RSS FeedFacebookSearch
Gary Younge
What’s Race Got to Do With It?

To get from downtown Atlanta to the First Iconium Baptist Church, take Ralph David Abernathy freeway and follow the signs to the Confederate complex. Outside the church a welcome board states: "If you are headed in the wrong direction God allows U-turns."

Inside at a black church summit on gay rights organized by the National Black Justice Coalition, the Rev. Al Sharpton is trying to persuade black churches to rethink the path some have taken on gay rights.

Sharpton believes homophobia provided the Republican Party with the key to many a vestry door. In the last presidential election, the GOP boosted its share of the black vote to 11 percent, the postwar average, up from 8 percent in 2000, the lowest level in nearly four decades. (Following Hurricane Katrina it slumped to just 2 percent.) "The majority of the votes that Bush got in the African-American community was from his homophobic appeal," says Sharpton, who went on to invoke the spirit of Bayard Rustin, the gay black organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. Republicans "couldn’t come to black churches to talk about the war, about healthcare, about education, about poverty. So they did what they always do and reached for bigotry against gay and lesbian people."

At first glance this strategy seems to have paid off. In early January a black minister, Herbert Lusk II, hosted a huge rally supporting the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito–attended by the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Focus on the Family’s James Dobson–at the Greater Exodus Baptist Church in North Philadelphia, where he is the pastor. The event laid bare the tensions between the black church and the broader progressive movement. As one of the few autonomous institutions allowed under segregation and slavery, the church has long been the principal tool for political advancement in black America. Throughout, even as its influence has diminished, it has continued to play an ambivalent yet decisive role in liberation struggles–a socially conservative institution leading a community whose fight for equality necessitates radical change. This problem is not new–the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. eventually had to leave the National Baptist Convention because of its reluctance to support the civil rights movement. But on issues like gay rights the contradictions are particularly acute and ripe for exploitation by the Christian right.

In 2004 Republicans did particularly well in key swing states, including Ohio, where voters approved a same-sex-marriage ban and where the GOP’s share of the black vote went up from 9 percent, in 2000, to 16 percent.

Whether homophobia in the black churches fueled these increases is debatable. Glen Ford, editor and co-publisher of blackcommentator.com, a left-wing webzine, says it was irrelevant. "The Bush regime poured tens of millions of dollars into the preachers who were pliable and amenable to Republican subversion," he says. "Homophobia didn’t have a thing to do with it." Sharpton argues it was pivotal. "I’m not dreaming this…[gay marriage] became the predominant issue in the 2004 election. It re-elected George Bush."

© Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, site built with tlc
Who Are We – And Should It Matter in the 21st Century?
book review
The more power an identity carries, the less likely its carrier is to be aware of it as an identity at all.
 follow on twitter
RT @wowfest: 📢📢📢 TIME TO ANNOUNCE OUR BLACK HISTORY MONTH FESTIVAL 1st October- 31st October Featuring @garyyounge @galdemzine @CallMrRobe
RT @theracebeat: We're looking forward to being in Glasgow next week with @garyyounge @arusaqureshi @shola_mcafro @Chess_Ess and many more…
RT @typemediacenter: #ICYMI, read @garyyounge’s recent five-part @guardian series on the challenges, tensions, and vast untapped potential…
RT @MSNBC: 2017 marked the first time firearms killed more people than motor vehicle accidents, according to a new report. https://t.co/zvf…
"Aimee was generous, always guiding outreach workers to homeless people she considered vulnerable. She was less goo… https://t.co/6M64Or8KoG
RT @LSHGofficial: The Staying Power of Peter Fryer - Discussion with contributions from @DavidOlusoga @garyyounge, and Terry Brotherstone.…
RT @DrFrancesRyan: “Austerity was absolutely a choice. You chose to hurt communities.” @Miatsf absolutely destroys Kate Andrews and a Tory…
RT @NesrineMalik: ‘It is not talent but access to the right people, the adventurism of those with nothing to lose, the financial comfort th…
RT @NLawrenceOBE: We always mark the birthday of our son Stephen. We will never forget him. I also remember others suffering the ongoing gr…
RT @hoperoadpublish: We've got that #FridayFeeling, as the weekend is prime book reading time! Looking for a great diverse read? #TheNowh
© Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, site built with tlc