All over America there has been exciting and broad based protests against the narrow passage of Proposition 8 in California. To see so many of the LGBT community feel passionately about their freedom is uplifting and a good omen for our struggle. Especially inspiring is to witness so many of our youth seize their own future and insist on full equality. The size of the crowds have been astounding, the perseverance is impressive and the chants certainly creative. Intense dialogue is taking place all over America about what went wrong, who is to blame and in some cases seeking to punish those who disagreed with us. Some of these actions have been wise and some have been very foolish.
Among the most foolish has been the dialogue around the African-American vote in California. It has been tinged in places with racism, not based totally on good knowledge, lacks a historical perspective and certainly doesn't create an atmosphere to build a better coalition.
Let me say that the purpose of building a movement/ campaign is to create a winning coalition. Sometimes it doesn't have to be a majority coalition but at least one strong enough to protect an unpopular minority from the tyranny of a majority. Our movement and our protests should not be about punishing our enemies but bringing enough of them to our side, not necessarily to love us, but to ensure our freedom and full equality. I really don't care if someone doesn't like me, I do care if that manifests itself in taking away my rights, being an oppressor and actions that lead to violence. Nowhere in our splendid constitution does the word "comfortable" appear as a criteria for freedom and equality.
Now in relationship to the African-American community, much has been made of a CNN exit poll that show 70% of that community voting "Yes On Eight". Dr. Fernando Guerra of Loyola's Levy Center for the Study of Los Angeles did a far more extensive poll than CNN and found that the 70% figure was way too high. The figure is closer to 57% (still not acceptable) but a long way from the 70%. Other models that I have been running in an attempt to get the facts and not the emotions show the latter a more likely figure.
The other data that appears to be emerging (BUT yet to be totally verified) is that African-Americans who early voted (which was a huge number) voted YES while those on election day voted NO. Remember we did not do extensive campaigning in many of the African-American precincts until the final week or so which was long after tens of thousands had already voted. Our campaign was slow to use Obama's opposition to Proposition Eight which he gave the day after the initiative qualified five months before the election.
Now historically, the African-American community has been our strongest ally. I have been working in LGBT rights since 1976 and no other community has consistently supported us like the African-American community. In two huge past initiative battles that we won statewide in California, No on 6 and No on 64, the African-American community gave us some of our largest margins. Leaders like Mayor Willie Brown, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, deceased Congressman Julian Dixon and others too numerous to menton often were the first to speak up if our oppressors were coming after us. We have a long valuable historical and powerful coalition with the African-American community and I would hate to see us do damage to it in our passion. This is no small political matter and should be treated by the LGBT community with the utmost of care. Our leaders must lead on this one, do some self-examination and approach our long time friends with a smile and a handshake.
I am not here to second guess the very capable people who run this campaign. They gave us their heart and soul and we honor them. However in moving forward we must understand how we can do better. Certainly we all agree on a daily basis we all can do better. We need a really good CSI type forensic type examination of this election before we blindly make plans to go forward. There are so many questions unanswered at this stage about outreach and education.
The LGBT community knows discrimination as does African-American community. Our struggle for freedom is the same but our road is unique and different. We should stop connecting our path to freedom with the noble African American struggle for freedom. They are two different journeys. Embraced our own struggle and inspired others by our unique stories. Now is the time for cooler heads to prevail, leaders to speak out and to honor a rich history between our two communities