Sunday, March 18, 2007

Why are Whites so Homophobic?

I once got into a big fight with a friend of mine, another white gay guy. After reading about a Black minister spouting off anti-gay remarks in a service, my friend pronounced,
The Black church is so homophobic.
Me: Yeah, but the white Evangelical church is much worse.

He: How can you say that? Read the ugly things this Black minister just said.

Me: Yeah, I know, it is awful, but he is not running a multi-million dollar para-church organization that reaches millions of Americans through daily radio programs. He does not have weekly briefings with the president in order to influence policy and legislation that affects LGBT people. He does not influence local and state and national elections through his nationally televised sermons. He does not have the economic and political resources to sway members of congress. He does not regularly feed thousands of ministers, youth workers and Christian counselors lies about LGBT people.

He is being loud and ugly, and that is wrong, but the folks at Focus on the Family and Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and Concerned Women for America and the American Family Association and the Southern Baptist Convention (all white owned and run organizations) and in the White House itself engage in systematic and organized oppression against LGBT people and their families everyday.

He: I'm just saying...

Me: RANT, RANT, RANT (for a long time until I utterly exhaust him. It is one of my more effective and obnoxious strategies.)
Keith Boykin writes about it better than I can.
Yes there are some well-known black homophobes out there who get a lot of attention and a lot of criticism, as they should. But let's not use those examples to prove that all blacks are much more homophobic than whites. The irony is that the famous black homophobes are taking their marching orders from the homophobic white society that taught them. So let's stop asking why black people are so homophobic. Black Americans didn't invent homophobia; they copied it from the white society in which they live. And if we focus only on the black homophobes, we lose sight of the more influential white bigots in power who quietly perpetuate the status quo every day with their words and their policies.
Boykin (who spoke at last year's True Colors conference--only four more days!) explores the Marine Gen. Peter Pace's recent statements on Don't Ask Don't Tell, where the General "compared homosexuality to adultery, which he said was also immoral, and said the U.S. armed forces should not allow gays to serve openly in the military."

Read more of Boykin's piece Why are Whites so Homophobic?
Hat Tip to the always insightful Terrance at Republic of T

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At 8:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's an inverse generational dynamic amongst black clergy as well. The older guys are not so homophobic. The young guys are.

As we built clergy support for the domestic partnerships referendum in Colorado last year that was almost universally true. On same-sex partnership equality support in the clergy, older was better among blacks and younger was better among whites.

In Colorado, one of the leading voices for marriage equality is Rev. Gil Caldwell, a retired UMC minister.

At 8:54 PM , Blogger Jerry Maneker said...

Peterson: All of what you and Boykin say is true! However, if any group of people should be able to relate to, and empathize with, discrimination of another minority group, it should be Afro-Americans! They know what bigotry does; what hate does; what being treated as a second class citizen does, what denying dignity to someone does, and they should be in the front lines of fighting against oppression of another minority group. Rather, they not only take marching orders from most of the white organized Church, as you and Boykin say, but they tremendously exacerbate the suffering of LGBT people by denying their suffering, denying their right to view their plight as a civil rights issue, and denying their dignity, all of which was done to them before the black civil rights movement! By so doing, and by most of the black churches aligning themselves with other homophobic elements within society, how are they doing any differently to LGBT people than the white churches and power structure did to them as recently as 50 years ago? That's why there are black churches and will always be black churches! And now, because of rabid homophobia, there will always be Gay churches! So, all we have seen is a "circulation of elites," where, when a minority group becomes (to a perceived significant degree) part of the dominant group, many of its members then turn around and discriminate against another minority group! I don't consider that progress, and I don't consider that "Christian!" And I don't think you and Boykin do either!

At 10:38 AM , Blogger Peterson Toscano said...

Jerry, I hear what you are saying, but I disagree. Sure it would be nice for every oppressed person to stand up for the next one. I would love to see more white gay men do things to address poverty and institutional racism, but it rarely happens.

The crisis that exists for many Black Americans is often hidden from me. At a recent Maafa service here in Hartford, I was reminded again of realities that I can avoid every day if we I want to.

The realities of some young Black men and women doing really well, working hard and succeeding in school. The realities of unbelievable poverty, discrimination, violence and institutional oppression.

Both stories are hidden from me. I typically just hear about Black crime, gangs, drugs.

When someone is in the midst of a crisis of this proportion, regardless of the advancement actual and perceived, I can understand why they may not have the moral will to stand up and fight other people's battles. Particularly people who are already highly privileged and powerful in this country.

If you read Boykin's post though, you will see that there is a good number of Black members of congress who do step up and support LGBT rights.

