African-American Homophobia

“Homophobia is hardly unique to the African-American community. It’s a social malady that’s due largely to the influence of fear based-theologies… When something or someone is perceived as being despised by someone’s God, the worshippers of that God tend to despise and hate that person or thing as well… African-Americans in particular should be sensitive to the violent injustices humans can perpetrate on other humans because of fear, ignorance and hatred. The African-American church has traditionally used a kind of “don’t ask don’t tell” approach toward homosexuality. But once someone’s homosexuality becomes public, the denunciations begin.” –Bishop Carlton Pearson June 15, 2011

Yesterday, in my blog Gays, Blacks, Votes, and Church (https://brandonjsutton.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/gays-blacks-votes-church/) I discussed how the African-American church and community is being exploited at the ballot box to stop gay rights from advancing across the country which creates a weird juxtaposition considering it was only 50 short years ago that African-Americans themselves were being discriminated against because of who they are.

Toward the end of her life Coretta Scott-King had come out in support of gay rights putting her at odds with members of her own family and black clergy. King stated, in a 2004 interview that, “Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union,” she said. “A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages.”

Why is the African-American community overwhelmingly homophobic? In 2008, when California passed Proposition 8, which constitutionally outlawed same-sex marriage in that state. A whopping 70 percent of blacks voted for the measure, compared to 53 percent of Hispanic voters, 49 percent of white voters and 49 percent of Asian voters.

The African-American church lay at the core of the problem. African-American clergy are quick to condemn homosexuals and treat them like outcasts. By elevating homosexuality over all other “sins” mentioned in the Bible the church is, in a way, endorsing discrimination.

The Washington Post recently did a story on African-American feelings toward gay marriage (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-decision-on-gay-marriage-divides-local-residents/2012/05/10/gIQARtsJEU_story.html?tid=pm_politics_pop). In the article a local DC resident Willie McMillan stated “I’m sorry, I was tickled and proud to see a black president, but I can’t vote for a man who goes against God… “I don’t believe in skin color more than I believe in God’s word. This president must be part atheist or something.” Another resident, William Cabell stated: “I’d love to be supportive to my president,” [but] “I have to be loyal to my God.” One can love God and support Gay marriage.

What has come from the homophobia expressed by African-Americans? The Center for HIV Law and Policy reported: HIV is a racial justice issue as well as a public health issue, as people of color disproportionately suffer the brunt of the HIV epidemic in the United States. HIV is the leading cause of death among African-American women ages 25-34 and the second leading cause of death among African-American men ages 35-44, and African-Americans living with HIV have an age-adjusted death rate more than twice as high as whites living with HIV. For people of color living with HIV, studies demonstrate that racial discrimination diminishes the quality of medical care received. Discrimination and socio-economic factors linked to race create additional obstacles to accessing the quality health care, housing, and education necessary for treatment and prevention.”

The silence in the African-American church is probably why the Center for Disease Control reported that HIV infections are up sharply among black gay and bisexual men under the age of 30 — the only race and risk group in the United States to experience a significant increase between 2006 and 2009.

The time has come for the African-American community to stop discriminating against homosexuals. An honest, educated dialogue is needed within the African-American community regarding homosexuality. Remember, when Jesus came he gave us one new commandment “love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

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