A White Gay’s Guide for Dealing with the Black Community: Chapter 9: Take a Chill Pill

gayprotestsTHE PROBLEM: Strong feelings of entitlement, refusal to work with others, racism, extreme issues with class, sudden temper tantrums

THE PRESCRIPTION: Take as needed one chill pill with a large glass of reality…

The gay community needs to take a chill pill…seriously. Protesting President Barack Obama outside of the Beverly Hilton Hotel during a fundraiser may make the evening news but does very little to persuade public opinion—which is the reason for the passage of Proposition 8 in the first place. At a time when so many Californian’s are unemployed and living at or below the poverty line, now would be a good time for gays to show that the fight for marriage is about making life better for all of us, rather than some of us.

California voters are waist deep in the middle of an economic nightmare, and for many Blacks, well, let’s just say that they’re in danger of drowning. With everything from health insurance for the poor, financial help for unemployed single mothers, and the elimination of a State program that provides antiviral drugs for people living with AIDS on the Governor’s $24.3-billion budget deficit chopping block, some would say that right now we’ve got bigger fish to fry. Which is not to say that I’m suggesting that the gay community give up the fight for marriage equality altogether, after all I am a lesbian. But what I am saying is that the fight for marriage doesn’t surpass the bread- and-butter issues that are plaguing millions of Californian’s today.

Using the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Proposition 8 as an excuse to go out into the streets and protest and throw temper tantrums isn’t going to evoke any sympathy from Black voters who supported Proposition 8. And whether you like it or not, sooner or later the issue of gay marriage will comeback to those same Black voters and it’s what happens now that is going to make all of the difference in how voters react when they’re faced with it on their ballot again.

To that end, protesting the first Black President isn’t going to get the gay community very far with Blacks, especially considering the fact that most Blacks are still reveling in the fact that’s he’s in Office. Not to mention the fact that President Obama’s position on gay marriage was made perfectly clear before he was ever elected into office and it was no different than his then rival Senator Hillary Clinton in that he has said that he supports civil unions, but he is against gay marriage.

Threatening to boycott Black churches and businesses—while laughable, because most white gays do very little business in the Black community—will not help the cause of gay marriage advocates. Besides the fact that those same gays would first have to attend the churches in questions or frequent the businesses to be blacklisted, in the end it would only enrage a constituency that you will undoubtedly need in the future.

Using well-meaning Black politicians as surrogates into the Black community to plead the case for gays isn’t going to work either as our Governor found out May 19 during California’s Special Election when Black voters rejected 5 of 6 Democratic Party-backed initiatives. This, even after the Governor and those same well-meaning Black politicians who have been on the receiving end of financial contributions from gay political organizations, made the rounds at the local Black churches urging for their support sending the Democrats back to the drawingboard.

Chances are that this fight is not going to be remedied by the courts or the Legislature, but by popular opinion, which means that at some point we’ll all be headed back to the ballot to cast our vote. So threatening to withhold political contributions and endorsements of Black candidates because of their position on gay marriage isn’t going to work. Sorry. Unless the gay community changes it’s “entitlement” strategy, we can expect to go around and around on this issue as we do year in and year out. This is good for some because it keeps a lot of folks employed and a lot of money being raised and changing hands, but in the end does nothing to change the fact that gays still can’t legally marry in California.


If the gay community is really serious about marriage then they need to act like it and start running the kind of campaigns that bring them closer to the constituencies that they need instead of alienating them. And until they can figure out a way to do that, whether they like it or not, popular opinion is going to be against them.

Jasmyne Cannick

Jasmyne Cannick, is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. A regular contributor to NPR’s ‘News and Notes,’ she was chosen as one Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World.

Reprinted with permission from JasmyneCannick.com


  1. Chris says

    I don’t believe the point of the demo was to go after the first black president. Obama did actually make promises to us about bringing about full equity through solid civil union legislation on the federal level which would give us absolutely equal rights. He also has promised to repeal DOMA and Don’t Ask Aon’t Tell. Dan Choi is, as far as I know still fired. I haven’t heard any comments related to Choi from Obama, have you? Rather than see any forward movement on our civil rights, we have seen references to the repeal of DOMA and DADT removed from his official White House website. Aren’t you,as a lesbian, a bit disturbed by his silence on our rights? We busted our behinds during his campaign….many many gays and lesbians. We need some communication from him that we weren’t just used (as we often are) and filled with false promises. So yes, we don’t always take into consideration that our movement is often reduced to begging for approval from hetero communities either of color or otherwise.(I don’t remember much begging from the black civil rights movement) Maybe confrontation isn’t strategically the most brilliant move. But morally I think confronting President Obama about promises he has made …Morally I think it’s an appropriate reaction.

  2. James says

    Should the black community have put “on hold” their struggle for equal rights in the 1960s just because there were many other issues of importance (i.e. Vietnam War, poverty, etc.)? It is simply offensive to belittle the importance of gay equality by claiming that there are “bigger fish to fry.” The struggle for equal rights is always one of the most important issue in a society, whether or not there are other issues facing us. Furthermore, this is not simply about “gay marriage.” Gay and lesbians are struggling are bening denied equality in numerous areas of society. There is currently no federal law protecting gay and lesbians against discrimination, gays are still being unfairly discharged for the military, gays are being denied the right to have their partner from a foreign country legally stay in the U.S., and so on. Fimally, you place so much blame on the “white gay community,” without acknowleding the rampant homophobia among many in the black community. I cotinue to be stunned and disappointed by many on the Left (whether or not they themselves may be gay or lesbian) who diminish the importance of equality for gay and lesbian community, and your article does just that.

  3. Brandon says

    Like Colbert:

    I believe this blacks vs the gay community hype is completely fabricated by the media. I have not seen any anti-African American sentiment among anybody in the gay community but have heard quite a bit from people like Spike Lee and DL Hughley voicing anger towards the gay community.

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