Gotta Touch the Third Rail

The WaPo takes a look at three high-profile races which the GOP are using to target a black constituency in an article called The Year of the Black Republican—which really says everything you need to know about the GOP and race: three black candidates getting tons of support, and it’s suddenly the “year” of the black Republican.

Looking at the article, Oliver Willis notes that he finds it interesting how artificial the “black Republican media creation” is, as the GOP simply “looked at places where a white Republican would have a hard time and just grabbed a black guy, hoping to make inroads among black voters without actually addressing the policy questions that keep black voters away from the GOP.” And then he follows that with something even more important: Even though the GOP shows “no sign of understanding that the party of Katrina can’t just put on a happy face,” the Democrats “need to learn not to take the black vote for granted - those week before the election visits to black churches are tired.”

Not only are they tired, but the Dems’ reluctance to construct a comprehensive and productive outreach to the black community is allowing the GOP to make in-roads using their favorite wedge issue—gay rights. As long as the Dems rely on appearances at black churches to get out the vote, it’s going to become increasingly difficult to effectively counter the GOP’s efforts to exploit homophobia. If neither party is willing to sincerely address and rigorously respond to the issues of black voters, the GOP is perfectly content to let it come down to a “moral values” vote, because homophobia in the black community is a big issue.

And that brings me two great posts. First, Keith Boykin, responding to Bishop Alfred E. Owens’ exhortation, “It takes a real man to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior. I'm not talking about no faggot or no sissy… Let all the real men come on down here and take a bow… All the real men—I'm talking about the straight men… Come on down here and walk around and praise God that you are straight. Thank him that you're straight. All the straight men that's proud to be a Christian, that's proud to be a man of God.”

Another Sunday passes and another minister is caught on tape with his homophobic foot in his mouth. Sadly, that's no longer news…

Black gay men are under attack, not only in our churches, but in our families, at our jobs, on the radio stations we listen to, in the songs we dance to at our night clubs, and in the dark spaces of the parks where we often dwell. I am not a confrontational person, but I believe you have a right and a duty to defend yourself when you're attacked. Sometimes you fight back. Sometimes you simply seek to prevent injury to yourself and others. And other times you vow to avoid those situations in the future. Either way, you do something to defend yourself.
Boykin’s whole post is excellent—and I recommend reading the comments thread as well. Although he receives lots of supportive responses, the comments confirm how pervasive the problem really is.

And then there’s Pam, who does her usual excellent job on this issue. A snippet:

This is clearly not a black-only issue, but a slice of the pie of closeted pathology that has infected one community in a way that is only beginning to be addressed; you can draw a connection between the vitriol from the pulpit and the level of denial and deception that feeds the problem.

What many in the political venue choose to ignore is that the black vote will remain a strong part of the Democratic base, but that the unaddressed homophobia within will allow for those same party-line voters to vote for anti-gay measures. Will Democrats (of all colors) stand up and call out homophobia in all circles where it exists in its party? I haven't seen much activity to suggest it will be. Dems have taken blacks for granted for decades. Who will call them out?

…As I said in an earlier post, many white Dems are terrified of the race card being tossed out there by defensive, homophobic blacks who don't want this issue openly discussed. It all has to be discussed, by all of us. It goes without saying that other groups of color, such gay Latinos, face much the same uphill battle in those faith communities.

This doesn't preclude hard discussions within the black community, with the admission of the issues here, as well as an open and honest look at the relevance of homophobia in the black community to the larger role of this sickness in the dominant culture, also fostered in that religious community.
This is a subject both Pam and I have written about before, and we always end up grousing about the lack of comments posts on the topic inevitably receive. Progressives are willing to talk about religious intolerance toward the LGBT community, and the GOP’s exploitation of gay rights as a wedge issue, and the frustrating intermingling of religion and politics—but as soon as race gets thrown into the mix, it’s a no-commenter. The truth is, the entrenched homophobia in many black churches, confirmed repeatedly by Boykin’s commenters, is an important political issue and and an important cultural issue. If the inevitable result of the GOP stealing voters based on such a despicable tactic isn’t enough to get us talking about this, the forcible, faith-based marginalization of LGBT people of color surely ought to be.

The Dems need to be told, loudly and repeatedly, that all of us expect more than lipservice in response to the ugly face of endemic poverty and racism that Katrina unavoidably exposed—and that they must boldly support gay equality. The GOP needs to be called out on using gay rights as a wedge issue. And the religious leaders—of any color—who facilitate a hostile environment toward gays need to hear our disapproval, lest their hatemongering continue to contribute to the cultural and political disasters that homophobia allows. Boykin has contact information for the homobigot Bishop at the link.

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