Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The People vs. Bishop Harry Jackson

I read an article online at The Washington Post today about anti-gay activist, Bishop Harry Jackson, from Maryland. I have to admit I did not fully understand Jackson's argument against marriage equality until this article; and now that I know, it sounds even more absurd. Bishop Jackson's basic premise is that passing marriage equality will force the Black family into extinction. Of all the arguments one could propose, that registers right around letting people marry goats. What I would say about this argument in the company of close friends is probably not appropriate for an articulate, academically-based response so I will leave that behind closed doors. I will, however, like to challenge Bishop Jackson on the facts. His argument, while valid in his mind, has no merit in reality.

"If you redefine marriage, you have to redefine family. You'd have to redefine parenting. I'm looking at the extinction of marriage. And black culture is in a free fall." Really Bishop Jackson? Gay people are causing the extinction of marriage? How you forget your history, Sir. The disillusionment of the black family dates back to slavery. Slaves were brought to shore and then ripped from their immediate family, unrecognized as people so the thought of them marrying was obviously unheard of. The men were emasculated by slave owners who made them watch as they raped their "wives"; the children were stolen from parents and bred. The whole idea of gender and sexuality in the black community was an institution defined by slave owners. When black slaves were finally freed, the established roles of men and women were drastically skewed from what we might call normal today. Even in the period after the Great Depression, the institution of marriage and the idea of divorce centered mainly around financial interests.

Whether you call it marginalization, institutional hegemony, or cultural shifts, the Black family was endangered long before the gays came along. Black people are not getting married because we've stopped focusing on each other and started focusing on ourselves, the "get mine" mentality. Our grandmothers are in their 30s instead of in their 50s or 60s, teenage pregnancy rates are rising while access to family planning and contraception is dwindling. Black men are being taught that "pimping" and "Ballin" is the new fad; who needs to settle down and have one wife when you can have all the hoes that you want? When the hit songs have lyrics like, "I wish I could f**k every girl in the world", and "Have a baby by me, be a millionaire", the finger should clearly be pointing inward.

Gay people didn't do that, black people did. Black people go out and support the indecency that degrades our women, black people flock to read "The Down Low" but never ask themselves what institutions are set in place to make these men not be comfortable with coming out.

"I don't know of anybody black who says, 'I hate gay people'. But you overlap that -- homosexuality and gay marriage -- with broken families, and we don't know how to put it back together." I'll tell you how, Bishop Jackson. Increase child support laws and penalties, improve sex education in inner-city schools, start supporting more shows like "The Cosby's" and less shows like "House of Payne". Use some of the money you're raising for discrimination and hold couples counseling and relationship outreach. Support women's health and access to contraception. Get the young men in your congregation to understand that it's not cool to get three women pregnant at the same time, no matter what Lil' Wayne says.

And most important of all, let the gays get married so the gay, black families, who hang by a thread of law, will have some validity. They will be able to teach their children the importance of a loving, committed relationship. Perhaps the number of Black men who are stepping out on their wives, for other men, will decrease.

Allow gay people to adopt so that underprivileged children, whom most gays end up adopting, will grow up in loving families with two parents. Your concern is centered around the erosion of the Black family and yet your campaign is based on breaking up Black families. Yes, Bishop Jackson, there are gay black people. The whole idea that approving marriage equality will contribute to the deterioration of the black family is laughable. Perhaps your time would be better spent on a campaign to ban divorce.

You can find the article on Bishop Jackson's righteous campaign here:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Hypocrisy of Bigotry

As I watched the testimonies for and against the DC Marriage Equality and Religious Freedom act, what troubled me the most were all the brown faces testifying against equality. Most of their arguments were religious-based and included declarations of what "God" wants and what the Bible says. It is baffling that in the face of the immense discrimination that we have suffered as African Americans, there are still people ready to throw stones at another group who is discriminated against.

I'm an urban twenty-something, very likely half the age of the majority of anti-equality testifiers; but I grew up in a world where race was as much a factor as it wasn't. I was called a nigger at the early age of six, and though I knew it was wrong, it didn't stop me from being friends with people from every culture. People in my generation, for the most part, don't view race as starkly as people in my mother's generation do. In our world, discrimination is not about black versus white, it's about oppression versus anti-oppression. Yes, there are cultural disparages, even in the gay movement, but at the end of the day, what separates us is pro-LGBT and Anti-LGBT ideals.

That premise blends the color line drastically. In regards to the DC equality movement, you have people of all cultures advocating for equal rights and people of one predominate culture advocating against it: the African American religious fringe. This is particularly ironic, given that a majority of black congregations have a sizable LGBT population. And besides the obvious Stockholm syndrome of LGBT members of anti-gay churches, the history of Christianity and oppression in the black community should be argument enough for the opposition to take a look at what their argument is really saying.

African Americans didn't come here preaching Christianity. We were brought in chains, we were ripped from our language, our families, our culture, and our spiritual beliefs. Christianity was forced upon us by slave owners as a means to dissipate any potential unity. Fast forward three hundred years or so, Blacks were made to believe they had to straighten their hair, get rid of their slang, and assimilate fully into mainstream culture to be regarded as human. They could not marry someone of a different race, hell up until the 19th century, blacks were only 3/5 of a person. All of these institutions, anti-miscegenation, slavery, and voting rights were supported and prolonged by religious ideologies. Those same ideologies that said in essence, "you are the other; in order to be tolerated, you must be invisible". This is where the civil rights movement and the equal rights movement bear close resemblance.

By refusing to acknowledge LGBT people and relationships, we send a message that LGBT people are somehow the other. Black LGBT people, suffer the impact of marginalization two-fold, dealing with bigotry not only from racial discrimination, but from religious persecution. The same people who withstood fire hoses and beatings, who see what hate crimes and intolerance do to a people, have the audacity to seek to marginalize another group of people in the name of a "lord" that wasn't theirs to begin with. We as a people need to wake up and start acknowledging that the hatred for our gay brothers and sisters is doing nothing but perpetuating the denigration of our culture, killing our women, and holding us back from reaching Martin Luther King Jr's "promise land."

For more information on homophobia in Black churches, please join Metropolitan Network Against Homophobia for a panel discussion. 6:30 PM on Tuesday, November 10th at The Sumner School 1201 17th Street NW Washington, DC Inside Lecture Hall 102. More information can be found here: