White, Rich Gay Couples More Acceptable than Single Moms

A strange little MSNBC story shows how race and class blindness can complicate good news about changing attitudes.

By Akiba Solomon Mar 21, 2011

You know how The Roots and Jimmy Fallon do "Slow Jam the News"? And how the Gregory Brothers Auto-Tune footage of everyday strugglers like Antoine Dodson? Well, sometimes when I’m reading up on the who, what, when and whys of the world, I wish a musically inclined soul would figure out how to Race-n-Class the Clips. Listening to a catchy tune would be a lot more fun than, say, reading an elaborate deconstruction of a story with obvious race and class undertones.

Any takers should start with reporting on a semi-recent Pew survey, "The Decline of Marriage and the Rise of New Families." Of the 2,691 Americans who took this survey, 43 percent considered an increase of gay and lesbian parenting to be ‘a bad thing’ while 69 percent thought the same of single mothering. 

Pew’s executive summary tells us, point blank, how these attitudes shake out: 

"Where people stand on the various changes in marriage and family life depends to some degree on who they are and how they live.

The young are more accepting than the old of the emerging arrangements; the secular are more accepting than the religious; liberals are more accepting than conservatives; the unmarried are more accepting than the married; and, in most cases, blacks are more accepting than whites."

The study itself also notes who the single mothers are (although Asians, Native Americans and South Asians are conspicuously missing, here):

"In 2008, seven-in-ten black women giving birth (72%) were unmarried. This compares with 53% of Hispanic women giving birth and 29% of whites."

So why then, did MSNBC avoid meaningful race, class or political analysis in "Gay families more accepted than single moms," a widely circulated clip about the Pew data? The piece uses a smiling white family–Steve Poujnet, mayor of Palm Springs, CA, his husband, Christopher Green, and their adorable twins Beckham and Julia–to illustrate the kind of folk more likely to be accepted than mothers raising their kids on their own. Examples of maligned single moms? TVs Murphy Brown and recent Oscar winner/pregnant-out-of-wedlock/mainstream icon Natalie Portman. 

This strange piece of journalism ends with an appropriately upbeat quote from Mayor Pouget:

"For his part, Pougnet believes the change is simply due to people seeing how gay families aren’t different than any others.

‘We go to our kids’ soccer games like the other parents in America,’ he says. ‘Our kids are in the church choir. And like other parents, we love our children unconditionally.’

Which brings me back to my initial point: If somebody Race-n-Classes the News, maybe we’ll get a realistic take on why single moms aren’t so hot in the eyes of some Americans. Because writing like this just ain’t cutting it.