect Obama voted for this amendment. In all likelihood the large number of black voters were the exact ones who allowed this amendment to pass.
The ramifications of this move are quite jarring. As with everything I do I tend to look at things from a practical approach. It is my belief that by blacks punching in a yes we can vote for Obama and thus celebrating the end of an era of inequality in our political system, while at the same time punching a vote to uphold a barrier of inequality for another group is a slap in the face. Furthermore it screams in the face of all that Civil Rights, history and the goals of America are about.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Black people for years have fought for the equal rights prescribed by the Declaration of Independence. A battle that still goes on to this day. What continues to concern me is that minorities in general are quick to fight for equality, as long as it doesn't impinge on their own personal ideological beliefs. Its fine to fight for the racially, economically and socially oppressed. But those gay people. "No way." "They are sinners." "They aren't purely human." "The Bible says that they are wrong for their lifestyle." We have no problem singing along in church with the choir director who everyone knows is gay. But the day that choir director wants to marry his partner we act as if he is guilty of murder. Give me a break.
The same Bible that we use as the text under which we deny gays the rights that we as straight people have is the same Bible that was used during slavery to justify our being in bondage. Slave masters used the Bible and religion in general to justify to slaves and themselves that the institution they supported was acceptable by God. Take this Bible reference for example:
Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them. (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT)
Today we would clearly say that using the Bible as a tool to condone slavery is wrong. But we have no problem using it to condone homosexuality. As minorities, blacks especially, we should be very in tuned to the issues surrounding oppression based on religious reasons. And we are. But we still use the same text that was used on our ancestors to condone the practice of slavery to condone the practice of homosexuality. It baffles me, especially as a Christian.
While I do support gay marriage, I was not always this way. It took a long time for me to get here. But after some deep thought I realized that if we as a country can deny equal rights to one, then my rights can be taken away too. If gay people do not have the chance to live their lives the way they see fit under the American Constitution and Declaration of Independence, then I am poorer for it. Poorer for it because what it tells everyone is that under the eyes of the law, they are not equal. And if they can suffer inequality based on the law, then who is to say that my equality, which already is tenuous at best, can not be taken away. Who is to say that affirmative action, the right to have an abortion, or the right to marry someone of another race can not be taken away. As long as they suffer under the law, I suffer. As long as freedom is denied to them, then freedom is denied to me.
As blacks in America, we need to expand our idea of the Civil Rights Movement. Do not continue to cloak yourself in the fear of saying that part of your religion is wrong. Do not be afraid that gays being able to be marry would hinder your ability to marry. As we proved by voting in the first black president in our country's history, we can reach levels of equality never before possible. But we also proved in the same booth, on the same day, at the same moment in history, that we can put up our own barriers to equality for everyone. At the end of the day do you really believe in equality for all or do we just believe in equality for you? Its worth a thought.