More on Prop 8

Dan Savage is pissed:

I'm done pretending that the handful of racist gay white men out there--and they're out there, and I think they're scum--are a bigger problem for African Americans, gay and straight, than the huge numbers of homophobic African Americans are for gay Americans, whatever their color.

Fair enough. I have no way of judging how much of a problem "gay racist white men" are for me. I don't even have a way of knowing whether gays are more or less racist than straight people. Moreover, I don't much care. But Dan's logic basically only works if you see black people strictly as a group who've been shitted on. In other words, if you believe that racism is a singular and uncomplicated variable, that black folks aren't effected by any other factors, than you'll probably agree with Dan.

But if you believe black people are not just receptacles for bigotry, not just automatons programmed by centuries of racism, if you believe they consume oxygen like the Irish, that they ingest solid food like the Italians, that they enjoy a good drink like the denizens of Appalachia, that they like to party like gays of any color, that they like to dance like white women, then you understand that no group, anywhere, ever was ennobled by oppression. (The Jews, maybe? No?)

Groups of people who end up on the bad end of history aren't heroic, they aren't better for it, they're just down--and, in most cases, they'd put the victors down if they could. What's the old saying? Black folks didn't object to slavery, they objected to being the slaves. Heh, we don't regret the Middle Passage, we regret the Sahara Desert. We regret not having guns and ships. We regret not being first. And so it is for most of humanity. It's true that individuals sometimes draw wisdom from suffering--but nations tend to be all about the zero-sum.

Look, rightly or wrongly, I'm embarrassed by whatever role black folks played in Prop 8. But that's not because I necessarily think black people are the crux of the problem, it's because I'm black and I want us to fucking represent. I'm not gay, and Dan is grappling with something that doesn't affect me in the same way. But I do know a bit about anger and generalizing. I know that, together, the two are likely responsible for some of the biggest blunders of my career. I know that they generally lead me wrong. I know that whenever I lead with broad statements like, "huge numbers of homophobic African-Americans"--or conversely--"huge number of racist Appalachians" instead of precise questions, people tend to shut down and stop listening. As well they should.

UPDATE: Sebastian shows us all how to math. It's worth reading.