Skip to comments.Queer Eye for the Black Guy
Posted on 09/27/2003 6:42:19 AM PDT by paltz
Perhaps no political party has had a more loyal friend than the Democrats have enjoyed in the post-1970s black community. Just look at the 2000 election, when nine out of 10 African American voters backed the robotic Al Gore, even though he paid them little more than lip service. Their blanket support caused George Bush to set modern lows for a Republican presidential contender; he captured just 8 percent of the black votethe worst showing since Barry Goldwater.
Yet there is an underappreciated fact about black America that anyone armed with a decent survey could see: Black people vote like Democrats, but on social issues they think like Republicans. Whether the GOP can ever lure churchgoing African Americans from the revival tent to the party's so-called big tent remains a matter for debate. Now the controversy over gay marriage, a potent brew of religion and politics, is giving Republicans another shotbut don't bet on their converting it.
The votes are there to be gathered, or so the numbers would suggest. A July poll, by Gallup and CNN/USA Today, concluded that since the Supreme Court overturned Texas's anti-sodomy law in June, support for gay marriage has dropped precipitously in the black community. Before the decision, when African Americans were asked whether homosexual relationships should be legal, 58 percent said yes; afterward that figure dropped to 36 percent. To put that in perspective, consider that among peopleof any racewho attend church every week, 49 percent answered yes.
What's more, the Alliance for Marriage, for instance, has very consciously recruited African Americans in its efforts to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay unions. Reverend Walter Fauntroy, who helped organize the March on Washington in 1963, is prominent in the group. Its board of advisers comprises several clergymen from the African Methodist Episcopal church and its website conspicuously features black people on page after page.
That may be an isolated attempt at inclusivity. Black conservative Robert Woodson, founder and president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, says the GOP hardly capitalizes on what should be natural affinities. "The Republicans don't exploit the similarities," he says. "African Americans are vehemently opposed to gay marriage, and Republicans should be working with them to fight it. They should be bringing the two groups together, saying, 'How can we join you?' "
New York-based author Keith Boykin, who's black and gay, also sees same-sex marriage as an issue that might allow Republicans to siphon a few black votes. Unlike Woodson, the left-leaning Boykin warns that politicos are already trying. "The right wing wants to use same-sex marriage as an issue to divide the progressive base," says Boykin. "It's a wedge issue because the right wing wants to convince black people that Democrats are out of touch."
Republicans in Washington have been outspoken on the issue. Four weeks after the Texas ruling, President Bush made a point of telling reporters he opposed gay marriage. "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we ought to codify that one way or another," Bush told reporters during a press conference. "And we've got lawyers looking at the best way to do that."
By highlighting his opposition to gay marriage, Bush could have struck a chord not only with fundamentalists, but also with the socially conservative element of black America. Could have, that is, if he hadn't spent most of his presidency singing an off-key version of "Lift Every Voice."
On the campaign stump, Bush sought to claim some of the minority vote through his "compassionate conservative" ideas. Bush also talked tougher than most Republicans, often conceding that America had not always lived up to its promise in regard to race. When he went to Senegal in July, he nearly surpassed Clinton in showing contrition over colonialism and the slave trade.
But the master of phantom promises kept his education-reform program, No Child Left Behind, underfunded and sat by while his faith-based initiativesall but designed to appeal to black clergywere first bungled and later forgotten. Even AmeriCorps, the sort of volunteer program that Republicans begrudgingly gave credit to, was ultimately hung out to dry. With no real policy achievements to hang his hat on, Bush and his supporters could use some common ground with African American voters.
Will they find it in black opposition to gay marriage? "My quick answer is no," says David Bositis, senior research associate for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a black think tank. "African Americans are maybe more socially conservative than whites, but gay marriage is not a voting issue for African Americans. So while a high percentage may oppose it, are they going to vote on a basis of that? Most certainly not."
