Thursday, September 22, 2005

Racial Costs of Don't Ask/Don't Tell

UCLA Law Professor Devon Carbado has written a very interesting post exploring the link between racism and heterosexism in the lives of gay blacks. He gives a number of statistics, but the one that really caught my eye was this one:
Black partners in same- and different-sex couples have similar and higher rates of military service (21% and 22% respectively ) than individuals of other races in same-sex (13%) and different-sex (15%) couples.

The higher proportion of blacks in the military compared to whites is well known, but I did not realize it extended to homosexual couples as well. What does this mean?

Well first, the 21% figure also should raise eyebrows because it shows that the "problem" of gays in the military is not isolated. Many homosexuals have served; undoubtedly many more would gladly volunteer if the terms of service didn't include official self-marginalization.

But there is a second problem more intimately connected to the economic realities gay blacks live in. I'm not an expert on DADT, but I assume that gay couples can't get the same type of benefits that accrue from military service as do straight couples. This includes both monetary benefits as well as social support groups. Coupled with the disparity in incomes between black and white homosexual couples, and this becomes very distressing. Carbado quotes statistics saying that black homosexual couples make, on average, a little over $60,000/year, while other same-sex couples earn just over $90,000/year. In other words, gay blacks serve more and need the benefits that come with service more, but don't get them because of discriminatory military policy. DADT isn't the only offender here--any military policy which seeks to cut, defer, or otherwise reduce benefits harms blacks disproportionately because blacks serve disproportionately. But gay blacks are particularly vulnerable because of there twice-removed state of oppression--they are even less sympathetic victims than gay whites or straight blacks, since the observer (or would-be supporter) has to both transcend racism and homophobia to relate. Even amongst "natural" allies, this can be a problem (racism in the homosexual community, or heterosexism in the black community, for example). So a policy whose main victims are not just gays and not just blacks, but gay blacks, is likely to avoid any groundswell of opposition, and will also slide to the backburner of black and gay rights organizations (if it hits the radar screen at all).

1 comment:

ambimb said...

Do you have a link to Carbado's original post?