Could gay marriage keep Black people from the polls? It was the subject of a segment this week on NPR, largely fueled by an article published by the Associated Press, entitled, “Some Black Christians Waver Over Vote.” To save you time, the pieces basically argue that since clergymen of color can’t decide if they dislike the Mormon candidate more than the Black dude who dared to personally endorse same-sex marriage, they are encouraging Black congregants to stay home on Election Day.
One of the story’s quotes came from Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant of Baltimore who said, “This is the first time in Black church history that I’m aware of that Black pastors have encouraged their parishioners not to vote.”
Once the story ran, though, Bryant’s Twitter account asked in response:
WHEN did you contact @jamalhbryant in order to get his statement on voting? you need to revisit this & be accurate.
This clarification is important, because Rev. Bryant — and the other Black pastors who were interviewed — never said that Black clergy had in fact told their congregations NOT to vote. Still, select members of the press argued this baseless and sophomoric point across media outlets across the country.
In the age of the two-year presidential election cycle coupled with online media and 24-hour news, it is clear that substantive information continues to be cast aside in favor of the spectacle.
Not all of us are conservative Christians, and even for those that are, there’s been several decades of voting patterns that suggest Blacks will stick with their economic interests to guide them at the poll over anything else. After all, there’s a reason Blacks aren’t standing alongside white Evangelicals en masse at GOP conventions.
That said, as mainstream publications continue to peddle this little theory about gay marriage and the Black vote, there is currently a Black pastor actually campaigning for marriage equality in Maryland. What’s more, there have been others publicly voicing their support of same-sex marriage even before Obama declared his personal support of it. Speaking of Obama’s historical moment, his endorsement shifted many people’s opinions, both Black and White alike.
But, of course, Blacks are the only ones garnering headlines on the subject. It’s not hard to figure out why. Noticing the discrepancies in coverage, I read a comment on tumblr that noted “plenty of ink will, of course, be given to once again making Black Christians into monsters under the beds of White liberals.”
Indeed, there is an obvious attempt to make a boogeyman out of Black churches and an unfortunate number of White liberals are choosing to be willful suckers.
I’m exhausted by it, especially when it comes from White gays who are doing their part to share it. It’s déjà vu from 2008 when Blacks were faulted for the passing of Proposition 8 in California. Many of these so-called progressives didn’t reach out to Black voters then and too many of them are willing participates to paint Blacks under the same monolith as the mainstream press is doing now.
Such is the problem with not communicating enough with the people you’re condemning.
Make no mistake, the role religion plays in homophobia is problematic. I have writing about it here, there, and everywhere else I can and will continue to do so. Yet, I’m sick of this story being told under only a sole stroke of color. It’s not just Black religious people and it never has been. Besides, if there’s any group of religious people to worry about social issues leaving them blind to their own self-interests, it’s surely not Blacks.
I get that papers need to be sold, a certain level of listeners and viewers must be maintained, and everybody needs their clicks, but enough already. This myth about Black churches, Black Christians, and Black voters at large is condescending, devoid of reality, and – pay attention if you truly want the advancement of gay rights in this country – not the least bit helpful in gathering support for gay rights.
Find a new story, or at the very least, start telling this one with the nuance and truth that it deserves.