White Gays Guide to Dealing with the Black Community: Chapter Three: Listen to Black Gays When It Comes to Black People…Duh!

CHAPTER THREE

Listen to Black Gays When It Comes to Black People…Duh!

Blackout on Proposition 8

Although most of California’s black politicians opposed Proposition 8, many African-American pastors vociferously supported it. Why does black culture draw different lines on gay rights?

By Rod McCullom

Channeling Leni Riefenstahl and the Nuremberg rallies as inspiration, three dozen antigay black pastors dispatched hundreds of uniformed black Southern California schoolchildren in October to encourage blacks to vote yes on Proposition 8. The smiling children had been dismissed from school for the event. Banners read, “For Children. For Families. For Our Future.”

Apostle Frederick K.C. Price, one of the nation’s more prominent black televangelists and leader of the 22,000-member Crenshaw Christian Center, ordered the children into the streets as the army in his own personal jihad against gay marriage. Marriage was defined by God as a union between a man and a woman, he said, and to change that definition would “jeopardize our children’s future.”

Thinly disguised homophobia has always been the calling card of fundamentalist black churches, and as a result black voters tend to be more conservative on social issues. It came as no surprise when exit polls on Election Day showed that Prop. 8 was rejected by 51% of white voters yet supported by 70% of blacks. Even before a single ballot was cast, the persistent drumbeat by many in the gay e-telligentsia — especially revisionist conservative Andrew Sullivan, who fancies himself an authority on race relations — was that black homophobia would seal the passage of the ballot initiative.

The truth is far more nuanced. Blacks made up no more than 10% of those voting in California this election. Even if a larger proportion supported the measure, the passage was “sealed” by millions of mostly white, conservative, inland voters and the millions of dollars from the almost lily-white Mormon Church. An eleventh-hour television commercial by Samuel L. Jackson and robo-calls by Magic Johnson and Barack Obama apparently fell on deaf ears.

Almost every major black politician and organization in California was on record against Proposition 8: the state chapter of the NAACP, whose friend-of-the-court brief was considered in the state supreme court’s landmark marriage ruling last May; assembly speaker Karen Bass; then-assemblyman Mervyn Dymally; Oakland mayor Ron Dellums; U.S. representative Barbara Lee. Even former NBA player and new Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, who angered gays by saying marriage should be restricted to a man and woman, opposed Prop. 8 “because it would write discrimination into the state constitution.”

“Why wasn’t this message coming out?” asks Archbishop Carl Bean, founder and leader of the Unity Fellowship Church Movement, a majority black-LGBT denomination that fuses the charismatic tradition of the black church with a progressive, gay-friendly ministry. Bean said he received “at least two” robo-calls in the 20 minutes prior to our interview that specifically targeted blacks to “support Proposition 8, protect marriage, and protect the family. But why weren’t there any phone calls from the other side?”

Bean isn’t surprised many black pastors supported the antigay amendment pushed by white social conservatives. “That is the painful history of the black church,” he says, adding that many black preachers opposed the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1950s and ’60s. The Reverend Joseph H. Jackson, then-president of the National Baptist Convention, the nation’s dominant black Baptist group, “called him ‘Martin Luther Coon’ and actively fought against him.”

Bean calls himself “lucky” to have a pastor who was a classmate of King’s to teach him progressive Christianity, and he expected more church leaders steeped in the tradition of civil rights to oppose Prop. 8. The Reverend Eric Lee, president of the California chapters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a group founded by King and other civil rights and religious leaders in 1957, agrees. Standing outside the gates of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in Los Angeles’s Westwood district, he said, “The same people who are driving this fight for Proposition 8 are the same people who considered African-Americans inferior and used the Bible to justify slavery [and] Jim Crow segregation.”

What’s more, the Mormon Church “did not allow blacks into the priesthood and did not allow them into Mormon heaven [until 1978],” he adds. “It’s amazing to me how all of a sudden when there’s another scapegoat, African-Americans so quickly join in oppressing another people.” Lee notes the same clergymen who are marching to the antigay call today were noticeably absent as HIV/AIDS ravaged the black community. These clergymen are missing “an understanding of what the Scriptures talk about: providing quality to life and dignity to God’s people,” Lee says. “They are definitely wrong on this issue, and hopefully, God will be the final judge for all of us.”

The Court of Public Opinion

  • Ty

    Good stuff, thanks for posting it.

  • UGOTSOMENERVE

    FA REAL JASMYNE? BEFORE PROP 8 EVEN HIT THE SCENE U WERE MS.DIDNT BELIEVE IN MARRIAGE, COULDNT/WOULDNT EVEN SUPPORT LESIBANS(AND MEN) OF COLOR WHO DID JUMP THE BROOM….YET ONCE’D AGAIN, YOU ARE TRYIN TO BE THE FACE OF ALL LGBT OF COLOR WHO FOUGHT AGAINST PROP 8. I THINK NOT. HOW DARE U MS CANNICK TRY TO DARE TO UNDERSTAND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MY AND OUR MARRIAGE AS A LESBIAN COUPLE OF COLOR IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. BUT AS LONG AS U GET UR SOUND BITES, UR 5MIN OF TV TIME ON A WHITE HOSTED TALK SHOW, U WANT TO ACT AS THE HOUSE POSTER CHYLE FOR GAY MARRIAGE. WAIT, THATS WHY UR SINGLE. DONT TRY TO SPEAK FOR OUR/MY MARRIAGE, WHEN U AREN’T ANYWHERE CLOSE OF HAVING ONE TO CALL YOUR OWN. THE NERVE!

  • j

    My mother told me, that as a girl in the backwoods south, there were gay couples that lived together around their home: they were always somewhere. But nobody bothered them because the whites were so hateful, they didn’t need to discriminate one another. I’m afraid I just don’t get what the hoopla is about. I have friends, older lesbians, who have raised families together. Who have other friends who have done the same. I have done the same at one time. I would have liked to know that my wife and son were covered if something happened to me. I believe in marriage and family. It ain’t all about politics. Gay marriage happens at the courthouse, at the park and yes with tuxedos and bridesmaids in a church whether straight people approve or not. But, it is only fair to have legal rights where your partner is concerned. I wouln’t care either way what white gays used to make their point. The so called leaders of our community should have taken up the cause under our terms. Trying every minute to be Fabulous, party every night like a rock star, and front like some rich celebrity is the joke, the true bane of gay existance. Life, love, family, and true friends are what’s real. I think we really missed the boat on this one.

  • Notgaybut…

    This goes to Ugotsomenerve: While I am not gay or lesbian I think it is critically important to cease any unnecessary division on this topic. Is Jasmyne is speaking out on your behalf as an ally, it seems counter productive to tare at her in this manner. I am not familiar with the history of her positions on this, however, seeing that she is speaking out publicly in favor of what you are in favor of –seems to me you should be joining forces instead of pitting your fight against her. There is divison enough on this issue, now there has to be division on timing and where people speak out? There are not enough soldiers to do that –You have got some nerve.

  • I’m on an LGBT listserv at the University I work at and that 70% figure kept popping up over, and over, and over, and over…. each time I’d reply with links to the few articles that dissected it – that figure is from less than 200 black voters in SoCal (I don’t even think white folk like to be generalized from looking at Orange Co.), while the blackest county in the state (Alameda) voted overwhelmingly against Prop 8. Have to love the media….

  • following up Dr. Matthew’s comments, here is a link to a very detailed deconstruction of the claim that the black electorate was strong enough to swing the final outcome. A shorter treatment of the analysis is posted on Pam’s House Blend.

    Any way you cut the pie, the passage of prop 8 is not a “racial” issue. New argument!

  • glori

    BLACK FOLKS SAY THEY ARE ANTI GAY CAUSE THE BIBLE SAYS SO

    THE BIBLE SAYS A LOT OF THINGS.
    thou shall not steal” etc..