I never thought I would have to write a piece defending same-sex marriage from the accusation that it’s “racist.” (Socially conforming? Yes. Racist? Never.) Especially on the first full day of gay marriage in California. But Jasmyne Cannick’s characteristically angry and fact-free piece (Jasmyne Cannick Doesn't Give a Fig About Gay Marriage ) compels a response.
“The gay marriage struggle is the perfect example of white gay America’s ‘superiority complex’ in action,” Cannick writes. How so? She never fully explains. In California and Massachusetts, any gay person can get married, regardless of skin color. If black gays are not taking advantage of their newfound right -- and Cannick never bothers to do any research to discover if this is actually the case -- there is probably an underlying social explanation. My hunch, however, is that white people are not behind it.
Again, without any evidence, Cannick claims that the gay marriage movement “has been about obtaining marriage for the white gay men and lesbian women who were also willing to fund it. Bottom line. Everyone else has just been along for the ride.” Cannick is correct in asserting that she has “been along for the ride.” Except she leaves out that it’s been a free ride. As a lesbian (er, “same-gender-loving person”), she has benefited enormously from the struggle for gay marriage (even if she chooses not to take advantage of it) all the while not only failing to contribute an ounce of effort to the cause but assailing it all the way.
When not decrying gay marriage as a white conspiracy, Cannick minimizes its importance. “Almost everyone I know,” she writes, “is concerned with the economy, the price of gasoline, unemployment, whether or nor they can pay their mortgage. … Plainly put, regardless of sexual orientation or citizenship, most people are more concerned with those domestic bread-and-butter issues … except for within the gay civil rights movement, where it has been full speed ahead on marriage.” Well, duh. The purpose of the “gay civil rights movement” is to lobby for gay civil rights. Does she expect gay activists to protest the “price of gasoline”?
While criticizing the supposed selfishness of white gay people, it is Cannick’s complaints that are the epitome of myopia. She views everything through the prism of race. Her self-centeredness doesn’t just target whites, however. While writing in her most recent column that “both the Black agenda for civil rights and the fight for immigrant rights speak more to what’s important to me as a lesbian than fighting for gay marriage,” only two years ago she penned a piece for The Advocate titled “Gays First, Then Illegals.” Talk about going to the back of the bus. Parroting the language of the most extreme anti-immigration activists with her use of the word “illegals,” she declared then that “Immigration reform needs to get in line behind the LGBT civil rights movement.” Cannick today complains that “Blacks and Latinos are often successfully played against each other.” Does she not realize her own role, however small, in creating such antagonism?
Cannick fails to understand that supporting comprehensive immigration reform and gay rights is not mutually exclusive. The same goes for supporting gay marriage as well as the nebulous “Black agenda for civil rights” which Cannick, in her free-floating hostility, claims we’re all ignoring. By insisting that her issues be made a priority and that her opinions come first, Cannick is the one with the “superiority complex.”
Cannick attacks gay rights activists for adopting the language of the civil rights movement without “thinking about how Blacks would take that message.” In so doing, she ignores the many black people -- gay and straight -- who themselves have compared the African-American and gay civil rights struggles. No less a figure than Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa has testified that “homophobia equals apartheid.” Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, John Lewis, and Julian Bond -- who were being beaten and water-hosed by white police officers long before Cannick was even born -- have all made similar analogies.
In her use of the silly euphemism “same-gender-loving” to describe black homosexuals, Cannick attempts to divide gay blacks from everyone else. The use of “same-gender-loving” is beyond marginal; a 2000 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force survey found that only 8% of blacks opt for this label while the vast majority use the traditional terms of “gay” or “lesbian” to identify themselves. Cannick will probably respond by accusing NGLTF (a far-left organization that typically appeases identity-politics obsessives like Cannick) of being part of the “racist gay” establishment, but she’s really going to have to try harder.
Cannick complains about “brides and grooms spending insane amounts of money” on weddings while “directly due south, there are gays and lesbians trying to figure out how to rob Peter to pay Paul.” Short of just taking money from one group of people and giving it to another (which I suspect is her answer to most problems), Cannick doesn’t suggest any solutions. She just complains, the most consistent feature of her writing next to accusing white people of being racist. It apparently doesn’t dawn on her that the thousands of gay couples “spending insane amounts of money” on weddings will help those who work for the myriad companies that make up the wedding industry, many of whom probably live in those lower-income neighborhoods Cannick professes to care so much about. And if economics is Cannick’s concern, she should support marriage, as it’s a financially stabilizing institution. Married people earn far more money than singles and have an established safety net should they become sick.
Cannick not ironically begins her screed with the caveat “before you scream that I’m a racist,” a rhetorical device that tends to be employed by, well, racists. Just last month, for instance, she wrote a piece complaining that Morehouse, a historically black college, had named a white student as valedictorian. Never mind that the student had a 4.0 GPA. Cannick was outraged. “Is nothing sacred anymore?” she asked, unaware that people said the same thing about interracial couples not so long ago. And if the “racist gays” lurk everywhere, how does Cannick consistently get her inane writings published in The Advocate, the most prominent gay news publication in the country?
Cannick appears to be a supporter of Barack Obama, and while we probably disagree about most things, on the potentially transformative role that his candidacy will have on this country’s race relations we unwittingly concur. At the very least, Obama’s political ascent will forever put racial grievance hustlers like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Jasmyne Cannick out of business.