If you couldn’t tell by now, we love math. Much to the disappointment of our fathers, who are both men of science and can do all sorts of tricky calculasians in their heads with one hand tied behind their backs while chewing gum, walking, and humming “Ode to Joy” at the same time, we chose paths in life where we don’t use a whole lot of it day to day. We’ve tried over the years to convince our dads that our silly Americanized ways of doing things are not so different from their own; that, say, there was empirical logic in the study of lit theory (admittedly a hard sell)–and therefore, it was not a total waste of their tuition money–or that, even though we sucked at AP calculus, we could still balance our checkbooks and manage our money, because, hey, a zero in your bank account is as absolute as it is on the Kelvin temperature scale.
But we always return to math in one way or another, whether it’s calculating how many electoral votes we needed to clinch for an Obama victory or figuring out the number of notes we needed to hit to finally slay “Free Bird” on GH2 on Expert (which we did, by the way). Because math, like our Hardass Asian Fathers, is reliable. And it is honest–hence the phrase, “The numbers don’t lie.”
Of course, sometimes the interpretation of the numbers do. We got to thinking about that in the wake–and we mean that in the funereal sense–of the passage of Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban. Earlier in the week, we posted the CNN exit poll on how people voted, by race, on Prop 8. The number that jumps out at you is the 70% of African-American voters who supported the ban. There’s been a lot of grumbling on the internet about how the passage of Prop 8 is the fault of black voters, with an implicit (and sometimes not-so-implicit) How dare They, especially since we elected one of Them.
Feels good, doesn’t it? To fall back on good ol’ fashioned finger-pointing, especially in this slouching-towards-postracial-Bethlehem we find ourselves in, this era of hope and change. At least we can still scapegoat groups of people! African-Americans, in particular, because they got theirs, right?
But this, as my father would say, is unscientific. And when my dad, a physics professor who’s taught at a black college for the last 25 years, says something is “unscientific,” that’s a politic way of him saying: THIS IS TOTAL BULLSHIT. So, sure, you could look at this exit poll…
…and say, since the margin between for and against came down to 500,000 votes out of 10 million, If only we had gotten 100% of the African-American vote against 8, we would have had this in the bag. How dare They. But what if we had gotten 100% of the Asian and “Other” vote against Prop 8, which would have been an increase of 450,000 votes, and, like, 1% percent more of the white vote? What if we had gotten 75% of the Latino vote, instead of 47%? Or what if we had gotten 59% of the white vote against Prop 8 instead of 51%, the most achievable statistical increase? What if we didn’t put the outcome of gay marriage all on one group, and if we had gotten 6.5% more of the white vote (+409,500), 3% more of the Latino vote (+54,000), 2% more of the black vote (+20,000), and 2% more of the Asian and Other vote (+18,000)? Or any combination therein?
Answer: gay marriage would be legal today in California.
If we’ve learned one thing from this election, it’s that we all have to work together. It wasn’t black voters alone who got a black President elected. It was black, white, Latino, Asian, mixed, working together. And it’s not black voters alone who passed the gay marriage ban, either. We all did–a percentage of us here, a percentage of us there. That’s the truth that these exit poll numbers tell us: we failed. All of us. Together.
The shame that we feel today is only directed at our collective failure, which we need to figure out how to rectify. All of us. Together. Diana and I also feel quite a bit of shame over the fact that we couldn’t crunch all those numbers in our head and had to use a calculator (and made a few miscalculasians along the way), and now we have a raging headache from doing all of this math…but that’s just us. Sorry, Dads!
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