During the Prop. 8 campaign four years ago, I received a mailer from the Yes on 8 folks which featured black religious figures on one side and then-presidential candidate Barack Obama on the other. It contained quotes like these:
“Marriage is something that is sacred and worth defending as an institution of one man and one woman. Our community needs to reaffirm its commitment to marriage as an institution worth protecting — we need to support Proposition 8.”
— Pastor Tony Dockery, St. Stephen Baptist Church
“I’m not in favor of gay marriage…”
— Barack Obama (quoted from Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC, April 2, 2008)
Mr. Obama was also not in favor of his quote being used in that manner. In fact, he opposed Prop. 8, labeling it divisive. But that didn’t stop the Yes on 8 folks from exploiting the quote for their political advantage.
The whole mailer pissed me off, not just because of its naked homophobia, but because the black faces it featured were directly targeted at me, a black dude who would “naturally” be outraged at the thought of gay folks getting married. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that Yes on 8 very carefully chose where to send this missive. In that case, then, Oakland was probably ground zero, as were probably Compton, Inglewood, and Bay View/Hunter’s Point. Sounds far fetched? It might have once upon a time, but now we know better.
Last week a court in Maine forced the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) to reveal information about its funders and campaign strategy. One explosive document, there for all to see, revealed NOM’s plan to drive a wedge between the black and Latino communities and the gay community.
1. Internationalizing the Marriage Issue: a Pan-American strategy
The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so in the future because of demographic growth: Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values? We can interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity.
3. Not a Civil Rights Project
The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies. We aim to find, equip, energize and connect African-American spokespeople for marriage; to develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; and to provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots. No politician wants to take up and push an issue that splits the base of the party.
That’s some nasty mess right there. This document is connected to the campaign to curtail marriage equality in the state of Maine. However, it is logical to assume that the same “Projects” were employed in California during the Prop. 8 battle. In other words, these bullet points formed the template behind the mailer I received, both its composition and targeted mailing.
It is unfortunate that some folks aid and abet this strategy either accidentally or by design. I already fussed about one such instance a few months back. In another case, writer/activist Rob Smith argues that the divide that NOM wants to exploits has, in fact, existed for years. That points of contention exist between black organizations and gay ones is not disputed, but I think Mr. Smith overstates the point.
Fortunately, there are those, like legendary civil rights leader Dr. Julian Bond, who are too smart to fall for it. He has maintained for many years that gay rights are civil rights and that blacks should understand the harms and evils of discrimination enough to know better than to practice it against another group. Dr. Bond’s views should, of course, be our guiding light. They represent the best offense to defeat NOM’s cynical divide and conquer campaign.
© 2012, gar. All rights reserved.