I was at the grocery store earlier and overheard a black man complaining about gay people. Overheard might be too mild a word— He seemed to be talking at a level that was clearly meant for others to hear. He was talking about how he was going to kick a guy’s ass if it was true that he was gay. My words are much milder than his were.
And it got me thinking about two groups that should be able to find more common ground than they are— African-Americans and homosexuals. It’s not exactly a stretch to believe that the same people that want a constitutional ban on gay marriage also happen to be the ones that will build a new house in Eads rather than have a black family living a couple of blocks over.
I don’t understand homophobia at all, but damnit, I understand it even less in the black community. I’ve heard black people speaking that were genuinely offended that their struggle fifty years ago could be compared to the struggle that homosexuals face today.
I doubt anyone would ever consciously choose to face the struggles that a homosexual faces. They can’t marry the person they love, which closes them off from health plans, visiting rights in the ICU ward, adopting children in most states, and a nasty social stigma from a vocal minority of the population. So I think we can safely put to bed the notion that they somehow have more choice over being born the way they are than anyone except Michael Jackson has over their skin color.
“If he’s a faggot, I’m gonna kick his ass”. That’s what the guy said. In this day and age, a white man wouldn’t go out in public and say “I’m going to kick his ass because he’s black”. He certainly wouldn’t have used the n-word the way this black man saw fit to drop the f-word. That’s simply because white Americans have finally got the message: If you’re ignorant enough to subscribe to such notions, at least have the common sense not to broadcast it.
We haven’t reached that point with gay people yet. Too many people are too busy trying to gain political ground by making them the one group that you can legally discriminate against. And it’s nearly impossible to get common citizens to quit discriminating when you have legislators trying to codify discrimination into law. Had it not been for Brown vs the Board of Education and a handful of civil rights laws, we would still have the “coloreds” bathrooms.
Maybe by connecting the ignorance of yesteryear to the ignorance of today, we can give our gay friends, family, and neighbors the long overdue gift of equality.
Next time some political hack tells you that you should support a gay marriage ban, tell him you’ll do it— On one condition. This phrase has to be slipped into the Constitutional Amendment:
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of heterosexual Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all homosexual Persons.
Recognize that? It’s a slight paraphrase of Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution. It’s better known as the Three Fifths Compromise. According to our Founding Fathers, black people were worth roughly 60% of what the rest of us were.
After all… Aren’t the people that are trying to keep gays from having the same rights as the rest of us trying to send the same message? The message is “You may have some of the rights human beings have— But not all.”
The Three Fifths Compromise was disgusting back then, and it’s disgusting now.
I’ll never forget the first night that I really saw firsthand the impact that these gay marriage ballot initiatives have on the people involved. I’ve always hated them— They’re an attempt by right wingers to bring out the evangelical vote and cash in on the “angry white man” contingent that Republicans have had to find slyer ways to pander to since public racism finally went out of vogue.
I don’t know that many gay people. I grew up around a gay couple that have been together over thirty years now, and I always thought it was a shame they couldn’t marry. But I don’t have that many gay people in my everyday life now.
So on Election Night 2004, I was at campaign HQ talking to a gay volunteer as the results came in. As we watched the results come in, we kept noticing the gay marriage ban passing in state after state after state…
He looked to me like he was on the verge of tears. I couldn’t tell whether it was sorrow, anger, or both. He looked over at me and said “Eleven states just said I’m less than human.”
As I write this, I wonder… How much of a human would they have said he was?
Three Fifths, maybe?