TNC, in his takedown of Slate piece in which Will Saletan calls black people a ‘left-leaning’ constituency:

Any writer who’s spent significant time in the suburbs of Atlanta, on the South-Side of Chicago, or here in Harlem, knows that black people aren’t “left-leaning”–they just think the GOP is racist. Surveys may show blacks leaning-left on certain issues (minimum wage? ending the war?) but take it from an actual black leftist, there is a conservative streak running through black America wider than the Mississippi. Don’t confuse “enemy of my enemy”-ism, with actual sympathy.

I couldn’t agree more wholeheartedly. Being a black progressive means a lot of biting your tongue in barbershops and Thanksgiving dinners — or barring that, resignation to being shouted down.

That said, if biting our tongues means the continued passage of measures like Prop 8, we probably need to shift tactics. But how? The places that are usually the locus of conversations about sexuality are places that many black progressives can’t access or would never frequent (the church, being the most obvious example).

33 thoughts on “Basically.

  1. shani-o November 14, 2008 at 12:59 pm Reply

    The places that are usually the locus of conversations about sexuality are places that many black progressives can’t access (the home) or would never frequent (the church).

    What do you mean by being unable to access the home?

  2. G.D. November 14, 2008 at 1:14 pm Reply

    I edited; it was awkwardly worded.

    What I meant was that it’s unlikely that all those Negroes who voted Yes on 8 were unlikely to all be church-goers, so it’s not like the church is solely responsible for the propagation of homophobia out there in black American life. I meant “home” in reference to all the non-church places/people that shape our attitudes.

    Liberals/progressives can’t access those personal spaces because your presence in those spaces need to be somewhat organic.

  3. shani-o November 14, 2008 at 1:26 pm Reply

    I’m still somewhat confused. You’re saying black libs don’t often go to church, so they don’t have access to the discussions that take place there, and they also don’t have access to the non-churched people?

  4. G.D. November 14, 2008 at 1:32 pm Reply

    Yes and no. I’m saying that church isn’t a place that is attractive to a lot of black liberals.

    But I’m also saying that you just can’t show up at, say, someone else’s family’s barbecue and start challenging them on politics and expect to change people’s minds. It’s hard for an outsider to get into those spaces and be taken seriously and not be seen as an interloper. But those are the spaces where those conversations are happening, and being an effective presence there means being an organic presence there. (That’s not specific to liberals, obviously, but it underscores how hard it will be to turn it around.)

  5. shani-o November 14, 2008 at 1:46 pm Reply

    I think you may be overestimating the power of the conversations at the holiday bbq or family reunion. Don’t people participating use them to reinforce their own beliefs and/or shoot the breeze? Anyone who challenges the status quo, organic member or not, is probably going to get shot down.

    I wonder if HBCUs are a potential answer to this problem. Obv they contain all of the issues already present in the black community, but you can’t go anywhere else and find as many young black people in one place who are as open and willing to learn.

  6. shani-o November 14, 2008 at 1:48 pm Reply

    BTW: in regards to Will Saletan’s piece — he’s a Republican. He’s gonna see anyone who doesn’t vote Republican as left-leaning.

  7. G.D. November 14, 2008 at 1:56 pm Reply

    You’re sort of making and missing my point. It’s in gatherings like that where people joke and amiably agree with one another that reinforce each other’s positions. If your presence in a family/social circle is an organic one, you not only have a lot more currency, but your dissenting voice would be constant.

    How would HBCUs matter? Most black people who are going to college don’t go to HBCUs, but even still, it’s not exactly like HBCUs are Berkley-esque hotbeds of progressivism, anyway. This is just a feeling I have, but I think HBCUs might already be pulling from a more conservative strain of black college students, anyway.

  8. shani-o November 14, 2008 at 2:10 pm Reply

    If your presence in a family/social circle is an organic one, you not only have a lot more currency, but your dissenting voice would be constant.

    I’m not missing your point. I simply disagree with the above.

    Now as far as numbers, you’re half right. HBCUs make up only 3% of all colleges and universities, yet they produce more than 25% of all black college B.A.s.

    I’m not sure what you’re basing your “feeling” on. Black people are more conservative than many groups, so it stands to reason that most black college students are more conservative than other college students. Are you saying that black colleges attract the super-conservative black kids? That doesn’t wash with me. It depends on the HBCU, just like it depends on the PWI. *Most* schools aren’t like Cal. (And a school like Cal can be liberal without actually being progressive.)

