Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Deep" Thought #21: Gay Marriage Will Exacerbate Black Fatherlessness

Hello readers. I hope you can bear with me. Today's "deep" thought is more serious and a bit longer than usual.

See, there's an interesting theory regarding gay marriage that's been circulating in various anti-gay spheres. In a nutshell, it goes like this: If gay people are allowed to marry, black men won't marry the mothers of their children. This, according to proponents of this theory, means that gay marriage will lead to a further Breakdown of the Black Family (tm).

What I find to be interesting about the use of this argument is that certain factions of predominately white anti-gays really like to advance this argument even though they do not discuss the unique issues facing "the black family" in any context other than how gay people will supposedly harm it.

The white "concerned" proponents of this theory usually fall into one of two camps: (1) Men's Rights Advocates, and (2) "Marriage Defenders."

1. Men's Rights Advocates

For those not familiar, men's rights advocates (MRAs), generally speaking, are men who feel as though men are and have been deeply wronged (whether legitimately or not) by the family court system, the legal system, and/or feminism. Often, they are quite angry about having to pay child support and/or alimony to their ex-wives. By and large, I tend to agree with some people's sentiments that MRA's share more of the same characteristics of privilege-denialist groups like the "National Association for the Advancement of White People" and people who put on Heterosexual Pride Parades than they share with groups addressing actual oppression and inequality. But that's a whole other blog post in itself, I suppose.

One "fatherhood" group which espouses many MRA-type theories cites the high rate of black fatherlessness and makes the leap that allowing gay people to marry will exacerbate this problem. Whether same-sex marriage will exacerbate "black fatherlessness" is an issue that I will deal with shortly.

But first, just for fun, let's juxtapose this group's "concern" for how gay marriage will supposedly harm the black family with its opposition to affirmative action on the basis that it constitutes "discrimination" against white people. Interesting, isn't it? I find it difficult to believe that other MRA groups would feel differently about these policies. It's all about maintaining the status of the white hetero male for many of these groups.

These convenient policy positions embody Critical Race Theorist Derrick Bell's idea of interest convergence whereby "whites will promote racial advances for blacks only when they also promote white self-interest." And further, "whites will not support civil rights policies that may threaten white social status." In essence, this "fatherhood" group grounds its opposition to gay marriage on the "harm" that it will supposedly cause black families. Yet, since affirmative-action threatens white social status, this same group opposes a policy that could benefit black families. When this group's concern for the Black Family (tm) is compared to its opposition to affirmative action, the "concern" for black families appears opportunistic at best.

In other words, that this group couches its bigoted opposition to same-sex marriage in concern for African-Americans allows this group to appear concerned for minority rights while not really being concerned for minority rights at all.

That's pretty fancy footwork, but is anyone who isn't a part of that group fooled by it?

2. Marriage Defenders

Then, of course, there's another group of "concerned" white people for black America: white "marriage defenders." The powerful and elite "family values" coalition Arlington Group has been recruiting African-American congregations into the anti-gay movement using this very argument. Like the MRA's, marriage defenders love this argument because it allows them to appear concerned for minorities without really being concerned for minorities at all.

Less coherent anti-gay bloggers are often seen riffing off of and regurgitating the argument, even if they don't fully understand what they are saying. For instance, our old marriage defender friends at Opine Editorials have also regularly spouted the theory that gay marriage will exacerbate the problem of black fatherlessness. See, how it works is, if gay people are allowed to marry, "the normative link between children and marriage will be severed" and this severed link would magically affect black people more than other racial groups. Or so they say. Thus, as "concerned" white marriage defender Fitz explains, black people oppose same-sex marriage. Like, all of them.

In fact, Fitz is so very concerned with the plight of African-American families that he has created an entire "resource center" summarizing news items that he believes prove his theory that "gay marriage poses dangers to black families." Within this "resource center" are opinion pieces written by black people who oppose gay rights (that were originally published in such "credible" and "unbiased" forums like Townhall.com) just in case any black people are confused and need to know the official Black Person Position on the issue.

Funny though, on this group blog dedicated to, ahem, "the marriage related topics of gendered biology, kin anthropology, family law and policy," I searched and searched for articles opining about African-American families in contexts that did not include denouncing gay people and gay marriage but they were hard to come by. There are a total of only 6 articles (out of over 1,000) with the "race" or "racism" label on Opine and only one of them discussed race without also discussing opposition to same-sex marriage. A search for articles with the phrase "African American" turned up a scant 20 posts. And these articles were mostly dedicated to "explaining" how gay rights aren't really a civil rights issue, how gay marriage is "sex segregation" that is just like racial segregation, and how same-sex couples who marry are like vaudeville actors in black-face offensively imitating the "real thing."

Cool beans.

Here I must add a key clarification lest anyone be mistaken. My main issue is not with the fact that marriage defenders rarely talk about race, well it is but that's also a whole other blog post, it's with the fact that when they do so, they do so in an opportunistic manner and only insofar as it advances their own anti-gay agendas.

