Prop. 8 and thinking before we write

Yesterday, I tried to outline a humanistic case against the whole "Teh blackz did us in!" argument. I also linked some math. Now we have better math. The basic idea is that you need black folks to have been about 10 percent of all votes cast on Prop 8 to make a difference. Black folks are one of the smallest minorities in California, making up about six percent of the total electorate, which numbers at about 17 million. At 6 percent, black folks are worth about a million or so votes. There were just over ten million votes cast on Prop. 8. For blacks to cast ten percent of those you would need a turnout of 90 percent in the black community. Lemme repeat that--90 percent. It's possible, I guess. I leave it to you to weigh the odds.

I'm still embarrassed by the fact that 70 percent of those who did vote, voted yes. It means we have serious work to do. But I'm seeing a makings of a disreputable trend to turn a problem into a black problem. We use disproportion as a crutch--what's important is that blacks are disproportionately poor, not that there are large numbers of white poor people. Ditto for homophobia. What's important isn't the large minority of whites, and the influential majority (barely) of Latinos who passed Prop 8, but the roughly 5 percent of the California electorate who voted for it.

Something is very very wrong with that. The anger is justified, expected, and human. But it's not how we're going to fix this.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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