In a column on the overwhelming black vote (black female vote in particular) in favor of California's Proposition 8, the New York Times' Charles Blow noted two main trends: a particularly irrational form of religiosity; and black, female self-pity and resentment. He then insists that we dare not question either. One would have thought he was joking, but alas, he was not.
"[the] high rate of church attendance by blacks informs a very conservative moral view. While blacks vote overwhelmingly Democratic, an analysis of three years of national data from Gallup polls reveals that their views on moral issues are virtually indistinguishable from those of Republicans."
"Marriage can be a sore subject for black women in general... Women who can't find a man to marry might not be thrilled about the idea of men marrying each other."
"Comparing the struggles of legalizing interracial marriage with those to legalize gay marriage is a bad idea. Many black women do not seem to be big fans of interracial marriage either."
"...don't debate the Bible. You can't win. Religious faith is not defined by logic, it defies it. Instead, decouple the legal right from the religious rite, and emphasize the idea of acceptance without endorsement."
This is a portrait identical to that of white evangelical racists--personally resentful and misusing religion to justify their bigotry. Blow then explains what this strict morality does for the black community--how this religiously-based, "conservative" moral philosophy serves us:
"...for instance, most blacks find premarital sex unacceptable, according to the Gallup data. But, according to data from a study by the Guttmacher Institute, blacks are 26 percent more likely than any other race to have had premarital sex by age 18, and the pregnancy rate for black teens is twice that of white teens. They still have premarital sex, but they do so uninformed and unprotected...."
"...black women have an abortion rate that is three times that of white women."
"...blacks overwhelmingly say that homosexuality isn't morally acceptable. So many black men hide their sexual orientations and engage in risky behavior. This has resulted in large part in black women's becoming the fastest-growing group of people with H.I.V."
Blow paints a picture of hypocrisy, irrationality, resentment and plain ignorance. Blacks are much more likely than whites to attend church, he says, and much more likely to engage in behavior that their churches and their own religious codes condemn as immoral. I'd say this calls for a closer look at those churches and their teachings. If abstinence-only education leads to higher pregnancy rates, you don't politely ignore that fact and recommend chastity belts; you attempt to change the educational paradigm.
There are two issues at play here, but Blow is loathe to separate them. First, there is the issue of gay rights. Blow is trying to steer a course by which blacks are brought to accept homosexuality and, by association, gay marriage. But why would religious blacks be more persuadable than white evangelicals? If Blow is correct, they are not. The movement for gay writes should write them off, just as we write off devout Mormons or Catholics.
The second issue is one for the black community: black religiosity, which conservative political correctness insists we must not question. Black preachers who railed against gay marriage used arguments as Biblically specious as those that insisted blacks were cursed in God's eyes and meant to serve white men. They also displayed a rigorous ignorance of black history. Both Brown vs. Board of Education (which gave black children the right to attend schools previously reserved for whites) and Loving vs. Virginia (which gave blacks the right to marry the person of his/her choice) were highly unpopular with the majority. Should the majority will have prevailed? What if public sentiment should turn against blacks once again? Should our right to live where we choose be abolished if the majority thinks so?
The gay rights movement needs to move on when it comes to the black religious vote. It is as remote as the white evangelical vote. There is no brotherhood here.
The black community needs to question the unquestionable--the continuing perversion of its religious traditions that promote irrational, self-destructive path devoid of reason and drunk on revivalist hysteria. When churches lead their followers down self-destructive paths, it is time to do what Charles Blow insists we must not: It is time to "go there." It is time to question the cultural value of some black churches. It is time to call them on their ignorance and bigotry. It is time to suggest that their followers seek more constructive pastures of faith.