    I think HBCUs have the potential of being more fully utilized by black progressives, as opposed to being treated like they don’t matter. Grads of top-tier HBCUs can be found in all sectors of public life; so even if most black kids aren’t attending HBCUs, plenty are, and they wield influence.

  9. glory November 14, 2008 at 2:22 pm Reply

    I imagine that many black progressives can’t just tell their grandmothers that gay people should be allowed to get hitched while knocking back some sweet tea at the family reunion. I also imagine that my experience being a supporter of socially liberal policies but a holder of conservative personal beliefs isn’t all that rare. For example, “Tanya got an abortion and I supported her right to choose, but I would never get one myself because I think abortion is murder.” I think those kinds of conflicts really make promoting progressive ideas in our communities difficult for the people who would be in a position to do so.

  10. G.D. November 14, 2008 at 2:23 pm Reply

    What part of it are you disagreeing with?

    On HBCUs:

    “Are you saying that black colleges attract the super-conservative black kids?”

    No. I made that assertion because the huge majority of HBCUs are in the South, and they pull overwhelmingly from the region. They also generally pull from a less moneyed pool of college applicants. Those are pretty consistent markers of social conservatism.

    I keep reading that last graf over and over, and I’m not following. You’re doing that reflexive defense of HBCU thing, I think. But okay.

  11. G.D. November 14, 2008 at 2:26 pm Reply

    glory: that position you articulated is actually the mainstream stance on abortion among women. I don’t know that it is a neatly conservative or liberal one.

  12. glory November 14, 2008 at 2:33 pm Reply

    That’s the thing, G.D. – I think that like with others, even among black progressives, most probably aren’t neatly on one side or the other. Probably because they come from families that, like many other black families, are conservative.

  13. ladyfresshh November 14, 2008 at 2:36 pm Reply

    glory – I agree and think that glbt issues regarding marriage and adoption need to be elevated to the fed level and repackaged. At this point it’s ridiculous that conservatives, my family included, don’t understand that it isn’t any of their business what happens in other peoples homes or bedrooms.

    and yes i’m that person at thanksgiving and picnics and bbq talking sense, and hell nawl that ain’t listening to me, them fools voted bush in with the last gay scare

  14. shani-o November 14, 2008 at 2:48 pm Reply

    G.D. – Why is wanting black progressives to pay attention to black schools a reflexive defense? Young people are typically more liberal than older people. Why ignore institutions where there are large numbers of young black people who are more open than their older counterparts?

    If graduates of black schools are more likely to go on to advanced degrees (which they are) than black students at PWIs, then it stands to reason that these graduates will also be in positions of power in the future. By writing them off as “too conservative,” you’re doing a disservice to a group with the potential for influence.

    I’m not saying HBCUs are perfect, or a panacea to a problem. I went to one, and I’m well aware of the misogyny and homophobia that grew there. But I think there is untapped potential and getting into it with grandma and auntie at the family cookout may be less helpful than getting involved with some 19- to 22-year-olds who might actually listen.

  15. Ralph H. Manningfield November 14, 2008 at 4:29 pm Reply

    What Prop 8 showed us is that what we (black progressives/libs) need do so is go into these churches and barber shops and EDUCATE the people. It will not be easy, but if we make a concerted effort to tell the people the TRUTH then I think a lot of good will come of it. Look, a lot of people only deal with homosexuality in an abstract sense–they may watch Bravo’s primetime lineup, or may know someone who knows someone who is openly gay or perhaps been to a musical. However, when they are forced to deal with it head-on–say a close family member comes out of the closet–something remarkable happens. They are now able to personalize it. This person whom they love and admire is one of “those people.” What we need to do is get some of “those people” in these bastions of conservative thinking. Have five or six openly gay black men walk into a barber shop to get cuts. Or what about a fleet of lesbian couples, kids in tow, showing up for Sunday service. In essence, we need to have these “sit-ins” all over the country. No longer will they be able to hide amongst the like-minded spewing their vitriol, we’re going to march into these places and sit right in front of them and dare them to say some crazy ish! I too, was like many on November 5th, bemoaning the overwhelming contribution black Californians had in getting Prop 8 through. I threw down the gauntlet ya’ll, blamed black pop culture, the church, even the social complacency of my dad’s generation (70s) for the “neo-black buck” archetype it created via Blaxploitation and the popular music of the time, a figure who is arguably responsible for the juvenile model of black masculinity we see today. Man, I just went off! Now though, it’s time for action. And I will do everything in my power to EDUCATE black people. It is the year 2008, black people need to wake the hell up.

