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Blacks Should Fight Budget Cuts, Not Gay Marriage

New America Media, Commentary, Jasmyne A. Cannick Posted: Jun 07, 2009

Before you open that bottle of champagne, can of beer, or bottle of Hennessy in celebration of the recent decision by the California Supreme Court upholding Proposition 8 and the ban on gay marriage, did you ever stop to think maybe the joke is on us?

Last November, blacks voted overwhelmingly in support of Prop. 8, ensuring that lesbian and gay couples, including black couples, continue to be treated as second-class citizens. Everyone had an opinion, from the tennis courts to the pulpit. And whether black support of Prop. 8 had more to do with religious beliefs or plain old fashioned homophobia, the fact remains that two people getting married, same-sex or not, has no financial impact on the rest of us. None. We may not like it, but at the end of the day, gay marriage doesnt take food from anyones mouth, clothes off anyones back, or a roof from over someones head. But judging from the way we acted, you would have thought that it did.

Flash forward and California finds itself in the middle of a never-ending fiscal nightmare. A nightmare that has Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger threatening to put vital programs, including health insurance for the poor, financial help for unemployed single mothers, and a state program that provides antiviral drugs for people living with AIDS, on the chopping block to close a $24.3-billion budget deficit. Cuts that will surely have the hardest impact on blacks living at or below the poverty line in California. Cuts that will take food from someones mouth, clothes off someones back, and a roof from over someones head and yet with us, its business as usual.

While many of our black churches were instrumental in making sure that their congregations supported Prop. 8, I cant say that the same energy has been put into making sure that were aware of the impact the governors proposed budget cuts will have on blacks in California.

Which leaves me to question if blacks are more concerned about whether two men or women commit to loving and caring for each other than they are about cuts to vital programs that affect all of us? Because let me tell you, me getting married tomorrow isnt nearly going have the same impact on black California as hundreds of thousands of out of work, hungry, and homeless black people are. You think crime is bad now, you just wait and see. Message!

Lest I forget to mention that our support of Prop. 8 only ensured that gay organizations fighting for marriage continue to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the fight going, while many black organizations are operating on the brink of bankruptcy. Message!

Just six months into Pres. Obamas term, gays called him out during a recent trip to California. Angry because of the court's decision to uphold Prop. 8, the gay community reminded the president of his promise to support equality for gays.

I wonder if blacks would ever think of protesting their first black president to make sure that he addressed issues relevant not only to middle-class Americans but to those Americans living at or below the poverty line. Im just saying, while I dont always agree with the gay communitys tactics, they sure do know how to make their voice heard. Message!

So Ill say it again: maybe the joke is on us. Because even though the courts upheld Prop. 8, its not white, affluent gays by and large who are unemployed, with homes in foreclosure, living at or below the poverty line. Its us. Its us stressing out over the rent and the bills while making the liquor store owners and the state richer with every bottle of Hennessy and lottery ticket bought.

Blacks support for denying gays the right to get married isnt going to make gays heterosexual or force them to stop having sex with each other. Nor is it going to guarantee blacks who supported Prop. 8 their passage into heaven. No law will ever legislate or guarantee that. In the meantime, our support of non-relevant issues, like Prop. 8 and neglect of the real issues that affect us all will ensure that blacks continue to be at the bottom of the food chain in Californiaeven with a black president.

Black people need to stop focusing on issues that do not affect our pocketbooks and quality of life and address the issues that do affect all of us and that we can control, starting with the governor and the Legislature. We can start by adopting the same gangster-like mentality that the gays have taken on: either the government and elected officials are with us or against us, and if theyre against us, there should be consequences, re-election and passes.

Jasmyne A. Cannick s a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class, sexuality, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. She can be reached at www.jasmynecannick.com.

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