On May 9, 2012 President Barack Obama addressed the nation with his support for same-sex marriage after his Vice President made a supporting statement previously on May 6, 2012. Immediately following that statement, a large percentage of black pastor’s perspective of President Obama’s character crumbled. Their attitudes drastically changed from a supportive nature to a disapproving one, in a matter of minutes. That Sunday, many of those black preacher’s stood before their congregations and bellowed ‘how this nation is under attack by the LGBTQ community.’ This is a viewpoint that is commonly held by the black community. Black churches are one of the highest pillars in the black community; largely respected and sought as a place of knowledge.
Does the progress of the Civil Rights movement surrounding the Black Church drive a force of homophobia within Black Churches and the division within the Black community? To understand the impact of the Civil Rights Movement; the Civil Rights movement must be defined. The influence of the Black Church Black churches have always served as an influential institution in the black community. These types of churches have always been, ‘the organizational and cultural matrix from which many black social institutions and forms of artistic expression emerged sustained over the past 250 years’ (Ward, 2005, p.494). The black church is a spiritual beacon that shielded and enabled black people ‘culturally, psychologically and physically during and after slavery’ (Ward, 2005, 494). A survey ran by the Community Development Corporation (CDC) in 1997 stated that ‘97% of black people in the United States of America claim to have some religious affiliation’ (Ward, 2005, 494). These churches exercise a vigorous amount of influence in the lives of churchgoers, as well as, nonchurchgoers. There is an overwhelming amount of people indirectly affected by the church.
Even if one no longer acknowledges religious principles or the church, ‘many blacks have been deeply affected by the church philosophy and imagery based on peopled upbringing, and this continues to influence their later beliefs and practices’ (Ward, 2005, 494). The Black Church has been considered ‘the social center of Negro life in the United States of America’ (Barber, 2015, pg. 245). There is a negative connotation associated with the church for ‘upholding the status quo of race, class, and gender oppression’ while others believe that the Black church provided Blacks with the spiritual and social tools to challenge oppression (Barber, 2015, pg. 246). The negative stigma ‘fell into a dichotomy of characterizing the role of black churches as being either an opiate or accommodative to the oppressive status quo or liberatory and resistant to the status quo of oppression. The accommodative half of the dichotomy refers to black churches that ignored or downplayed inequality and accepted the normative claims and practices of white society’ (Barber, 2015, pg. 246). The Civil Rights Era The civil rights movement is something that cannot just be simply defined and understood. The civil rights movement was and is a series of events occurring from the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 to the present day’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement. The Emancipation Proclamation released the slaves in the South; it did not outlaw slavery in the nation, the 13th amendment (1865) did that. Skipping forward to the first civil rights movement that made Blacks citizens stating, ‘all persons born in the United States of America, thus declare to be citizens of the United States of America’ (The Civil Rights Bill of 1866).
This legislation granted all citizens the ‘full and equal benefit of all law and the proceedings for the security of person and property’ (The Civil Rights Bill of 1866). Since this legislation freed the slaves and gave them rights; it would seem that all was well, unfortunately, that is not the case. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, ‘all men are created equal, men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that are among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ (Jefferson 1776). Over time, Blacks tried to gain their rights and freedom but were met with numerous challenges the civil rights movement was proving to be a struggle within itself. Meaning people of the same ethnicity were fighting each other blacks were left to deal with internal and external conflicts as they faced the Jim Crow era. During this era, segregation was very high; most Blacks and Whites wanted to remain separate. Although Blacks escaped slavery, slavery did not flee from them. Throughout slavery, racism arose and after slavery racism became prevalent, just another mentality. The fight for civil rights is not something people wanted to happen overnight. People knew this was a journey, but no one anticipated the how long the journey would last. It is a fight that has bypassed so many individuals lives. Even in the present day, there is still unjust event happening. People are literally screaming ‘where is the justice?’ because it is hard to pinpoint the moment living while black became a crime. As the time progressed, and situations started to improve, but things always have a way of falling back down. Michelle Alexander wrote a book called “The New Jim Crow” and it explains how America has not changed its beliefs on slavery, rights and African Americans just evolved them to a legal aspect.
