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Op-ed debate on black homophobia

Sheryl McCarthy, a black freelance writer and columnist for Newsday and a a member of USA TODAY’s board of contributors, wrote an interesting op-ed on gay civil rights and homophobia in the religious black community. It covers much of the ground we’ve walked here on the Blend.

The fight for gay rights is like our civil rights struggle, however, and it’s hypocritical for groups that have had to fight long and hard to win their own constitutional rights to turn around and try to deny them to the next group. We’re seeing this in the descendants of immigrant groups that were despised and vilified during their early days in this country, and that now want to deny recent immigrants the means to become lawful citizens.

This hypocrisy was apparent to me as I was growing up in a black Baptist church. I routinely heard ministers condemn gays from the pulpit, even though half the male choir members, the choir director, the flower arranger and plenty of other male church members were obviously gay. The church would have had difficulty functioning without them.

…I won’t attempt to argue with the Scriptures, other than to say they reflect the mores and biases of the times they were written. And just as there are Scriptures ordering slaves to obey their masters, cautioning women to be silent in church and submissive at home, and applauding the persecution of the Jews because they killed Jesus, none of these positions is argued by enlightened people today.

I won’t dismiss the beliefs of blacks who believe that homosexuality is immoral, but I’d caution them that morality has often been used as a cloak for old-fashioned bigotry, fear and discomfort with people and behaviors that are different.

In response, one of the ace black homobigot pastors, Bishop Harry Jackson, Chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, stepped forward to denounce McCarthy’s observations and to explain away the issue with a plea to “Separate pro-family values, anti-gay bigotry.”

Sheryl McCarthy’s recent commentary grossly misrepresented what many African-Americans think about gay marriage. In fact, it presented people like me as anti-gay bigots. Nothing could be further from the truth.

…I am pro-family and pro-children. Poor social choices made by cavalier reformers might destroy America’s greatest assets. I feel compelled to restate the obvious: Children deserve to be raised in strong families headed by both a mother and father. The traditional family structure is almost extinct within today’s black community because of both poor personal decisions teamed with poor public policy decisions. The staggering number of out-of-wedlock births and abortions underscores the need for greater value to be placed on both kids and traditional family.

McCarthy bases much of her analysis of traditional Christian teachings concerning the gay lifestyle on her childhood church experiences. Beginning with these presuppositions, she boldly challenges 95% of the Christian world. Her “scriptural” views would be rejected by many black church leaders. Further, mainstream Christians of all races almost universally reject the concept that gay marriage is endorsed anywhere in Scripture.

In addition, her projection that the black struggle and the gay struggle are similar is laughable. The persecution of gays in the USA has never been as violent or as long-standing as the black struggle. Prejudice against gays and lesbians is real, but most of them struggle because of personal choices and preferences. In contrast, blacks historically coped with an entire national economy that attempted to justify its immoral gain by dehumanizing the black community.

McCarthy’s mischaracterizations are not only an insult to African-Americans and Christians, they are also an insult to what our civil rights leaders have fought to achieve.

Yes, he’s not a bigot, he just portrays one in the pulpit.

Here we go with the zero-sum game again. Are civil rights to be determined based on some sort of “past misery” index? Does a group of people have to be subject to a specific type, kind and level of violence to deserve rights?

Jackson, sadly, is incapable of seeing his own twisted hypocrisy here. He’s bleated plenty to indicate his proud homobigotry before.

“I’m not against gay people; I’m not trying to bash them per se. I just think that we’re in such a terrible situation in my community that I’ve got to protect the institution.”

“Same-sex marriage is not directly addressed in any affirming way by the words of Christ,” Jackson continues, “and it is simply spoken against in the Old Testament. And so we need to be true to the sacred scriptures that we hold as the guiding light for our faith.”

“It’s a matter of whether you’re a biblical conservative or a biblical liberal. By and large, biblical conservatives say that although we accept all people, there seems to be [a biblical] admonition against same-sex unions, especially the concept of [homosexual] marriage.”

“Gay rights is not an extension of the civil rights movement simply because there’s no choice involved in our blackness. I think there is an amazingly militant group of gays who have made it their point to say, ‘We’re going to be out; we’re going to be visible’ — that’s their choice.”

“The gay community is well on its way to getting many, many of [the] rights that they want. I’m simply wanting to protect traditional marriage.”

— the wit and wisdom of Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Bowie, Maryland

He may be beating the bible about gays and his beliefs about the family as he understands it, but there is no rational basis to deny civil rights to any group based on his logic. Marriage and “saving the children” were both used against God-fearing whites who thought segregation was biblically mandated. How soon we forget. How soon Jackson forgets his own LGBT brothers and sisters of color in his quick judgment to condemn the “white man’s perversion.”

Granting civil equality to LGBT citizens in no way diminishes the struggle of blacks to gain those rights.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding