NYT Perpetuates Racist Prop 8 Stereotypes

Just when you thought the “black voters killed gay marriage in California” myth had been completely debunked and put to rest, the New York Times (12/7/08) publishes an op-ed about Prop 8 and how black voters are homophobic. This comes one week after the Times published another op-ed (11/29/08) on Prop 8 and black voters that, despite admitting up front that “blacks probably didn’t tip the balance for Proposition 8,” went on to read a lot like another salvo in the blame game, focusing on black women as a whole (black lesbians apparently don’t exist in author Charles Blow’s mind) and black men on the DL as problems to be overcome in the struggle for gay rights.

This week’s entry makes a show of indicting “white liberal Hollywood” for being racist and insensitive and urges them to give up on “good old-fashioned identity politics,” but co-authors Caitlin Flanagan and Benjamin Schwarz make nearly as many racist and insensitive statements as the ones they attribute to Hollywood.

For example:

They came to the polls in record numbers to support Barack Obama, and they brought with them a fiercely held and enduring antipathy toward homosexuality: 7 in 10 blacks voted in support of traditional marriage. Whether that was the game-changer or not is a question for near-constant debate.

As many of those debunkings noted, despite the stereotype that African-Americans have “a fiercely held and enduring antipathy toward homosexuality,” religion and socioeconomic level are much stronger indicators of how someone voted on Prop 8. And this (more bizarre, really, than racist and insensitive):

Of the values progressives hold dear, none can be as central or as cherished as the promotion of diversity. It is a word that has become almost a term of art. When a private school champions its embrace of “diversity,” parents understand that the admissions office is not dying to enroll the son of a white evangelical minister or the daughter of a founding partner of a white-shoe law firm. Rather, we know that the school makes an intentional effort to include children of certain minority groups among its student body, and that most important among those groups are African-Americans and the children of gay families.

(Yes, the children of gay families are one of the two most important minority groups to private schools that champion that PC term of art, “diversity.”)

It’s important that media provide a space for dialogue about homophobia. What’s sad is that the Times chooses to hand that space over to writers perpetuating racist stereotypes.

About Julie Hollar

Managing Editor of Extra! Magazine
Julie Hollar is the managing editor of FAIR's magazine, Extra!. Her work received an award from Project Censored in 2005, and she has been interviewed by such media outlets as the Los Angeles Times, Agence France-Presse and the San Francisco Chronicle. A graduate of Rice University, she has written for the Texas Observer and coordinated communications and activism at the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas. Hollar also co-directed the 2006 documentary Boy I Am and was previously active in the Paper Tiger Television collective.