DEPT. OF SWEEPING GENERALIZATIONS.

Andrew Sullivan, urging his supporters to donate to efforts to defeat a ballot initiative overturning the California decision allowing gay marriage, goes overboard in his language:

There is, alas, no ethnic community as homophobic in America as African-Americans.

This is an obnoxious overgeneralization, and it's more than a little irritating to see someone who brags about being the most popular single blogger on the Internet making such an irresponsible generalization. It is true that African Americans are more likely to be opposed to gay marriage, but, as Gary Younge wrote two years ago, this is complicated by the fact that African Americans are more likely than whites to support expanding anti-discrimination laws to protect gays.

While homophobia is a big problem in the black community, it is notably not strong enough to move blacks to vote Republican in the numbers that whites do. For all the potency such "wedge issues" have among various white subgroups, black voters still vote overwhelmingly for a party that favors gay rights. Which suggests that while homophobia exists in the black community, the issue simply doesn't have the same political significance it has in other corners of the country. That is why someone like David Paterson can push to get gay marriages performed in other states recognized in New York without losing any love from his power base in Harlem, which comprises most of the area he represented as a state senator.

Moreover, the black community is like any other community. There are spaces that are more homophobic or more accepting than others. My high school, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts here in Washington, D.C., was a completely safe environment for gay kids to come out and have relationships. The student body is overwhelmingly black. Sullivan's above statement employs an obnoxious shorthand that is as ignorant as the sentiment it criticizes. Sullivan could have confronted homophobia in the black community without smearing black folks who are tolerant and progressive by describing the entire community as "the most homophobic ethnic group in America."

--A. Serwer

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