Thursday, May 10, 2012

Two Black Men

I have been politely rebuked for dismissing Obama's support of gay marriage for its ambivalence and for its tone of conciliation toward those who deserve no conciliation on issues of human rights. I would like to contrast the words of two African Americans, both of whom loom large in the history of our nation and of their race.

President Barack Obama, 2012: Well-- well-- well, what I'm saying is is that different states are coming to different conclusions. But this debate is taking place-- at a local level. And I think the whole country is evolving and changing. And-- you know, one of the things that I'd like to see is-- that a conversation continue in a respectful way.


I think it's important to recognize that-- folks-- who-- feel very strongly that marriage should be defined narrowly as-- between a man and a woman-- many of them are not coming at it from a mean-spirited perspective. They're coming at it because they care about families. And-- they-- they have a different understanding, in terms of-- you know, what the word "marriage" should mean. And I-- a bunch of 'em are friends of mine-- you know, pastors and-- you know, people who-- I deeply respect.

Frederick Douglass, 1857: Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.


This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.


"Power concedes nothing without a demand." Why is that so hard for President Obama to comprehend?

11 comments:

  1. Constance ReaderMay 10, 2012 at 8:50 PM

    By their fruits you shall know them. I'm with you, Steve - call me when he actually does something.

    And gee, wouldn't it have been nice of him to say this before NC went to the polls? Maybe with an "Oh, by the way, same-sex marriage is already illegal in your state so this amendment only disenfranchises hetero couples."

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  2. "They're coming at it because they care about families." Says it all to me about O'Bozo's internalized homophobia. GLTB in his mind don't have families? or care about them?

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  3. Constance, good to see you. I miss your blog. I'm not on any of the social networks (nor likely to be in the future), and all sorts of people seem to have adopted your screen name, so I hope you'll stop by here once in a while. (OT, I have a "new" old book of Dorothy Parker poems, "Not Much Fun," that you would like.)

    Back to topic... if you look downstream (upblog) to the post about Romney's gay-bullying past, you'll see that as weak as Obama is, he's still better than THAT. We make do with what we have in these sad times.

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  4. karmanot, that bothered me, too. Many of the LGBTQ people I know have families of one sort or another, often as not the biological children of one of the partners, but also often adopted. It's just ignorant of O to talk about caring for families and omitting gay parents altogether from consideration.

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  5. Lemme remind you of what the President said a while back:

    "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."

    Presidents are not the same as activists. Activists push and prod and can hold out for purity. Presidents have to navigate different waters.

    I'm not sure what else Obama really could do besides come out in favor of marriage equality. He already is on record supporting the Respect for Marriage Act (repeal of DOMA), in addition to asserting DOMA is unconstitutional and refusing to defend it. This issue was already planned to be discussed at the DNC in pro-equality Charlotte (Biden, intentionally or not, accelerated things).

    Whether we like it or not, marriage is currently a state issue, so moaning about Constitutional Scholar Obama acknowledging that is counterproductive. Instead, perhaps we should focus on SCOTUS, which could deny cert on the 9th's ruling on PropH8, and make more 14th Amend arguments--might be more useful than nitpicking a pretty fucking historical moment when BHO is the first sitting president to express support for equality.

    As for timing of the statement vis Amendment One, seriously? What impact on that particular vote would his support have had? Given the margin, I don't think he would've been able to singlehandedly mobilize 2M more pro-equality people to even make it close, and people still would bitch. Plus it would open him up to crit about meddling in state affairs which, of course, isn't an implausible argument.

    So now we have a situation where he can weigh in having had the democratic process work itself out, and we can move the conversation forward in Charlotte.

    Really, folks, focus on the strategic arc and the ultimate prize, not tactical weeds. Find good in this and use it to springboard to better deeds.

    For example, I look at the ACA, which I actively and vigorously opposed to the bitter end, and celebrated its good parts after passage. It's helped us in Vermont as we try to push the nut forward on single payer, it's helped millions of people nationwide, etc.

    So now we have an administration on record as being on the right side of history and morality. The Executive cannot by fiat make marriage equality happen, but this one has done more for it than any other. Celebrate that for the big fucking deal it is, and let's roll up our sleeves for the work still left to do.

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  6. "They're coming at it because they care about families." Says it all to me about O'Bozo's internalized homophobia. GLTB in his mind don't have families? or care about them?

    Look at the context: he's trying to be charitable and understanding, again in the Howard Thurman mode. He's not saying anything about heteros having a monopoly on families, only that some folks are coming at it from a particular POV on what family and marriage mean.

    There's a lot of confirmation bias floating around...

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  7. Lithwick has a good take on Obama: http://slate.me/JhwPDs

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  8. Be sure to follow her links, BTW. I found Sullivan, of all people, to be very moving.

    And since I brought up Thurman:

    "The religion of Jesus says to the disinherited: "Love your enemy. Take the initiative in seeking ways by which you can have the experience of a common sharing of mutual worth and value. It may be hazardous, but you must do it."

    For the Negro it means that he must see the individual white man in the context of common humanity. The fact that a particular individual is white, and therefore may be regarded in some over-all sense as the racial enemy, must be faced; and opportunity must be provided, found, or created for freeing such an individual from his "white necessity." From this point on, the relationship becomes like any other primary one.
    ...
    What one discovers in even a single experience in which barriers have been removed may become useful in building an over-all technique for loving one's enemy. There cannot be too great insistence on the point that we are here dealing with a discipline, a method, a technique, as over against some form of wishful thinking or simply desiring.
    ...
    A whole group may be regarded as an exception, and thus one is relieved of any necessity to regard them as human beings. A Negro may say: "If a man is white, he may be automatically classified as one incapable of dealing with me as if he were a rational human being." Or it may be just the reverse. Such a mood, the mood of exception, operates in all sorts of ways...The deadly consequences of this attitude are evident. On the same principle scapegoats are provided, upon whose helpless heads we pour our failures and our fears."

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  9. nTodd, your cognitive dissonance is fully in line with the Obot rationalizations I read lately about 'our' fierce advocate. What bullshit-----three shades of Clinton I'ld say. There can be no rationalizations about full civil rights. Only those with no dog in the fight have that luxury, otherwise I'ld call it Stockholm Syndrome.

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  10. nTodd, your cognitive dissonance is fully in line with the Obot rationalizations I read lately about 'our' fierce advocate. What bullshit-----three shades of Clinton I'ld say.

    Bullshit right back at ya.

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  11. BTW, I'm puzzled by where you think my dissonance is. What 2 contradictory thoughts do you suspect I am holding?

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