  16. glory November 14, 2008 at 4:53 pm Reply

    Let’s not forget that we already have some very non-conservative things happening in the midst of these communities that we know have lots of conservative people. Black girls are getting abortions. A lot of people do have openly gay cousins, or hairdressers. A lot of people know someone who died of AIDS or is HIV positive. And these things do get talked about within families and whispered behind church fans. Yet, to my estimation, it’s not really changing the minds of people who hold conservative views. Nobody in the hood is getting stoned (though some shunning/ass whuppings may occur). Tolerance is happening. Just not widely enough or fast enough. You want to cause a backlash? Get in people’s faces and tell them they need to wake the hell up. That ain’t dialogue. That’s a guarantee for conservatives to dig in their heels. Good luck with that.

  17. bitchphd November 14, 2008 at 11:08 pm Reply

    Yeah, I’m gonna dissent, too, GD. You can’t tell me that black progressives don’t get their hair cut.

    And hell, the conversations about prop 8 happened in front of me at the community college. Or, you know, make some conservative friends, just like white people need to make some black friends 😉

  18. G.D. November 15, 2008 at 9:22 pm Reply

    shani: i don’t understand why HBCUs matter in this regard. You’ve served up a bunch of stats about black folks and higher education that sound pretty but don’t have much to do with the conversation.

    so what if black people graduate from HBCUs at higher rates? What does that have to do with liberal versus conservative attitudes?

    so what if HBCU grads go onto postgrad degrees at higher rates? What does that have to do with anything? I’m really not following.

  19. aisha November 16, 2008 at 10:47 am Reply

    GD- I’m going to take a stab at your question for shani. A translator if you will…. What I read from her is that you brought up needing a place where black progressives can access the conversations about sexuality with more conservative blacks. She offered the HBCU as a place to have that conversation.

  20. G.D. November 16, 2008 at 11:35 am Reply

    aisha- No, I get what she’s saying. I just don’t know that I buy it. HBCUs have not picked up the baton on a lot of progressive issues, and particularly on LGBT issues, which is why I’m curious as to why shani thinks they could or would suddenly be receptive to doing so. And who, if anyone, would be making the case for progressivism on college campuses? It’s usually not professors, but parents, peers and fellow students who make college students more liberal.

    No one disputes that American academia is decidedly more liberal than the rest of the population, or that there is a detectable shift to the left among students during their college years. Still, both studies in the peer-reviewed PS, for example, found that changes in political ideology could not be attributed to proselytizing professors but rather to general trends among that age group. As Mack D. Mariani at Xavier University and Gordon J. Hewitt at Hamilton College write in the current issue, “Student political orientation does not change for a majority of students while in college, and for those that do change there is evidence that other factors have an effect on that change, such as gender and socioeconomic status.”

    Anecdotally, I don’t know anyone who graduated from an HBCU as a progressive. Some of them may have become progressives after college (I’m looking at shani-o) but I think the normal liberalization that happens to undergrads doesn’t happen to them because — again — HBCUs are probably attracting kids who are starting out from a more conservative place to begin with.

    So as with the family argument, I wonder how one effectively argues liberal ideas on campuses where progressives aren’t likely to be.

  21. Ralph H. Manningfield November 16, 2008 at 4:32 pm Reply

    Well GD, that is precisely the point. If we are able to infiltrate these conservative arenas and force people to deal with the issues directly as opposed to indirectly. Then, it may be possible to win over some of the fence-sitters. I think it is highly unlikely we can crack the impenetrable minds of the more steadfast ones. Years of “churching” and living under the stifling conservative mores of the black community have rendered them incapable of change. However, the more impressionable ones will be receptive to the message.

  22. G.D. November 16, 2008 at 5:14 pm Reply

    Ralph: uh, I said all that already. (do you read the posts and the subsequent conversations, or do you you just preach pick a sentence as a starting point for preaching?)

