Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

I'm kinda pissed at black people right now.

President-Elect Barack Obama
Change, but not for everyone?
It's not because Obama won — I'm glad he won. I voted for him, I donated money to his campaign, I think the country and the world will be better off with him as President, and I even think gay people will be better off with him instead of McCain appointing justices to the Supreme Court.

The stupid Yes on 8 campaign logo, protecting their damned families from the horrors of gay marriage
California families are safe now that the queers can't marry any more
What pisses me off is that Proposition 8, the ballot initiative in California to "eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California" won fairly narrowly, about 52 percent to 48 percent, but what pushed the measure over the top was the overwhelming support of black Californians, who voted 69 percent to 31 percent to discriminate against their gay and lesbian neighbors.

And I'm kinda pissed at Obama too. His campaign encouraged record turnout among all kinds of people but especially among African Americans. And although Obama thought Proposition 8 was a bad idea, speaking out widely against the issue wasn't something he felt important. And perhaps he was right to shy away from it, although with the polls in the last days of the campaign showing how overwhelmingly he was going to win in California and nationwide, I think he could have risked appearing in a No on 8 ad the weekend before the election.

This is just the latest in a long string of episodes involving African Americans joining up with other people to push for discrimination against LGBT people. Just last year "black ministers [in Dayton were] outspoken in their oppposition to" updating our city's non-discrimination ordinances to include protections for LGBT people. Of course last year's episode also included a courageous African American politican, Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin, who stood up for the ordinance and got it passed despite the potential harm to her career.

A big part of why I'm pissed off is that I've worked to end discrimination against black people, and yet tons of black people feel compelled to discriminate against me. My involvement's not been only token stuff, like marching in Martin Luther King Jr. Day marches, which, yes, I have done every cold January for years (thank God we queers picked June for our marches!). I've volunteered with the Dayton Dialogue on Race Relations since 2001, helping to faciliate groups in churches, schools, businesses and homes to get white people to understand the trememdous privilege we have because of the color of our skin and the structure of our country and to help black people to work with their white friends, co-workers and neighbors to find ways to change the status quo here in Dayton. I've spoken out to people at my predominantly white, suburban church about the need for us to work not only for justice for gay people but also for justice for people of color, and I've worked with others at my church to forge relationships between our church and a more racially-diverse urban church.

Of course my work on race relations hasn't been altruistic. I probably would never have gotten involved in it if I weren't gay, if I hadn't heard a black man at an ugly city commission hearing in 1999 ask me and other white gay activists where we'd been all these years when black people were struggling. While I don't introduce myself to DDRR groups as a gay man and while the point of these discussions is to dialogue about race not sexual orientation, I don't hide who I am, and my being gay usually comes up at some point (such as on the second night of a dialogue group last month where some of the participants noticed my gay car as we were talking in the parking lot afterwards). I work for racial reconciliation not just because I think it's the right thing to do but because I think the more black people who see a gay man working on their issues, the more black people who might take a more positive view towards my issues.

Hence my anger and disappointment.

Is this family safer with gay marriage banned?
This family's safe, so long as daddy isn't down low
Of course I realize that the black civil rights movement has a much longer history than does the gay one. African Americans and their allies have been fighting for their rights much longer than have LGBT people and our allies. So considering the hundreds of years it's taken to end slavery, to end dejure and reduce defacto discrimination, to gain African Americans a political voice, the gay rights movement's come a long way quickly. And white privilege and racial steering and inequality in housing and employment and the criminal justice system aren't going away simply because a black man's been elected President.

Yet despite the differences between the discrimination faced by African Americans and that faced by queers (most blacks can't hide — most queers can; most blacks grow up with supportive black parents — most queers grow up with unsupportive straight parents), our struggles do overlap. In every black church in America there are black gay men and lesbians. Voting to discriminate against queers doesn't affect just white guppies but also affects African American families. And a culture which fosters diversity and equal treatment for everyone, including LGBT people, is more likely to foster diversity and equal treatment for African Americans. And the real danger to African American families isn't white openly gay men and lesbians getting married — it's pretending that no African Americans are queer.

Maybe it's time we had some dialogue about that.

Wednesday, February 25th, 2004
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week I co-facilitated another DDRR group, this time at Shook Construction. It's good to see companies want to do something about racism, and it's good to meet someplace which provides good food.
Monday, January 19th, 2004
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Today I marched again in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day march. I walked from my neighborhood to the fairgrounds, met up with friends, and marched down Main St. to the Old Courthouse.
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The kids from Chaminade-Julienne cheated and didn't march the whole way, but it's better to join the cause late than not at all. The folks from the East side were late too, but they made it. This year instead of going onto Courthouse Square, the organizers had us stand at Third and Main while people from the four directions joined puzzles pieces together as a show of unity. It was meaningful but hard to see.
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Click for larger After the rally, some people came to the Dayton Cultural Center (in the old Biltmore) to participate in a Taste of the Dialogues, sponsored by the Dayton Dialogue on Race Relations, for which I am a facilitator. It was a good way for everyone to meet new people and for people who've not been through the process before to get an idea of what it's about. Click for larger Click for larger
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Thursday, October 16th, 2003
My group from the DDRR Dayton-Kettering sessions (click to see a larger version) I've been co-facilitating another DDRR group for the past three weeks which wrapped up tonight. This group was one of four groups which consisted of people from the cities of Dayton and Kettering, including both cities' mayors, city commission members and people from various city offices. We met the first two weeks at the convention center downtown (walking distance for me) and then tonight at the National Composite Center, a facility in the Kettering Business Park (the old DESC).
 
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david@davidlauri.com