Thursday, November 6, 2008

California: a state of contradiction

Yesterday I went to Southern U. to meet with some students (yes, I actually to try to be a diligent prof.), and I ran into a colleague in the hallway. Of course we both had bloodshot eyes from our lack of sleep from the night before but we also had this giddiness that felt palatable (another colleague sent me an email telling me that he thought that the mood on campus was just happier and lighter--someone else said the world seemed shinier).

But my friend also provided me with a sobering reminder. We are both Californians, at heart, and she reminded me that Proposition 8 in California had passed by a 4% margin.

For those of you who don't know, Prop 8 was an amendment that strikes down gay marriage, preventing more happy couples from celebrating their partnerships. People needed to vote NO on Prop 8 to keep marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. Unfortunately, many did not--because the pro-Prop 8 forces were well funded and organized, predominantly by religious groups outside of California (80% of funding to promote Prop 8 came from Utah).

And for liberal-progressive Californians the celebration of Obama's election was tinged by the passage of Prop 8.

I often wax nostalgic for California. I even teach a class on California narratives, one that focuses on the state as a site of social change. And yet, as liberal and progressive as certain segments of California's population is (most notably the SF Bay Area which overwhelmingly OPPOSED Prop 8) I can't help but remember that California is a state of contradiction. It has a very diverse population and one of the largest Asian American and Latino (specifically Chicano) populations in the U.S. But it also has a long and deep history of racial animosity towards these particular groups. And while left leaning, this is also a state that has been governed by Republican stalwarts such as Ronald Reagan, Pete Wilson, and now "The Governator."

However, for a realistic take on what we need to do to keep fighting, please see this entry by the Poplicks duo, Junichi & Oliver. I think, in particular, Oliver's reminder to us that we need to keep fighting--that the road to civil rights has never been linear, is an important one to keep in mind.

And for any of you in need of convincing about the need for human rights FOR ALL--let me point you to NYU law professor Kenji Yohsino's Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. Because marriage should be a right for all humans, regardless of their identities (again, need I remind anyone of the anti-miscegenation laws on the books for so long?)

Finally, in a more upbeat note, please see this link:

Californians, or maybe more accurately San Franciscans, definitely have a progressive sense of history making (and a great sense of humor too!)


Anonymous said...

The irony of this was it was the 70% minority vote that sealed the deal on this. Mmmm, irony with a sour taste.

Greg said...

Thanks for posting on this. For those in the Bay Area, there's a protest march tonight (11/7) starting at the Civic Center and going to Dolores Park. Spread the word:

Also, for those interested, the LA Times has a county-by-county breakdown of votes for the California state propositions and the presidential race:,0,1293859.htmlstory