Monday, November 10, 2008

non-random bullets of reflection, mostly about my own bellybutton

*The swirling thoughts I have about the Proposition 8 aftermath in California are refusing to resolve themselves into a coherent train of thought, so I'm just going to go with ye olde Random Bullets. Even though this isn't really random.

*As you may have heard, there's lots of talk about the high proportion of African-American voters in California who voted to ban same-sex marriage, and what this means about the mainstream gay movement's failures in outreach, and the African-American community's (insofar as there is one monolithic "community", which--hello?-- there is not) attitudes about queers, and etc. etc. blah blah blah divide-and-conquer-the-oppressedcakes.

*Shannon at Peter's Cross Station has some very excellent things to say about this. So does Pam at Pam's House Blend. So: what they said.

*Especially Shannon's Point #1: "Race-baiting was a huge weapon in this campaign from the primaries to the general election. The media loves it and is looking to divide us into neat segments: the Blacks versus the Gays. Resist this." [emphases mine]

*I've also been thinking very, very hard about Shannon's point #4, in which she calls out the queer community for co-opting the language and imagery of the African-American Civil Rights struggle when talking/writing about the fight for same-sex marriage rights.

*My very very hard thinking is not unrelated to the fact that I wrote a rather impassioned and highflown post just after the election in which I quoted Martin Luther King about the arc of the moral universe, etc.

*And now, even though nobody said anything to me about it, I feel sort of embarrassed after reading Shannon's post.

*Also, conflicted.

*Because, on the one hand, political movements are inspired by and learn from and borrow from each other all the time:

*The abolitionist movement used the imagery of the (apocryphal) Hebrew Exodus from Egypt. The Civil Rights movement's tactics and language were inspired in part by Gandhi's activism in the cause of India's independence. The feminist and gay rights movements in the 1970's owed much of their strategy and imagery to the Berkeley Free Speech movement, the anti-Vietnam movement, and, yes, the Civil Rights movement.

*Also, MLK was just such an incredible speaker, people always want to quote him. Me, too.

*But on the other hand, Shannon's absolutely right. It's the worst kind of disrespect to grab up the example of one people's misfortune or struggle and use it to ennoble one's own cause or to make some vague point about the "universality" of suffering or evil or whatever. It's just yucky.

*For a literary example of this, cf. The Boy With the Striped Pyjamas.

*Or almost all children's fiction about Native Americans.

*Also cf. the way--Sarah Vowell did an excellent piece on this in This American Life and in Time Magazine a few years ago--every time you turn around, some rock star or mime is comparing him or herself to Rosa Parks. No one is the Rosa Parks of queer rights or dairy pricing or whatever. Rosa Parks was Rosa Parks. Period. It's creepy to claim that mantle when you didn't earn it.

*Because it's true that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere (MLK, again.)

*But not all injustice is the same, or looks the same, or has the same effects. Nonrecognition of same-sex marriage is not the same as Jim Crow. Jim Crow was not the same as Apartheid in South Africa. etc. They're all bad, but they're different.

*So it's a thin and blurry line, the line between legitimate inspiration and offensive co-optation.

*Truth is, if I'd known there was going to be the big kerfluffle there's been regarding race, I might not have put what I said quite the way I said it, at least not on a public blog.

*Instead, I might have quoted Harvey Milk, who said "Hope will never be silent."

*It doesn't have quite the same ring to it, though.

*Or even, simply, "Love always wins."

*Which is pretty inspiring to think about.

*Even though it's a quote from Tuesdays with Morrie, which is a perfectly nice book but doesn't quite have the same gravitas as a source.

*I guess someone in this struggle will just have to come up with something good.

*But it won't be me, tonight.

*Because now it is late and I must go to sleep.


Blogger Tall Kate said...

Is it annoying to read "another fabulous post" instead of something more substantive?

7:14 AM  
Blogger elswhere said...

tall kate: no it is absolutely not! It's very nice of you, especially considering the self-involved nature of this post.

8:45 AM  

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