n the introduction, Alexander talks about how the CIA let drugs infiltrate a predominantly African American community and did not let the police interrupt the smuggling of drugs. Justice has always been that one thing people strive to reach but would always come up short, over time. Ironically a black man would be charged with the exact same crime as a white man, receive the max penalty as the white man gets a reduced sentence. It has always been this way and to say that it was not is to choose to remain blind. Martin Luther King wrote a letter from Jail when he was arrested because of his peaceful protest. On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his infamous speech, “I Have A Dream.” The speech echoed throughout the nation that caused a very impactful change. It wasn’t until his death, change actually came into play. History books have portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. as a great civil rights leader, but do not expose how the United States Government sought him out as a criminal. How they placed him as number 1 on FBI’s top 10 most wanted list for peacefully protesting. When a photo is captured it is only revealed what the artist wants you to see. Photos are no longer open to interpretation; they can paint a happy portrait in the midst of turmoil. Recently America has made strides in change, America has made strides but still has a long way to go. Change is not something that happens overnight. From the year of 2008 to the year of 2016, Barack Obama served as the first Black male President of the United States of America. Throughout his whole presidency, people fought against him, people retaliated against him. People hung up disrespectful signs, and many slandered his name. People were so blinded by the color of his skin they did not stop to judge him based on his character and his integrity. The Black Lives Mater Movement began during President Barack Obama’s presidency. This group was never meant to degrade any life that was not black.
The BLM movement was made to draw attention to the epidemic of normality of Blacks and the fact that nothing was being done about it. America has set out to label the BLM Movement as a malicious group of thugs just as they characterized the Black Panther Party. That will not be the case this time America cannot keep moving backward. When did it get this way, or has it always been like this? As a nation, it is not easy to dismiss the Black Lives Matter movement, and say all lives matter when clearly all lives do not matter. Place yourself in someone of color shoes, do you see it, how everyone is the same but different? Do you see it, how character should not be judge of off of pigmentation but by the deeds and personality of the person? Do you see it, how Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream for equality but equality does not come cheap? The Black Church during the Civil Rights Era While Blacks were still enslaved, Blacks established an ‘invisible institution’ a place where Blacks met in private to create an ‘underground theology.’ Raboteau demonstrates, ‘that enslaved blacks shaped Christianity to their own particular experience; while simultaneously the symbols and values of Christianity help shaped the slave community’s image of itself’ (Barber 2015 pg. 252). From this blacks created spiritual hymns like ‘Wade in the Water’ and ‘Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel?’ During the same period, ‘blacks interpreted Biblical stories of bondage and freedom as a counter-narrative against their ‘God ordained’ enslavement’ (Barber 2015 pg. 252). As time progresses, Black churches evolve from more than just a religious institution and become self-governing social institutions as well (Barbra 2015 pg.252)
Barber states: ‘From schools to meeting halls to social clubs to community kitchens, black churches served every role needed by the newly emancipated community. Now that physical emancipation had been achieved, black churches looked to address racial and economic oppression. They stepped in where the government lacked the means or simply failed blacks, and gathered resources to provide black families with food, clothing, shelter, land, and education. Black ministers filled multiple roles and over one hundred were elected to political office during Reconstruction’ (Barbra 2015, pg 252). Though Black Churches served as a foundation of the black community they were not they were not on the same page when it came to tests and trials that wrecked the Black community (Barbra 2015, 252). This displays the division within a strong structure. Some Black preachers preached liberation over racism and others preached adaption and compromise. Post-Civil War era, black Baptist women felt an obligation to teach Victorian values, referred to as ‘the politics of respectability,’ in order to display ‘cultural and intellectual inferiority of blacks’ (Barbra 2015,252). This contributes deeper to the division within the Black community. When the Great Migration happened in 1910 to 1970 blacks moved from the south to the north. The south mainly taught the messages of liberation. When the black community started to move not only was the culture different but the religious aspect was different. The black Baptist women organization tried to teach appropriate motherhood classes and self-control. This organization tried to strip the black community that migrated North of their southerly ways including how they cook.
These are big stepping stones for one person to endure. The North black community basically tried to rule over the Southern black community; dictating the rights and the wrongs, and the way they should carry themselves in a proper manner. How does one react to this, imagine living your life one way and then moving to another part of town and they tell you have been living wrong this whole time? Would you accept that claim or would you resist the change and continue living as you have before? People actually found it harder living in the North because they did not feel safe. (Barbra 2015, 254) A Study performed showed that the Black Church was divided into 3 categories: (1) Family/community, (2) foundation, and (3) uniqueness of the Black Church. The study concluded interesting results for each division. Family /Community: Participants found that the church was family and vice versa. The church family should love each other and stand by each other. One of the participants stated, ‘If I have been through something with you or if–seeing you going through something with you or if I have experienced something with you or even going through it with you then we are family'(Harris and Wong, 2015, 20). Black churches are seen as a positive influence within the Black community.
