If you’re following the Democratic Caucuses to select its party’s presidential candidate, you know that race is a major issue. Who gets the black voter’s support? With Biden on the decline, will Bloomberg pick up his voters? Will Mayor Pete get any of the POC voters’ support?
One of many aspects that reporters point to as a political flub to obtain the black voter’s nod was his “I know discrimination” response during one of the Democratic debates. Oh dear, a white politician relating his struggles to what black citizens have gone through. But he wasn’t doing that if all cared to listen to his words.
I welcome the challenge of connecting with black voters in America who don’t yet know me … and I care about this because, while I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country. Turning on the news and seeing my own rights come up for debate, and seeing my rights expanded by a coalition of people like me and people not at all like me, working side by side, shoulder to shoulder, making it possible for me to be standing here wearing this wedding ring in a way that couldn’t have happened two elections ago, lets me know just how deep my obligation is to help those whose rights are on the line every day even if they are nothing like me in their experience.
Most dismissed what Mayor Pete was saying as him trying to relate too hard to people of color (POC). What would a geeky white dude from the midwest know about the black voter’s struggle? Just being gay doesn’t cut it. It’s different. Right?
What if his “I know discrimination” statement came from a black and gay politician? If said the statement was new, it would be seen as an ex post facto attempt to give credibility to whatever Mayor Pete was saying. But what if the statement was made before Mayor Pete was even born?
The Same Statement and More … 40 Years Ago.
Before Buttigieg, the 1980 Democratic National Convention nominee for Vice President named Melvin Boozer compared the civil-rights struggle to the fight for gay and lesbian rights. But who was Boozer?
Mel Boozer grew up in a series of homes without electricity. Graduating second in the 1963 class of Dunbar High, the school of choice for Washington, D.C.’s most high-achieving black students, he won a scholarship to Dartmouth, where he was one of only three African Americans in the freshman class. His roommate, rather than share a room with a person of color, moved out. After completing fieldwork in Brazil and earning a Ph.D. in sociology at Yale, Boozer moved back to his hometown, where he became active in politics as president of the Gay Activists Alliance, Washington director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and founder of the Langston Hughes–Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club for gay and lesbian blacks. – TheAtlantic
So we have Pete – the first openly gay presidential candidate to mount a serious campaign for the presidency and Boozer – the first openly gay person to be nominated for a major-party presidential ticket.
The August 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York City found Boozer nominated for the vice presidency. It wasn’t a move to challenge Walter Mondale for the office, but The Atlantic states the nomination was a way to draw visibility to the emergent gay rights cause. The Gay and Lesbian Caucus had gathered enough support and signatures to make Boozer’s nomination occur, but not everyone was supportive. Convention organizers scheduled Boozer’s speech for around dinner, when the convention hall was about two-thirds empty and the television cameras were turned off. Would it be controversial or just vibrantly honest? One of the statements he made, slurs and all, has a direct relation to Mayor Pete.
Would you ask me how I’d dare to compare the civil rights struggle with the struggle for lesbian and gay rights? I can compare, and I do compare them. I know what it means to be called a nigger. I know what it means to be called a faggot. And I can sum up the difference in one word: none.
Bigotry is bigotry. I have been booed before. Discrimination is discrimination. It hurts just as much. It dishonors our way of life just as much, and it betrays a common lack of understanding, fairness, and compassion.
Boozer’s full speech can be found at glaa.org.
In an age where we are so proud to find old tweets and videos of people being racist, sexist, and shredding them for their past errors, even though they have learned from their errors, why don’t we search for older supportive items? But many of us don’t remember Mel Boozer.
Maybe the title of this post, “What Mayor Pete Couldn’t Say, A Gay Black VP Candidate Said 40 Years Ago”, took it one step further than what really happened. Was Mayor Pete trying to say the same thing that Boozer did? Did Mayor Pete want to go as far as Boozer did? No, most intelligent people can realize what he was saying. If we look at Mayor Pete’s statement, he was saying he knows what is like to be an outsider, he knows discrimination, knows what it is like to be a stranger in their own country. He never said he knew what it was like to be discriminated for the color of his skin. His debate response was a moment of compassion, understanding, and human connection, that was turned into an unnecessary comparison of pain based on demographics.
The Atlantic goes on to talk about how Mayor Pete’s sexuality may be a large factor in why he does not have the black voters’ support.
Boozer might also have had something to say on another highly contentious subject: the degree to which, if at all, homophobia factors into what The Washington Post delicately refers to as the mayor’s “inability to connect with black communities.” The mere mention of this possibility elicits rage from progressives: It is a “disgusting, racist trope, secretly nursed and insidiously whispered by white liberals” (Charles Blow), an “insidious and racist lie” (BuzzFeed), an “ugly lie” (Jonathan Capehart). Yet given the statistics—while 83 percent of Democrats overall say homosexuality should be accepted by society, according to the Pew Research Center, just 63 percent of black respondents say the same; 62 percent of white adults support same-sex marriage, compared to 51 percent of black adults—it is not unreasonable to ask whether discomfort with Buttigieg’s sexual orientation plays at least some role in his stubbornly low support among African Americans. Asked whether this might be the case, James Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American in Congress, replied, “I’m not going to sit here and tell you otherwise, because I think everybody knows that’s an issue.”
We like to think that our political party is the best political party and it is the others that have issues around racism, sexism, religion, sexual orientation, but political parties do not have an anti-bigotry filters.
I think many are ready to pounce on any statement by any candidate and try to make a viral sound-byte out of it, correct or incorrect. Also, many are superficial readers and listeners. Many comments on our Facebook page on this post are claiming we are hating on Pete, but once again, there are people that just want to hear what they want to hear, read what they want to read, but yet, still share what they want to share.