SOME PEOPLE IN THE USA and THE UMC ARE STILL AFRAID OF BLACKS and GAYS
(Some of these people are Black & some are Gay)
by Gil Caldwell
The USA and Blacks: The U.S. Supreme Court in its restricting important aspects of voting rights legislation, and actions of some states to suppress the black vote suggest there is a fear of black participation in the electoral process.
And, the killing of unarmed black boys and men by police and would-be-police has caused me to remember these words spoken by Malcolm X about black self-defense:
"The Constitution of the United States of America affirms the rights of every American to bear arms....The history of unpublished violence against our people clearly indicates that we must be prepared to defend ourselves or we will continue to be a defenseless people at the mercy of ruthless and violent racist mobs." (1)
I have not forgotten the words of a black South African pastor who during the time of racial apartheid said, "The thing that concerns me is that by the time the whites get around to loving us (blacks), we shall have gotten around to hating them." I, as a proponent of nonviolence feel compelled to mention the possibility of retaliatory violence (Re: 2nd Amendment) if state sponsored violence via killing (and unfair incarceration) of black men and boys is not ended.
The UMC and Blacks: Three black United Methodist Church Bishops have recently experienced charges and punishment by the denomination, unlike that experienced by their non-black colleagues: one, because he participated in the celebration of a same sex marriage; another, because he was deemed deficient in his capacity as Bishop after 4 years in office. He was encouraged/told to resign and then voted into retirement. It took action by the denomination's Judicial Council to re-instate him. And still another black Bishop, now deceased, was verbally rebuked and chastised because he publicly called for an end to church trials for UMC clergy who officiated at same sex marriages.
The USA and Gays: Despite the ending of the military "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court and other Courts throughout the nation that affirm same sex marriage, the nation is a little more "half same sex marriage and less-than-half no same sex marriage.” Abraham Lincoln once said, "The nation cannot exist half slave and half free." Nor can the nation exist as a democratic Republic when some states with marriage equality and others not.
The UMC and Gays: The United Methodist Church was organized in 1968 as it merged/eliminated the racially segregated Central Jurisdiction. But in 1972 it turned its attention away from race-based discrimination to sexual orientation-based segregation. It declared that "...the practice of homosexuality was incompatible with Christian teaching."
Today, some UMC Bishops in those states where same sex marriage has become legal have declared that state legalization of marriage equality would not influence the policies of the UMC. Their statements are much like the statements of some Methodists in the south who resisted public school racial integration and the racial integration of their churches; The Methodist Layman's Union declared this in 1960,
"The great masses of the laymen in the Southeast know that the policy of integration is tragic. Intimacy leads to further intimacy. Nations to the South of us have already found that social intimacy between Negroes and whites has substituted the Mulatto for the pure streams of each." (2)
The defense of "traditional marriage" is not unlike the defense of "traditional segregation" as articulated not too long ago. And, today's charging and punishment of UM clergy for performing same sex marriages, is a reminder of the punishment white UM clergy in the south experienced when they supported racial integration.
I long ago ceased engaging in debate about the differences between the discrimination/oppression of blacks and gay. There is no equivalence! I have written these words to call for a new and/or renewed coalition of Blacks and Gays and our ally/advocates as we confront the "isms" that empower some at the expense of others. The economic, educational, healthcare, business ownership, residential and other inequities that divide us, call for activist coalitions.
Lerone Bennett, Jr. in his "The Challenge of Blackness" writes words that are applicable to Blacks and those who are not, "Above all else, we must move from an ethic of individualism and profit to an ethic of communal and collective responsibility" (3)
It would be foolish if we believed that the growing support for marriage equality indicates that heterosexism is on its deathbed. Laws may influence behavior, but they do not transform the bigotry that fostered discriminatory laws and bigotry. And, the current efforts to suppress the black electorate, as well as state-sponsored violence against black men, reveal that laws can be rescinded and those whose role it is to protect the citizenry, can also be perpetrators of violence against some citizens.
We began that journey in Selma and at Stonewall, but the journey is far from ending. Let us begin again, that journey to justice for all.
(1) Malcolm X The Man and His Times, edited by John Henrik Clarke, Collier Books, 1969
(2) When The Church Bell Rang Racist, Donald E. Collins, Mercer University Press, 1998
(3) The Challenge of Blackness, Lerone Bennett, Jr., The Institute of the Black World, 1970