Well, that was quick. At least Bill Clinton waited until he was in office before throwing a major group of liberal supporters under the bus. Barack Obama has done so before even being sworn in. By choosing the Rev. Rick Warren — a man who likens same-sex marriage to incest and pedophilia — to make the invocation at the inaugural ceremonies, Obama has found his “Sister Souljah Moment.” She was the painfully obscure “hip-hop star” whose intemperate remarks about white America provided Clinton with an ideal opportunity to show he was a “centrist” on race. But now that we’ve witnessed the ascendancy of an African-American to the White House, an achievement civil rights–era blacks could only daydream of, Obama has gone on to betray the aspirations of another group of disenfranchised citizens. Warrengate (I just love a “gate,” don’t you?) is a clear signal that Obama is going to “make sure” (his ever-ready mantra) that the LBGT community knows its place. In other words, Barack Obama is neither a “visionary” leader nor a slick politician but simply an all-too-typical African-American heterosexual — clueless as to the history of the culture that bore him and blithely indifferent to those who anted up what a very important gay black American named James Baldwin called “The Price of the Ticket.”

Let’s review, shall we? The 1963 March on Washington was the work of a gay black man named Bayard Rustin. The civil rights movement’s most important chronicler was the aforementioned gay and black Baldwin. And that era’s most important playwright was a black lesbian named Lorraine Hansbury.

Shall I go on? How about Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters and Billy Strayhorn? How about the fabled “Harlem Renaissance” — a gay and lesbian cultural movement in everything but name? And if his estate has anything to say about it, you’d better not tie that movement to Langston Hughes. It raised legal hell when a gay black British filmmaker named Isaac Julian revealed the open secret of Hughes’ sexuality in his Looking for Langston, trying as best it could to ban the work outright but only managing to censor it, in part.

And speaking of censorship, no discussion of gay African-American history is complete without a bow to the late, great Marlon Riggs, whose poetic essay film Tongues Untied was attacked (along with the works of performance artists Tim Miller and Karen Finley, and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe) by racist Republican homophobes for daring to deal with the truth of gay black life. But as Riggs himself observed about those attacks, “Equally predictable in this so-called ‘obscenity’ controversy was the collusion — by silence — of mainstream black America in this nakedly homophobic and covertly racial assault. Black heterosexuals (many of whom consider themselves ‘progressive’ or even ‘Afrocentric revolutionaries’) passively, silently acquiesced as political bedmates with the likes of [the] Rev. Wildmon, James Kilpatrick and the rabidly antigay, race-baiting Sen. Jesse Helms.”

One can only wonder what Riggs would have to say about self-styled critic and commentator Jasmyne Cannick, a black lesbian who claims to be “known for addressing the issues that others can’t or simply won’t.” What this means in actual practice is her eagerness to attack the LBGT movement as white, male and therefore beneath contempt. Speaking of Prop. 8 in the Los Angeles Times, Cannick opined, “The white gay community never successfully communicated to blacks why it should matter to us above everything else — not just to me as a lesbian but to blacks generally. The way I see it, the white gay community is banging its head against the glass ceiling of a room called equality, believing that a breakthrough on marriage will bestow on it parity with heterosexuals. But the right to marry does nothing to address the problems faced by both black gays and black straights.”

Well, actually, it does, but Cannick doesn’t want to talk about that. She’d rather spew on Fox News — which is ever so excited to have a new “politically incorrect” lesbian to book. But why stick just with Fox? For “the Village,” as überblogger Atrios calls the mainstream media, “being antigay is perfectly acceptable, and nothing pleases the Villagers more than punching hippies in the face, so it’s a two-fer.”

The “hippies” are, of course, anyone who departs from the centrist status quo and speaks up for Teh Ghey. The Obama presidency is the cynosure of said status quo.

And that’s why black is the new white.

—David Ehrenstein

LA Weekly