When I read about Obama’s new stance on gay marriage, I thought to myself, “He’s going to win for sure now,” but recent news has challenged my initial thoughts.
We now know that the black vote has dwindled according to recent polls. The response seems like collateral damage in Obama’s LGBT battles. Blacks who might feel uncomfortable about same-sex marriage probably believe that the president has turned away from African American civil rights in favor of the overwhelmingly popular gay rights.
People can stop the generalizations that black people elected Obama solely because of his skin color. Though there might be some truth in those generalizations, the analysis of the black vote needs to be broken down. It has become clear that the key questions for subgroups are complex.
For “conservative” religious communities, has Obama taken them for granted – did he forsake them? For young people, is Obama’s swagger, that he is the first black president possibly the coolest guy yet to hit the Hill good enough? As the author of the Post-Gazette op-ed “Still waiting for our black president” puts it, “Rather, what is [Obama] doing for the most loyal constituency of the Democratic Party?”
From the looks of it, there hasn't been any major legislation sponsored by Obama that specifically caters to blacks. Obama has truly focused on equality in the sense that all women, all LGBT people, and all victims of hate crimes are protected. If anything, black people don’t want to see anymore social injustice. I don’t think people will despise Obama for his new stance on gay marriage. It’s only one issue. I think that the same people who voted against him might continue or even “convert.”
However there are subgroups that may stray from Obama for his LGBT stance, and I’ll focus on two.
Religious Black Folks
Back in 2007, a popular minister and gospel singer, Donnie McClurkin, was solicited for his musical talent by Obama to help put on a show for a gospel tour. The catch is that McClurkin claimed to be healed from homosexuality, which he deemed as redemption from a sinful choice. Then as Senator Obama, his campaign was quickly lit on fire with criticism from the offended (then) LGBT people. A New York Times writer said, “Critics on the internet say Mr. Obama is trying to appeal to conservative blacks at the expense of gay people.”
In 2012, I think the roles have switched. As a result, Obama might feel the burn, especially if black folks remember his response.
From the same New York Times article:
“Mr. Obama said through a spokesman that he ‘strongly disagrees’ with Mr. McClurkin’s views. He did not indicate he would cancel Mr. McClurkin’s appearance, but said, ‘I have consistently spoken directly to African American religious leaders about the need to overcome the homophobia that persists in some parts of our community so that we can confront issues like HIV/AIDS and broaden the reach of equal rights in this country.’”
With that quote in mind, Obama’s decreased likeability might be because of religiously affiliated former supporters. They might see him as a coward (though, this thought might give too much satisfaction to supporters of Fox News and Glenn Beck).
Young Black Voters
On the other hand, Obama shouldn’t have to worry too much about young voters. LGBT rights goes right along with the millennial spirit. With the new level of tolerance for LGBT people across campuses and communities, I don’t think registered voters will dislike him any more or less, unless they weren’t supporters of Obama in 2008. A typical response is basically, “If they don’t bother me, I don’t bother them." From my own observation, it seems like a lot of black people are now a part of the LGBT community, and 2012 has made it even more comfortable for young black people to accept “change” for all. And possibly, young black voters, with their LGBTQ friends (and ancestors) in mind, sure would love to see change for all.
Obama might not suffer as much as critics suggest because voters have other issues to worry about. Obama has put a lot of equal rights legislation at the forefront of the media. And it only helps Obama that the GOP suffers from the stigma of things like the "war on women.".
Like many of the Obama posters say, the president brings "hope." This might not be so clear for those who aren’t minority citizens. Obama embodies success that wasn’t (and possibly still isn’t) really attainable for all blacks, especially a couple decades ago. Ultimately, Obama has become pop-culture. There probably aren’t a lot of young black people without some type of his memorabilia in their possession, irrespective of their view of him. Personally, in 2008, though I was only about 15, I wouldn’t have voted for Obama for many reasons (that I’ll leave out); but, I did have multiple campaign materials and I think I even bought shirts for myself and my little sister from Spencer’s with Obama’s face all over it. Even today, I’ll still sport Obama’s stuff, even if I don’t vote for him just because of what he represents. For some reason, it feels like a duty.
Basically, it’s cool to have a black president, especially if you’re black; even Young Jeezy made a song about it. This rap is perhaps a fair response and it speaks to the true feelings of nearly all black people who are less fortunate or young, and need a reason to look up to D.C. for help.
So, why is Obama worried? I think he realized that he fell right in line for the game of politics. Does that make him a failure? I’m not entirely sure, but perhaps for the minorities within the black minority, he might appear to be one.
Yet, in other words, I would agree with Glenn Beck, who claims Obama is simply speaking the language to his particular audiences – he is a politician. Regardless, as we can hear in the ad, Barack Obama speaks the language of blacks; I would venture to say that we can call it political Ebonics (the music and issues mentioned were so typical).
But is this a good or bad thing for him? A lot of blacks, including myself, worry when politicians say something like, "We need to restore America." What does that even mean? Barack Obama doesn’t say this, in fact, he’s always talked about "change;" he wants to move us forward, not backwards. For a black person, whose family history can barely be legally traced back no earlier than the mid-1800s, restoring America is a little scary.
For those who have a mixed genealogy, such as mine, with Native American blood or from some other minority, the situation is very similar, sometimes worse.
So, as for restoring America, to many black people, I think I can speak for us all that we rather our situation to be stagnant than being “restored.”
Obama Did What He Said – He Changed
As for collateral damage, I think blacks will come to live with Obama’s push for LGBT rights because no one else can truly “translate” like our president can.
We can expect blacks, and possibly other races, to be torn when choosing between the two presidential candidates. Does it mean that people won’t vote? It’s possible, but I think if anything, a lot of people are beginning to wake up and smell the funk of politics, even by a black president.
A feeling of disillusionment might finally set in regardless of the 2008 Obama who was a breath of fresh air.
I think the trend we can expect is that black people will come to realize Obama’s real agenda – equality for all. Black people know how injustice feels and possibly, like the NAACP, many might extend themselves to join in on the fight against inequality. However, this is a message for the Oval Office: the decreased numbers in favor of Barack Obama should be looked at as a wake-up call to “restore” his support among various subgroups in the black community before it’s too late – ads won’t work, but legislation will.