The commonality of being black and gay in America: Same old story different “framing.” The question today is, do you support “gay marriage” or the “freedom to marry?”

Jonathan Capehart wrote an article in the Washington post on the commonality between blacks and gays in America.  When asked by MSNBC’s host Joe Scarborough, “would you compare the civil rights struggles of African Americans over 300 years in America to marriage equity?”, he immediately responded, yes!

“It’s an issue of civil rights… It’s an issue of equality. It’s an issue of equal treatment under the law,”… “No one is asking for special rights. No one is asking for any kind of special favors. We’re just looking for the same rights and responsibilities that come with marriage and also the protections that are provided under marriage. In that regard overall we’re talking about a civil rights issue and what African Americans continue to struggle with is exactly what lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are struggling with today.”

In addition, he mentioned the fact that both African Americans and gays have been the target of physical attacks due to being who they are, as well as other forms of discrimination suffered under the law.

“What links the two struggles is the quest for equality, dignity and equal protection under the law. In short, gay rights are civil rights. It’s that simple.”

The simple, but ugly truth is that the radical right wing in this country is adamantly opposed to gay people getting married, which is precisely why they frame the issue as “gay marriage.” They use this frame to garner support for their position so they can later point to polls that show people are against “gay marriage.”

According to George Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics at UC Berkeley, “Surveys have been done that say Americans are overwhelmingly against gay marriage. Well, the same surveys show that they also overwhelmingly object to discrimination against gays. These seem to be opposite facts, but they’re not. “Marriage” is about sex. When you say “gay marriage,” it becomes about gay sex, and approving of gay marriage becomes implicitly about approving of gay sex. And while a lot of Americans don’t approve of gay sex, that doesn’t mean they want to discriminate against gay people. Perfectly rational position. Framed in that way, the issue of gay marriage will get a lot of negative reaction. But what if you make the issue “freedom to marry,” or even better, “the right to marry”? That’s a whole different story. Very few people would say they did not support the right to marry who you choose. But the polls don’t ask that question, because the right wing has framed that issue.”

In the end, the hatred felt for both blacks and gays in this country not only stems from the way in which a question is “framed”, (in terms of how it is worded)  but more importantly, the destructive emotions and negative beliefs derived from this and other “frames” used by the radical right wing, reflect a world-view of intolerance, obedience to (their) authority, and fear of change.

The question we must ask ourselves is are we in favor of equality for all, which includes the freedom, or right to marry who we choose, or should we accept the radical right wing “frames” that tell us who we should love, who we should hate, who we should fear, and who we should obey?



4 thoughts on “The commonality of being black and gay in America: Same old story different “framing.” The question today is, do you support “gay marriage” or the “freedom to marry?”

  1. I think you completely miss the point. First of all, framing isn’t just about words, words are secondary, framing is primarily about ideas. You quoted Lakoff from an article he wrote in 2004. If you would have read the entire article, you would have read this:

    “But ‘gay marriage’ is a double-edged sword. President Bush chose not to use the words ‘gay marriage’ in his State of the Union Address. I suspect that the omission occurred for a good reason. His position is that ‘marriage’ is defined as between a man and a woman, and so the term ‘gay marriage’ should be an oxymoron, as meaningless as ‘gay apple’ or ‘gay telephone.’ The more ‘gay marriage’ is used, the more normal the idea of same-sex marriage becomes, and the clearer it becomes that ‘marriage’ is not defined to exclude the very possibility. This is exactly why some gay activists want to use ‘same-sex marriage’ or even ‘gay marriage.'”

    A 2010 poll seems to confirm his suspicions:

    I think the primary issue here is love, and when we’re discussing homosexual marriage or heterosexual marriage, we’re focusing, subconsciously, on the sexual end of it. I think if you asked Lakoff today about what terms to use I don’t think he’d make as much of a distinction between “gay marriage” or “freedom to marry” as he did in 2004 because the thought of gay marriage has gained more acceptance over the past 8 years.

    You and this blog are on the wrong side of history. Yes, it would be best for black and gay people to frame themselves, but in doing so, it’s vital that they don’t shoot themselves in the foot. Everything that most people think they know about politics is wrong, especially amongst the professional pundits and political consultants.

    1. The point of this post was simply to illustrate that this is an issue of civil rights, involving whether or not gay people are permitted to marry. The wording that is used (ie, gay marriage) conveys the idea of the frame.
      Whether or not more people agree that gay people should be permitted to marry is not the issue. The issue, as pointed out in this post, and further illustrated in the article you cited, is that this issue is being framed, and when properly framed, support for this issue diminishes. This is the point! – Acceptance by the majority doesn’t change the fact that the right wing is going to continue framing this issue in order to convince as many people as possible of their version of reality.
      As far as your comment about being on the wrong side of history, does this mean that you do not support the rights of blacks and gays in this country? I’m not sure how else to interpret this comment.

      1. Sorry for leaving you with that impression. I needed to read through my comment before posting it. I support the rights of blacks and gays in this country. I was talking more about political science, cognitive science, and George Lakoff. Everything that most people think they understand about politics is wrong, especially those who have worked professionally in the field for more than a decade (they may actually be worse because their brains have been hardwired). Reason is mostly unconscious. It’s mostly reflexive, not reflective. Reason is not the same for everyone and common sense depends on worldview. Reason requires emotion. In the link I posted in my comment, the article cites polling results that depended on the wording, “gay and lesbian” vs “homosexuals.” My guess, and I admit I’m guessing two things here, is that 1) A similar poll on support for gay and lesbian marriage vs homosexual marriage would result in the same disparity (and hopefully that a majority support the idea) and 2) that since 2004, public support has grown because people are getting used to the idea of gay marriage because “neurons that fire together wire together.” My advice would be to focus on freedom, or freedom to…, and continue to promote gay marriage rather than homosexual marriage because the unconscious associations will place the emphasis on sex. It’s kind of splitting hairs there, but I believe the public needs to understand that this is about who you love, more so than who you want to have sex with.

        One last thing, and what George Lakoff is promoting gets a bad rap because people equate him and what he does with Frank Luntz and what he does. There is a bit of deception with Frank Luntz, a lot of the time he is trying to find ways for conservatives to say what they believe, but he’s unfortunately not above making it seem like he’s saying one thing, when in fact he’s saying the opposite, like “clear skies initiative” or “healthy forests initiative” or “defense of marriage” or “special rights.” Luntz also hosts focus groups and feigns interest in what they think, when he’s actually just using them to fine tuning his language.

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