Participant 11 explained, “There are positive role models there, but it’s—it’s everyone also trying to reach a higher goal or passion” (Harris and Wong, 2015 20). This is not always a true statement for many. Sometimes things happen, for example, the pastor of the church does not display the standards that are being preached. The church has become monetized and it has realized that ‘Jesus sales.’ As stated previously many would rather denounce the church (Ward, 2015, 494). Foundation: Many of the participants spoke about church is an essential part of their growing up. For many people, the church is all they know. The grew up either forcefully others willingly. Somehow the church was incorporated in many lives. Participant 6 mentioned, You know, it was a place of gathering, not only for worship but a place of social interaction, a place where people connect, and it was just that foundation. So, I think I want something like that for my kids, like, a place that they can go back to and say that was a foundation in their life. The uniqueness of the Black Church: Participants describe how the atmosphere is different in a Black church then a White church. This is sometimes true. It has been lived experienced that both white and black churches are not the same whether they are both Baptist churches. It has been quite intriguing to note the difference in the ways the churches function. They are similar but also insanely different. The worship experience is completely different, the black church leaning more towards Gospel music and the White churches lean towards Christian music. Essentially, they are the same thing, they convey the same message at different tempos. The preaching caters towards their congregations; it was not until recently some of the preachers of the DFW area sat down together. This meeting was sparked when the shooting of Botham Jean occurred. Who is Botham Jean? He was a Black man shot and killed in his own home by an off-duty cop.
During the meeting, Black preachers expressed the white churches do not really talk about this injustice. In reality, it is really hit and miss on the topics regarding events that happen like especially within the black community. Most of the time it goes missed, because of the normality of the situation. Examples of issues that happen like, On June 16, 2017, officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty for shooting and killing Philando Castile. No justice was served. Where was the justice? How is it that an African American man can’t walk down the streets without being targeted? Since when did darker pigmentation become acquainted with suspicious activity? When the words “justice for all” are uttered, what is being perceived on the other end? Is it not that there is justice but, “Some restrictions may apply. Offer not valid for Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Muslims, and poor folks?’ When Brock Allen Turner raped an unconscious girl in an alley dumpster where was the justice? When a Caucasian male athlete only serves 3 months in jail while an African American Athlete Brian Banks who was falsely accused of rape serves 5 years in prison, how is that fair? Brian Banks was only dismissed of his charges after the girl was secretly recorded saying that she made the whole thing up. How is that Dylann Roof can kill 9 innocent black people and be found and arrested peacefully, but Michael Brown was killed after robbing a convenience store. Maybe if he wasn’t black he would have actually made it to court. Maybe if Eric Gardner would have said I can’t breathe a 12th time his last breath wouldn’t be held hostage by the concrete. Maybe if Trayvon Martin didn’t walk down the street with a bag of skittle and a can of ice tea he still is here.
Is it not strange how Tamir Rice, only 12 years old, can get shot holding a toy gun in an open park, in an open carry state? What crimes did Tamir Rice commit, why was the officers that ended his life not charged with murder, manslaughter? These are issues that go missed by some Black Churches. These types of issues are not seen as important and most of the time over looked by the black church. Ward claims the church plays a significant role in the composition of homophobia (Ward, 2015, 493). This claim should not be confused with the only source of homophobia, but one of the prominent sources within the Black community. Ward gives three types of explanations on how homophobia show its head via religious beliefs, historical sexual exploitations, and race survival consciousness (Ward, 2015, 294). Biblical scholars are finding that Christian groups should be pushed towards homophobia. Work of this kind justifies that the church should push towards homophobia (Ward 2015, 495). Black people use the Bible to ‘condemn homosexuality is understandable in the context of their historical experience, as enslaved blacks sought refuge and found freedom in the literalness of Scripture’ (Ward 2015, 495). With that being said, this should not serve as a justification that codons homophobia.
Black thinkers and scholars had a negative conception of homosexuality due to the “white exploitation of black sexuality during slavery” (Ward, 2015, 495). Ward writes, US media stereotypes developed during slavery such as that of the mammy, the jezebel, and the wild and hypersexual buck have their latter-day incarnations in the domineering matriarch, the ‘welfare queen’ and the violent and sexually promiscuous black man. The old images of blacks as bestial, lustful, wanton, lascivious, and promiscuous persist in the US psyche today. Race survival consciousness can be linked to moralism about homosexuality of both Western and traditional African beliefs (Ward, 2015, 495). This construct built the stigma around black masculinity during the struggle against white authority. Due to notions of the of the black man that stemmed from slavery and the Jim Crow Era; black men became stereotyped as criminals and sexual predators. These racial slurs stay in the United States of America but was spread globally.