Conservatives, are you really going to use the “states rights” argument to defend your anti-gay arguments?Most people who know half a cent about Slavery and the fight against it, remembers that confederate states used that very same argument to defend the enslavement of black people. But, I am not worried as much about conservatives as I am about the Western neoliberal agenda that has appropriated the discourse of Gay Rights in order to gain, and protect, power. In this post, I am exploring this argument alongside last weeks Supreme Court decisions, which invoked the history of the Civil Rights and Gay Rights movements. A loss for the former, a victory for the later.
In using the “states rights” argument, and thereby invoking a discourse which was used to defend the Confederate position that the legal status of Slavery should be determined by each state (and so should the legality of same-sex marriage today, they argue), conservatives remind us of the shared ideological substance that gives racism and heterosexism the same rancid taste, and same effects of creating centres and margins that privilege white people. Yet, as conservatives rail against homosexuality and gay rights as they did against the end of slavery and Civil Rights, it is becoming increasingly evident that at the same time, Western nations like the US are using the gay-rights movement to recreate old structures of colonial oppression. In order to join the club of empire, America MUST legalise same-sex marriage, lest they become an unwitting member of the so-called “uncivilised”.
The irony of the legislative moment last week, in which the Voters Rights Act of 1965 was gutted and the Defence of Marriage Act was voted unconstitutional in the Supreme Court is tragic for social justice. “Colorblindness” as a new take on an old system of institutional racism has prevailed, legislating the ignore-ant belief that racism is dead – the black president, Hello!
Alongside this development, which will essentially allow voting districts to make voting more difficult for poor blacks and hispanics, has been the Constitutionalisation of same-sex marriage, making it illegal to restrict marriage to heterosexual unions. What does this mean, for social justice globally? For black Americans? for queer Americans? And for black queer Americans?
Recently, I read Roderick Ferguson and Grace Hong’s The Sexual and Racial Contradictions of Neoliberalism (2012) in which it is argued that the West has appropriated the gay rights agenda, using it as a new claim to moral superiority internationally. “How you treat your gays” has become the new prodding tool of Western cultural imperialism. One certainly grows suspicious when leaders of powerful Western nations begin to motivate for a cause previously considered “radical”. The use of the gay-rights agenda in this way by Western nations, according to Ferguson and Hong, has the effect of cutting through, and ignoring, post-colonial anti-racist struggles by instituting a new moral yardstick which will reposition the West as culturally and politically superior. This is a major point of interest in my PhD research – I am currently registered in the Sociology department at the University of the Witwatersrand, and will be presenting my proposal in two weeks, so wish me luck!
This leads me back to my question, what does this mean for queer American black people? Especially those who struggle economically, and have been further marginalised within education and employment? The blackness of a black queer positionality and experience is further denied by the argument that America is “post-race” now (black president, again!), and polling practices which can make voting more difficult for black and latino communities as demonstrated and made possible by the Supreme Court ruling on the Voters Rights Act. So, now that gay people can marry, what does this mean for black queers who have been suffered anti-black racism, an ideology and system founded on heteropatriarchy? Now, a new side of a black queer experience and identity is recognised while the other is denied. If there are any black American queers out there who can tell me, I would love to know what you think and how you feel about this. And meanwhile, back at The Ranch, Paula Deene hopes that the Gay Marriage ruling “will somehow save her racist ass”!