  23. Ralph H. Manningfield November 16, 2008 at 5:28 pm Reply

    Yes GD, I have been reading the “concurrent discussion.” Perhaps the reason I did not notice that you made that point already is because I am having a difficult time extrapolating your thesis from the pinballing going on here. Let me try to get this straight–you’re saying that you understand there is a problem in the HBCUs and pretty any other black institution, but you are unsure how much of an impact infiltration will have in these places. Look, I see this as a very real problem and this discussion is helping me to fashion ways to mitigate it. Also, please don’t accuse me of preaching, I may blather at times (these issues mean A LOT to me), but calling me a preacher is highly offensive…lol

  24. G.D. November 16, 2008 at 5:31 pm Reply

    “Also, please don’t accuse me of preaching…”

    if the shoe fits, yadda yadda yadda.

  25. Ralph H. Manningfield November 16, 2008 at 5:39 pm Reply

    Okay, okay, let’s not waste time with personal attacks. That’s not what I’m here for.

    Found this moments ago. It may be old news to some, but the point she makes about it being time to get in people’s faces is precisely the point I have been trying to make. I must credit her for her pithiness, it took me several hundred words more and a hefty dose of pretension to say the same thing… 😉

  26. G.D. November 16, 2008 at 5:47 pm Reply

    Link doesn’t work. But to echo glory’s earlier point, getting up in people’s faces is probably exactly the wrong way of doing this.

  27. Ralph H. Manningfield November 16, 2008 at 6:13 pm Reply

    First off, the link is to a story about the comedienne Wanda Sykes coming out of the closet after Prop 8 was passed. Secondly, I think there are nuanced ways we can “get in their faces” about this issue.

    Look, I used to work for a major black company as a salesman. I traveled this great country from LA to NY hobnobbing and glad-handing with many other black professionals and one constant I found was the conservative streak that we are discussing. Even from the most successful, educated people I heard the most asinine and ignorant comments. For example, at a dinner meeting in Atlanta while debating with my boss about the origins of homosexuality (he posits that it is caused by bad fathering) I mentioned the fact that homosexuality is phenomenon that exists in nature. I mentioned dogs as an example. The two other men at the table began guffawing. They did not believe me, how could there be gay dogs? What does a gay dogs and like? It was insulting. Then a couple f-bomb epithets were dropped, I of course took offense which gave way to a rather heated exchange, me versus these three ignorant men and I was not relenting. They wanted to change the conversation once I called out all of their religious posturing. The presumptuousness of these men offended me. Why do you think it is okay to say these things around me? I’m not one of you, the only thing we share is our skin color.

    Sorry, was I preaching again? 😉

  28. G.D. November 16, 2008 at 6:57 pm Reply

    okay. link don’t work. you’re still preaching. but do you.

  29. Big Word November 16, 2008 at 9:58 pm Reply

    I think there is a lot of resentment in the Black community (especially amongst the churched) at gay people sort of piggy backing on the civil rights movements. Which I know is wierd, illogical and totally hypocritical, but I think it’s accurate to say that.

  30. glory November 17, 2008 at 1:47 pm Reply

    I think Ralph’s post is a great example of what doesn’t work. Those guys went home thoroughly convinced of their righteousness and gays’ wrongness, despite Ralph’s best efforts to get them to question their stance. On the other hand, Wanda Sykes’ coming out was great. I think that the more people come out, the better things will get, regarding tolerance. I don’t think it will change people’s minds about the origins or the righteousness of homosexuality, but I do think that it will force people to realize that being hostile to the increasing number of openly gay people around you is futile. That there will be no mass exodus of gays back to the closet. Gays will not go quietly and meekly away, like I suspect many intolerant straight people want. Tolerance of gays doesn’t mean religious people have to co-sign on something they believe is wrong. It just means they have to give them the respect they want in return.

  31. Grump November 17, 2008 at 7:50 pm Reply

    when I read that Black progressives are reluctant to go to the places where their opinions are not respected or have a tougher time creating the change that they want to see in their community, I look at them like I do folks from California that complain about the lack of diversity in other places of the country….but aren’t throwing a fit that tourism ads from their state only show White people surfing or playing in the snowy slopes of their mountains.

  32. G.D. November 17, 2008 at 9:28 pm Reply

    Grump: huh?

  33. Ralph H. Manningfield November 18, 2008 at 5:57 am Reply

    GD, that was just a stream-consciousness rant. Quite beautiful really. I particularly liked this passage: “…White people surfing or playing in the snowy slopes of their mountains.” Quite evocative.

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