The Sunday New York Times 'Race Matters' column, which is normally very thoughtful, publishes a rather lackluster interview with Benjamin Todd Jealous, the young and newish president of the NAACP. Deborah Soloman's interview quotes the terribly inaccurate and debunked 70 percent exit poll figures in California's Proposition 8.
The N.A.A.C.P., which just held its 100th annual
convention amid much fanfare, was founded to advance civil rights. Why
has the organization failed to take a stand on same-sex marriage, one
of the most urgent civil rights issues of our day?
We’re engaged in fighting a whole range of issues of urgent relevance to the gay community and people of color in our country, including school bullying, hate crimes and employment discrimination. But we’re a barge, not a speedboat. We’re not going to repeat the mistakes of so many other institutions that have literally torn themselves apart over this divisive issue.
Exit polling suggested that 70 percent of black
voters — the largest by far of any minority group — voted to make gay
marriage illegal in California by voting in favor of Proposition 8 last
fall. How do you explain that? The bond between black culture and
You’re looking at this from 50,000 feet. I’m looking at if from the ground, and I know that church leaders are on both sides of the debate. Black voters have been scapegoated — so many pundits blamed the passage of Proposition 8 on them. But it would have passed even if 100 percent of the black voters had voted against it.
If gay rights groups want to change the opinion polls in the black community, they have to invest in it. It’s a long-term conversation. The battle to oppose Prop 8 could have been much better run. They came to the black community late, with the expectation that they were going to get certain results.
Jealous adds that the gay community should engage and "mobilize", not the other other way around. That is the take-away to Jealous' message.
On the upside, under his leadership, the NAACP now has an LGBT Equality Task Force. And of course the the national board of the NAACP took a position on marriage equality and called for the overturn of California's Proposition 8. But the organization is still largely controlled by the black churches and ministers. Some are progressive and gay-friendly but many, such as Rev. Keith Ratliff, Iowa's leading black pastor and the anti-gay chair of the Iowa/Nebraska chapter, are vehemently anti-gay. But the new partnership with the National Black Justice Coalition should slowly educate membership on LGBT issues.
Some Background ...
NAACP Doesn't Take a Position on Gay Marriage [R20]
NAACP, Julian Bond Call for Overturn Prop 8 [R20]
NBJC First Black LGBT Group to Address NAACP [R20]
Obama to NAACP: "Gays Still Denied Their Rights" [R20]