Numbers aside, it's hard to draw any one conclusion about how African Americans view gay issues. People like Bayard Rustin and James Baldwin are seen as pillars of the civil rights movement. The Black Power movement is often derided for its homophobia and sexism. But in the early '70s Huey Newton, founder of the Black Panther Party, penned the bombastic but groundbreaking essay "A Letter From Huey to the Revolutionary Brothers and Sisters About the Women's Liberation and Gay Liberation Movements," calling for a more humanistic view of gender and sexuality.
Even in the church, gays have had a mixed experience. Boykin calls the black church one of the most "homotolerant and homophobic" institutions in the country. Sylvia Rhue, director of Equal Partners in Faith, asserts that gays in the black church have existed in a state of semi-acceptance. "Everyone knew that the choir leader was gay, the organist was gay," says Rhue. "You'd just say, 'Oh there's Uncle Bill, who's a bachelor, and he's the greatest guy we know. Aunt Sarah and Ann have lived together for 30 years, and that's nice.' "
As confrontations over gay issues have become more overt, so has the black church's homophobia, Rhue says.
The goal of transforming black fundamentalism into a black conservative voting bloc has proven elusive, however. Much of black history involves African Americans petitioning the governmentwith varying degrees of successfor protection against racism. Thus African Americans tend to have a progressive view of the role of government. "The difference is that black conservative Christians are more concerned about social and economic needs that the government can address," says Bositis. "Government is something that white Christian conservatives are against, except in trying to control people's lives through abortion curbs, etc."
Today, there simply is no black equivalent of the Christian Coalition. While the black church has been the source of some backward thinking on social issues, it's also been a hotbed of black leftismjust look at Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, or Al Sharpton.
Conservatives have yet to outline for African Americans the benefits of shifting their vote rightward. For gay marriage to be a voting issue, they would have to see some sort of cost-benefit analysis. "What do you tell your kids when they ask about the schools?" Bositis says. " 'Yeah, but we kept those gay people from getting married'?"
You will often hear this from hypocrites who want to shove THEIR values down OUR throats and hope we'll stand by while we let them.
This is amazing how many white kids do act like black "gangsters". In our neighborhood we have some Vietnamese teenagers -- they wear clean and pressed golf shirts and tight docker pants just like little yuppies and they all wear glasses from too much studing. Imagine if white teenagers emulated them -- playing loud oriental music on boom-boxes and speaking in an accent where they can't pronounce "L's" and "R's" and worst of all getting straight "A's" in school.
My experience, based on 2 years of working with hundreds of churches in the AME group, suggests otherwise.
They are each an independent business entity. So long as the "church" is producing revenues that are upstreamed, the pastor is untouchable.
As a business entity, these pastors often benefit economically during election campaigns for delivering voters.
Going after the "black vote" through the "churches" is wasted time and money.
My guess is that among the church leaders, a 90/10 split is wildly overestimating the conservative influence. Try 99/1, and that is optimistic.
Ah, yeah, but that racism has come from the Democrat Party for 150 years and continues to this day. Which elected politician used the 'N' word? Can you Cruz with Bustamonte? Yes. A friend from California reports that this has hurt the Bustamonte campaign with blacks. About time, I say.
You might be able to snag a few votes with this, but I wouldn't expect much. Leaving aside the rather meaningless phrase "think like Republicans" this is the standard "They're really social conservatives" argument you often hear about Hispanics. In fact, other than a greater tendency towards religiosity (a tendency that is heavily confined to females), they are not. By any real measure, such as crime, venereal disease, illegitimacy, etc., and more to the point, who they vote in as their elected leaders Blacks are far from "socially conservative" (whatever that means this week). What they are is less politically correct. There is a difference. PC is a white thing and Blacks are naturally more resistant to it, though even they largely cave in to it, in part because they see it as in their best interest overall. They'll vote the big picture and ignore the details like gay marriage.
How about we all just give a "black eye to the queer guys"?