Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

Ideological versus Social Liberalism

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It has more or less been assumed that Black and Latino communities generally harbor a fiscal liberalism but social conservatism, owing in large part to a higher preponderance of religious affiliation, and that their reluctance to vote on moral grounds has been due to the overt hostility displayed against them by the Republican Party rather than an ideological contrast.┬áThis has manifested itself in New York, an effectively all-Democrat city, in the form of a cultural division between white middle-class ‘libertines’ and minority strivers: The latter are far less likely to self-identify as gay, when simple biology dictates that statistics should be colorblind in that matter, and it can be conjectured that such is due to community hostility to such.

Indeed, it was in Harlem that a transgender woman was recently beaten to death in what is clearly a hate crime, and it was in Harlem that a Christian minister has been blaming Obama – who has a fair amount of ‘nerd’ chic with white liberals buttressed in no small part by his ‘evolved’ stance on gay marriage – for turning Black men gay. The topic has found itself to be far more taboo than just a few dozen blocks further downtown.

That said, it would appear that such a division is not immutable, and over the last few years a sea change may have occurred. Uptown has seen something of a new Renaissance when it comes to what can be considered an urbane tolerance for all. Six years ago saw the (re-)opening of El Morocco in “Hamilton Heights,” that somewhat awkward distinction of a mixed border area between Washington Heights and Harlem. At first glance it can be interpreted as an extension of the general trend of gentrification on the northern climes of Manhattan, but the clientele says otherwise: More than just a Dominican nightclub, El Morocco has boasted a strong LGBT lineup that has been favored by a majority Black and Latino crowd – and a hangout for Black drag queens, reminiscent of the Elks Lodge and other venues in Harlem in the 60s – though it often offers a fully mixed crowd not only in ethnicity but sexuality.

Six years ago also saw the opening of No Parking, the first fully gay bar in Washington Heights. Along with the Monkey Room nearby and new outposts like the Castro in Inwood, way up on the upper tip of the island, there appears now to be an acceptance of overt displays of alternative sexuality where there simply wasn’t before, in spite of religious doctrine. Indeed, nobody was more surprised than conservatives themselves during the 2012 election, when they expected the socially conservative Black population of Prince George’s County in Maryland to halt progress on gay marriage. Instead, a number of local pastors spoke in favor of tolerance and the youth vote carried the election.

In fact, it may be the youth that is behind such a cultural shift: This generation has been speculated as being, overall, more tolerant than the last, and the root cause appears to be a greater wealth of information at hand as well as physical exposure to difference. While religion still rides the brakes on such progress, across the board all Christian faiths polled in the US have had to give ground on the matter, partly because the next generation is dropping out of religious affiliation in droves. As the population becomes more urban and urbane, and as religion holds less sway on cultural and moral affairs, liberals of all stripes appear to be getting closer together as a unit.

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