Friday, November 21, 2008

Cultural Affectations

The puppy and I had this conversation not so long ago. He was bothered by gay men that adopt high pitched, femmey voices. He doesn't care that they are gay, but he didn't like that they were forcing their voices to do something that they wouldn't naturally do. I asked him if he had a problem with black men wearing baggy pants too, and he said yes. Then he put on his Captain's hat (we were about to go sailing).

"So what if I said I hate your hat, I think it's a fake costume you wear to assume authority". He didn't quite catch my meaning. I asked him what his captain's hat does for him that a normal hat wouldn't. "Well, when I am teaching it marks me out as the instructor and makes it easier for students to know who is in charge".

"So it's a cultural affectation you have adopted that makes it easier for you to get by in your world?"

"Yes" he said.

At which point I explained where baggy pants come from. They started out with men in prison who were given pants to big but no belts to hold them up. Once they came out of prison, that style of dress marked them out as someone who had been to prison and was therefore tougher than someone who hadn't. In a community rife with violence, anything you can do to appear stronger adds a layer of protection from that violence. When you have a community, like the AA community, where over 30% of men will at some point end up incarcerated, that affection is going to spread quickly. It is a behavior they adopt because it helps them survive in the world.

The same thing is true for gay men with fey speech patterns. It is a behavior they adopt to get by in the world.

Now let's look at why the AA community might be a bit less likely to embrace LGBT rights.

Perhaps, when you have a community where young, eligible men are scarce, perhaps because 30% are in prison and another 30+% are un or under-employed, and where there is a history of white people controlling black women's bodies with eugenics or slavery (or welfare or any number of things we use to keep poor blacks poor), people in that community might not readily embrace people who will not be reproducing.

And they might have valid, practical reasons for not wanting to let another oppressed group advance. They are not unlike poor racist whites or working class cat callers.

So we whites can pat ourselves on the back all we want cause our side didn't quite vote to remove gay marriage in the numbers that blacks in California did. We can wag fingers, we can sigh loudly, we can tisk tisk. But it ain't gonna change a damn thing. You want to talk about Black communities homophobia, first you gotta talk about the millions of ways whites have made black lives worth less to begin with and why blacks might not be so quick to jump on the bandwagon for gay marriage.

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