He writes, "This is where the issue of race comes into play again. If you look at the various demographic groups in Congress, you'll find that the Congressional Black Caucus, for all its weaknesses, is one of the most supportive groups in Congress for the civil rights of gays and lesbians"

There are some vocal homophobic Black folks out there. They get lots of attention. There are many supportive Black folks who get far less. AND there are far many more white homophobic people in places of great power who do tremendous damage.

And there are many of us white folks with lots of power and privilege who do virtually nothing to stand with and engage in the struggle with Black folks and the needs of their community.

At 12:42 PM , Blogger Jerry Maneker said...

Peterson: I don't disagree with what you say. "When someone is in the midst of a crisis of this proportion, regardless of the advancement actual and perceived, I can understand why they may not have the moral will to stand up and fight other people's battles. Particularly people who are already highly privileged and powerful in this country." However, remaining silent when others' are oppressed is bad enough, but to be among the vanguard in their oppression, as we see in many, if not most, of the black churches, only lends credence to LGBT oppression, in that if one oppressed minority group denies the very existence of a "civil rights" struggle of another oppressed minority group, it's far worse than people merely keeping silent in the face of others' oppression. Both situations are bad! However, churches have a lot of clout among people; if they preach against the dignity and civil rights of others, that is not only absorbed by so many people, but it justifies in people's minds the rightness of discriminating against LGBT people. It's irrelevant to me whether or not more white people discriminate against LGBT people than do black people! What is disturbing to me, and I know to you as well, is that one oppressed minority group, after perceiving that it is now part of the dominant group, discriminates against another minority group; does so from many pulpits, not, in my mind, distinguishing themselves from white segregationist preachers who condemned Afro-Americans when it was politically correct to do so not too long ago.

At 11:22 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Peterson, I have to agree with you. Here's the FBI 2005 stats of an offender's race involved in a hate crime:

"An analysis of available race data for the 6,804 known hate crime offenders revealed that:

60.5 percent were white.
19.9 percent were black.
12.3 percent were unknown.
5.2 percent were groups made up of individuals of various races (multiple races, group).
1.1 percent of known offenders were American Indian/Alaskan Native.
0.9 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander."

White men have a greater stake in the patriarchal society in which we live. They are more easily threatened by any perceived assult on their status within this social/political/economic model.

Of greater concern to me though is the racial prejudice found within our own GLBT community.

Conversely, crimes against people because race, religion, and/or ethnic background are all protected under federal law, allowing local municipalities to receive federal funds and manpower assistance in their investigation of such crimes. Most states do not include sexual orientation as a hate crime, which places those gays and lesbians who become victims at a disadvantage. Certainly Jews and Muslims are able to hide (or pass) in our society, though we don't expect them to have to do so, to escape such crimes. Gays and lesbian are expected to "remain in the closet or face the consequences."

At 12:37 PM , Blogger Jerry Maneker said...

Dan: "An analysis of available race data for the 6,804 known hate crime offenders revealed that:
60.5 percent were white.
19.9 percent were black.

Although I don't believe black people are more likely to engage in hate crimes than white people, these statistics indicate the opposite. Black people represent 12.8% of the population (as of 2005). Therefore, their numbers involved in commiting hate crimes, according to the data you cite, show them to engage in hate crimes over and above their percentage in the population.

The main point, however, should not be lost: many, if not most, black churches are condemning another minority group; providing further justification for that condemnation by others, not recognizing that each of our civil rights is contingent on others' having full and equal civil rights as well. By seeking to deny civil rights to LGBT people, many black people are doing what white segregationists did not too long ago!

At 2:11 PM , Blogger Plain Foolish said...

I see this as being the typical "Let's you and him fight" tactics of the folks in power. And all too often, sadly, we fall for it. Andrew Jackson was a master of the tactic, pitting poor whites, blacks, and native Americans against each other while he stole from them all. (In my opinion, Jackson was exactly the same kind of lousy president we have now, a manipulative, genocidal pretend-populist from a wealthy background who consistantly served(s) the interests of his wealthy buddies while pretending to be "jest folks".)

I think it's important that we resist as best we can the attempt to set us to fighting amongst ourselves. And that applies, whomever you want to put in the "we". I think the reason here is an artificial zero-sum construct that is being encouraged from the outside, as though treating people with decency is a limited resource that can only go to a few. And there have always been people who resisted the imposition of that construct. (Davy Crockett, though originally a Jacksonian, came to realize that Jackson's policies favored the rich over the poor and fought them bitterly until political ruin sent him to Texas.)

It's just the same game today - and I'm not minded to contribute to it. Whatever someone else may do, my call is to speak my truth and to hear the truths of others.

At 2:57 PM , Anonymous said...

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