The Fierce Politics Of Expedience

Heh, that headline from Andrew's post was so cool, I had to rip it. Anyway, here he is with a typically great take on Obama and the gays. I think the post is, for the most part, spot on. I think he may be a little too hard on Obama--but only a little. That said, I think this statement deserves some consideration:

And it's tedious to whine and jump up and down and complain when a wand isn't waved and everything is made right by the first candidate who really seemed to get it, who was even able to address black church congregations about homophobia.

Longtime readers know about the respect I have for Andrew as a thinker and writer. That said, I think, like a lot of whites, Andrew has a particular blind-spot on race--one that I think Obama greatly benefited from  during the election.

The problem with this thinking is the presumption that there is some monolith called "The Black Church" which Obama should, and has, confronted. In fact, I deeply suspect that the way the "The Black Church" responds to gays is varied. Obama went to Atlanta on MLK Day and said the following:

And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean.  If we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King's vision of a beloved community.

We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community.  For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.

I understand why this could be read as a powerful, courageous statement. But it actually is a pretty vague call for tolerance, made on MLK day, in a city with arguably the most politically potent black gay population in the country. I'm aware of Ebeneezer's problems with Rick Warren. But somehow, I just don't see that as the sort of statement that risks any political capital. Seriously, what's the constituency he's offending? Did Nikki Tinker teach us nothing?

It's the same with black men--Obama got a lot of mileage among white people for his Father's Day Speech. The sense was that Obama was saying something that blacks could not say themselves, that we were so immature, and so corrupted that we actually excused deadbeat-ism.

I think people who think that black men who address homosexuality deserve a medal of courage, need to go back and re-read Huey Newton. I think people who think Obama is the first person to say "Any fool can make a baby. A real man is a father," should really listen to more Ed O.G. They should study the Million Man March. Atonement was the theme for a reason.

I'm thinking of Will Smith in Six Degrees. White writers (whose contact with black people often seems to be limited to Harvard Law, Crown Heights and Northwest D.C.) believe us to be a gang of Farrakhan-quoting, Marion Barry-supporting, homophobic deadbeats. And then Obama shows up, and is not only not that, but actually attacks the homophobes and the deadbeats. And white writers stand up and applaud.

But the whole game is based on a deep ignorance, and arrogance--an inability to confess how little they know about race. It really is the twisted vestiges of segregation that allow Obama to stand up in front of a bunch of black Democrats, and say something as banal and qualified as "The scourge of anti-Semitism, at times, revealed itself in our communities" and then get credit. It's what allows Obama to say what black mothers have been saying for three decades now, and garner applause.

White people should demand a little more.