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Queer Eye for the Black Guy
villagevoice ^ | September 24 - 30, 2003 | Ta-Nehisi Coates

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 vote—the 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 shot—but 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 people—of any race—who 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 initiatives—all but designed to appeal to black clergy—were 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 government—with varying degrees of success—for 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 leftism—just 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'?"

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: blackchurch; blackconservatives; blackvote; bush43; christiancoalition; dems; gop; gwb2004; homosexualagenda; lawrencevtexas; marriageamendment; polls; robertwoodson; walterfauntroy

1 posted on 09/27/2003 6:42:20 AM PDT by paltz
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To: paltz
"Government is something that white Christian conservatives are against, except in trying to control people's lives through abortion curbs, etc."

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.

2 posted on 09/27/2003 6:59:26 AM PDT by nosofar
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To: paltz
I actually had an idea for a TV show based on white kids' wanting to emulate black "culture." It would be called Black Eye for the White Guy.
3 posted on 09/27/2003 7:31:06 AM PDT by clintonh8r (A gentleman should know something about everything and everything about something.)
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To: mhking
for ur ping list
4 posted on 09/27/2003 7:31:29 AM PDT by paltz
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To: paltz
Mens on politics by Senator Leslie Dove.
5 posted on 09/27/2003 7:33:18 AM PDT by tet68 (multiculturalism is an ideological academic fantasy maintained in obvious bad faith. M. Thompson)
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To: clintonh8r
white kids' wanting to emulate black "culture."

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.

6 posted on 09/27/2003 7:45:51 AM PDT by BeAllYouCanBe (Maybe this "Army Of One" is a good thing - You Gotta Admire the 3rd Infantry Accomplishments)
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To: paltz
First off, this article makes the same fatal mistake that most everyone does when referring to "black churches", it assumes they are the same as white churches.

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.

7 posted on 09/27/2003 7:52:17 AM PDT by There's millions of'em (Bill Clinton was a great Democrat President)
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To: paltz
Much of black history involves African Americans petitioning the government—with varying degrees of success—for protection against racism.

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.

8 posted on 09/27/2003 7:58:02 AM PDT by Jabba the Nutt
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To: paltz
No question that as long as Republican operatives try to reach out for black votes by imitating the Democrats, they will fail, because the Democrats do it better.

I also agree that there's something very wrong about many or most of the black churches. They are money machines, and they also are notorious for bussing congregations straight from church to the polls to vote Democratic.

I don't know what to do about this, except to hope that there will some day be a Great Awakening among the black Christians in this country. There's nothing Christian about abortion, but black congregations are sleepwalking on this issue.

At the time the Supreme Court issued Roe v. Wade, white Southern Baptists came out in support of it. Gradually over the years they have seen the light and reversed their position to what it is today. We must hope that blacks may do the same. Certainly those blacks whom I know are decent people with family values who love their children. Let's just pray that they wake up to how the Democrats and their tame black preachers have used and abused them for immoral purposes.
9 posted on 09/27/2003 8:52:11 AM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: paltz
Black people vote like Democrats, but on social issues they think like Republicans.

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.

10 posted on 09/27/2003 10:25:49 AM PDT by jordan8
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To: jordan8
Queer eye for the black guy..

How about we all just give a "black eye to the queer guys"?

11 posted on 09/27/2003 1:03:39 PM PDT by Bon mots
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To: Bon mots
"How about we all just give a "black eye to the queer guys"?"

Reminds me of the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus exhorts his followers beat the living snot out of anyone they see sinning. Like how He dropped a big boulder on the head of the adulteress whilst screaming `Die you Godless whore!'.

What? ... you mean that's not how it goes?
12 posted on 09/27/2003 3:11:32 PM PDT by harmony (Queers bash back. You've been warned.)
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To: clintonh8r
how about 'queer pal for the straight gal'. (in a semi-deep voice)'If I were you, I would get that hair cut reeeaaaal short.'
13 posted on 09/27/2003 8:13:44 PM PDT by LearnsFromMistakes (Tagline Loading - please wait.)
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To: harmony
Tsk, tsk, tsk! Now why I agree with you to a certain point don't be so quick to forget the whip & the temple merchant. Jesus was not nor will he ever be a pacifist.
14 posted on 09/27/2003 11:21:30 PM PDT by kuma
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To: nosofar
"Boykin calls the black church one of the most "homotolerant and homophobic" institutions in the country."

Boykin is wrong. The black church (no not all but many) has tolerated gays for years and that's part of the problem. We all know Brother Bob is gay but he plays the organ and directs the choir so well that people come from other parts of town to hear him and they bring money for the collection plate so we ignore it. We just don't let Brother Bob have charge of the Tot choir. We know that Sister Emma is gay but say nothing becuase she's the biggest fundraiser for the church and as long as she leaves our daughters alone it's okay. Brother Clyde hugs the Sunday school boys just a little too long but his family paid for the new community center so we'll either find something else for him to do or get someone energetic to act as chaperone in the class....

I could throw out some more examples but I'll get to the point. This tolerance comes at a price. Young black men seem to be avoiding church on a massive scale.
15 posted on 09/28/2003 8:00:35 AM PDT by thathamiltonwoman
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To: kuma
"Jesus was not nor will he ever be a pacifist."

I have no strong opinion on whether or not Jesus was a pacifist. No, my motivation is that I recall (the presumably Christian) Bon Mots patiently informing me that stories about Jesus weren't violent (Post #89, Article #947468). If that be the case, then WWJD?

As to whether or not Jesus *will* be a pacifist... urgh! must. fight. urge.
16 posted on 09/29/2003 12:31:44 AM PDT by harmony (I think being dead is about as nonviolent as one can get. Darn! Sorry, couldn't resist.)
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