Most Ridiculous Prop 8 Piece Award Goes to...
..this (unintentionally, I think) ridiculous piece in yesterday's New York Times. The Los Angeles-based writers, Caitlin Flanagan and Benjamin Schwarz of the Atlantic, discover (without disclosing their evidence) that Prop 8's victory came as a surprise to Hollywood because the creative community didn't realize that folks in black churches were not ready for same-sex marriage. The piece then goes on to make a number of other claims (among them that gay activists think Prop 8 wouldn't have passed if Hillary Clinton had been the nominee), without a single example or a even a bit of factual support. The piece recycles a now discredited exit poll statistic that 70 percent of blacks voted for Prop 8. And in the process, it manages to trade on one stereotype (the smug, self-righteous, out-of-touch Hollywood types that exists only in the warped minds of New York editors and other East Coast elites) and to traffic in another (that of the cultural conservative homophobic black folk.)
Look at the quotes (of Hollywood talking about blacks): "It's their churches," somebody whispered to one of us not long after the election (Yes, that's the real attribution). "It's their Christianity," someone else hissed, rolling her eyes.
I don't want to dignify this piece with too much rebuttal, but here are a few points I might whisper in your ears. Churches and Christianity are hardly novel or foreign to Hollywood. As a Southern Californian who has lived in and around Hollywood for years, the neighborhood itself is full of churches of every possible denomination and flavor (including the Scientologist ones). And, if you rely on reliable polls, the black population is like the rest of us -- divided on the question of same-sex marriage. (The piece claims -- again without evidence -- that some blacks find homosexuality revolting. Well, so do many people of many races). And the need to reach black Democrats wasn't a surprise in Hollywood; the actor Samuel L. Jackson made a TV ad before the election for the No on 8 side for precisely that reason. The real divide on the issue is not racial but generational. Convince your parents or grandparents to support same-sex marriage (or at least stay home and not vote), and you win.
The piece ends incoherently, with the suggestion that perhaps it's not good to ask too many questions (presumably about social issues) at a time when Barack Obama is trying to keep the Democrats' tent big and lead a movement for change. Gimme a break. The same-sex marriage issue is here; the need to legalize such unions is clear. Coalition politics are built around conversation, questions, and the winning of converts. And the cause of marriage equality needs a larger coalition behind it. It's time to ignore nonsensical stereotypes about Hollywood and blacks, and instead build as broad a coalition as possible.