In the Hampton Roads area some of the most reliable minions of the anti-gay efforts of The Family Foundation ("TFF"), arguably Virginia's most powerful hate group which the Southern Poverty Law Center has yet to formally certify as a hate group, are the leaders of black churches. Seemingly oblivious to the white supremacist roots of TFF, these religious leaders are lead around like trained circus dogs by Victoria Cobb and her, in my view, evil compatriots who want a white Christian theocracy. Bearing out this reality is a black friend who remains terrified of coming out to his church going parents who has said to me time and time again (we have a discussion about his need to bite the bullet and come out every few months) that I don't grasp how anti-gay the black community is in this area. Despite such concrete examples of black homophobia, a piece in Think Progress written by a blogger friend attempts to make the case that black homophobia is a myth. I am not sure where the cited survey was conducted, but the support for same sex marriage and non-discrimination laws among black respondents is lower than the general support levels in Virginia. My take away is that the LGBT community still has a great deal of work to do with the black community. Here are article excerpts (I'd love to know what readers think):
For many years, there has been a myth that African Americans are more likely to be homophobic and thus more likely to oppose advances for LGBT equality. Conservatives have even tried to leverage this supposed wedge to slow the progress of equality. A new survey, however, not only debunks the myth, but suggests that the black community is one of the LGBT community’s strongest allies.
After California passed Proposition 8, a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, The Advocate magazine asked on its cover, “Gay Is The New Black?” Following the lead set by Dan Savage in his “Black Homophobia” post the day after the 2008 election, the cover story relied on exit polls from the election that seemed to suggest that even though black voters largely supported Barack Obama for president, they also largely supported Prop 8.
This mythical divide between the two communities has persisted in the years since, despite the fact that the Prop 8 numbers were later debunked. Just last year, for example, writer Michael Arceneaux called out Lee Daniels for his claim that his television show Empire would “blow the lid off homophobia” in the black community, when it actually seemed to be reinforcing the myth. “Blacks are not the X-Men of anti-gay bigotry,” he wrote. “We don’t have some superior level of homophobia compared to other groups.”
Opponents of LGBT equality have, in turn, tried to capitalize on the supposed black/gay divide. A 2009 National Organization for Marriage (NOM) strategy memo revealed a blatant attempt to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” by convincing black people not to see same-sex marriage as a civil right.
PRRI’s massive survey focused on three general questions: support for marriage equality, support for LGBT nondiscrimination protections, and support for “religious refusal” exemptions — allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBT people based on their religious beliefs.
Support for marriage equality was a bit low among Black Protestants, with only 38 percent supporting and 54 percent opposing. But on the other two measures, Black Protestants overwhelmingly supported LGBT equality. They favored nondiscrimination laws 64-31, and on the question of religious refusals, black respondents actually opposed exemptions at higher rates than any other racial group, including white respondents.
As it turns out, marriage equality and nondiscrimination protections are simply two very different questions for black respondents. For example, among black Protestants who oppose same-sex marriage, a 51 percent majority still favor LGBT nondiscrimination protections — albeit not quite as strongly.
Dr. Robert Jones, CEO of PRRI, told Think Progress that even on the question of marriage equality, black Protestants are more ambivalent than white evangelical Protestants, who oppose same-sex marriage at much higher rates. On LGBT nondiscrimination protections and religious refusals, their support flips. “I think that’s about really their own experience with discrimination,” he explained.
“The thing that African Americans and evangelicals have in common is a very strong connection to religion and particularly religion that has a fairly literal view of the Bible. They have high levels of religious attendance and fairly traditional religious beliefs, and I think that leads to some ambivalence on the issue of marriage equality.”
But on nondiscrimination, there’s a real “parting of the ways,” he said, “where an experience as a racial minority is informing and influencing their views on these issues that it just doesn’t among white evangelicals.”
The Supreme Court established marriage equality nationwide, but 28 states still offer no statewide nondiscrimination protections.
Wilson agreed, pointing out that the work that needs to be done is the same across the board. “The state of homophobia within the black community is only a reflection of the broader American culture, which finds itself in a continuous evolution in favor of the demands that define the LGBTQ equality movement.” He hopes that increased visibility of LGBT people will continue to advance acceptance and inclusion.
Saying that blacks are less extreme in their views of gays than white evangelicals doesn't, in my view, magically make the black community an ally of the LGBT community. Until the embrace of ignorance and bigotry that goes hand in hand with more fundamentalist forms of Christianity prevalent in the black community is defeated, black homophobia will not be a myth. Yes, things ate better, but there still is a long way to go.