With their anti-gay lenses forever lasered into their eyes, marriage defenders seem incapable of even conceiving of the possibility that the breakdown of the black family is due to numerous, complex factors that never has and never will have anything at all to do with the legalization of same-sex marraige. Or, perhaps that's giving them too much credit. I'd like to think that the leaders of the marriage defense movement are not deliberately using African-American congregations, knowing that gay marriage has nil to do with the issues facing African-Americans. But many of us know what this "traditional values" movement is capable of. Especially when the elite marriage defense coalition the Arlington Group- composed of "leaders" who have made millions off of opposing everything gay- are involved.

3. The Harm?

The "gay marriage poses unique dangers to African-American families" argument is convenient because it allows those who seek to perpetuate injustice to feign concern for the plight of an oppressed minority group. And often, this argument is used for another key purpose. It allows marriage defenders of all races to call all non-black supporters of marriage equality "racist" for supposedly not caring about the plight of African-American families.

So, at this juncture, we all need to be asking ourselves if there is any merit to the "gay marriage will exacerbate black fatherlessness" theory. In short, we don't know yet if gay marriage will do any such thing because gay marriage is not legal in most states. That never stops marriage defenders from making ginormous predictions of future harm, of course, but let's all stop, take a deep breath, and reflect on what we do know regarding the so-called family breakdown of the African-American family.

First off, it is clear that in their eagerness to blame every conceivable social ill on gay people or teh feminists, many Marriage Defenders and Fatherhood Groups ignore evidence of actual causes and key catalysts of family breakdown. Even if they post such evidence themselves! For instance, within Opine marriage defender Renee's article that is supposed to be evidence that gay marriage will lead to black fatherlessness, she cites a study that says:

"Male unemployment and low wages are primary reasons why parents do not marry, why 2-parent families break up, and why fathers fail to remain involved with their children. In 2004, half of African-American young men lacked jobs.(12) Domestic violence is also a significant problem leading to the non-formation or break-up of 2-parent families."

It's hard to say what gay marriage has to do with male unemployment, low wages, and domestic violence among African-American heterosexual couples. Renee never articulates it. No one ever does, actually. But that's okay, I'm sure she has some special insight into the African-American condition that she's just not telling us about. Okay, probably not. In fact, her "analysis" shows us exactly how single-issue anti-gay/anti-feminist groups have a tendency to come up with simple-minded "easy" solutions to complex social problems. It's far easier, after all, to blame everything on one social "ill"- homosexuality- than to acknowledge that most social problems are nuanced, complicated, and have a myriad of interconnected causes.

See, the National Urban League, which has a thing or two to say about African-American families, recently issued its State of Black America 2008 document that serves as a "barometer of conditions of the African-American community." In this document, the organization listed specific policy priorities to empower urban communities like "create an urban infrastructure bank to reinvest in urban communities" and "close the gaps in the health insurance system to ensure universal healthcare for all children." Wow, that sounds complicated. We better just ban gay marriage. I mean, doesn't the National Urban League know that it could have saved a lot of paper by just printing little leaflets that said "Save Black America: Ban Gay Marriage!"?

But seriously. In light of complex and systemic factors effecting African-American families, I don't believe for one iota of a second that gay marriage will exacerbate the "plight" of African-American families. I'd bet that the vast majority of those who suggest otherwise are doing nothing but engaging in homo-baiting and preying on popular prejudices of gay people to garner political support for their pet cause of opposing everything gay. And, if the anti-gays get their little marriage amendments passed in 2008, I can guaran-goddamn-tee that the complex problems facing many African-American families will inconveniently linger, unresolved. And not a single one of these fatherhood or traditional values groups will start advocating for solutions- universal healthcare, improved public schools, investing in urban infrastructure- that could tangibly help impoverished African-American families. That much is certain given the lack of interest that most MRA groups and "marriage defenders" have in the African-American family in non-gay-related contexts.

See, while we're all spoutin' theories, I have a little argument of my own: Many of those touting the "Gay Marriage Will Exacerbate Black Fatherlessness" theory tend to vote largely on the single-issue of a candidate's opposition to gay rights. That, of course, means they tend to vote Republican which, in turn, means that they vote for candidates who disproportionately de-invest in urban communities, oppose universal healthcare, oppose affirmative action, privatize public goods, and oppose a myriad of other measures that would strengthen African-American and low-income families.

So let's face it, we should probably leave the policy analysis to those with a more genuine interest in African-American families than those who opportunistically posture for what passes for "concern" among the anti-gay crowd. It is clear that MRAs and marriage defenders are too myopic and/or ignorant to understand that "defending" marriage against gay people is not a noble, worthy, or remotely helpful cause.

As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Except, of course, when injustice happens to gay people.

So yeah. We better not legalize gay marriage. Otherwise black men won't marry the mothers of their children. "Deep" thoughts.

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