October 26, 2007
A non-scandal's dying growls
Posted by: Chris
The mathematics of race and sexual orientation, cleverly illustrated by blogger Jasmyne Cannick.
The Barack Obama "ex-gay" gospel scandal apparently grew legs to growl another day or three. But the how's are particularly eyeroll-inducing:
- Black lesbian blogger Jasmyne Cannick flipped a gasket at Obama's decision to invite a gay pastor to participate in the same South Carolina campaign tour that will include "ex-gay" singer Donnie McClurkin. "What the hell were Obama’s people thinking when they invited a white openly gay minister to open for his South Carolina gospel concert with Donnie McClurkin?" wrote Cannick.
Let me get this straight: White Americans should entrust a black man with the nation's highest office, to take responsibility for an enormous range of problems that impac their lives, but African-Americans can't hear from a white gay minister about anything relating to civil rights. Smell the irony.
- HRC was quick to react to suggestions by Cannick and others that it helped Obama come up with the idea of including Rev. Andy Sidden. Not true, swears HRC, once again trying to sit the fence and satisfying no one. HRC's blogger even offers up a couple of helpful black gay pastors Obama could have called upon. He fails to mention, however, whether either minister actually supports Obama, which would seem to be an important criteria toward inclusion -- though not as important as race, apparently.
- A South Carolina gay rights group isn't missing its piece of the action, and is planning a vigil outside the concert on Sunday. We queers just can't help but shoot ourselves in both feet, whether it's opposing historic gay rights legislation or holding vigils to protest a candidate that has the best positions on gay rights than anyone ever with a serious shot at the White House. I don't just blame the clueless purists who run our activist groups. I blame all of us, for ceding the game to them in the first place.
- The gay blogosphere, which has played this controversy like a violin, continues apace. The first words in a post on the topic yesterday by the sassy folks over at Queerty referred to Obama as "the pandering presidential candidate." OK class, time to open our dictionaries. A candidate who "panders" is one who shifts in the wind, telling and doing exactly what each constituent group wants. Obama has stuck by his guns throughout this whole thing, risking alienating both gays and blacks (and the black gays who are member of both groups).
- Last but not least, the inevitable anonymous source has come out of the woodwork and claimed, without any evidence or corroboration, that he had a three-year "friends with benefits" relationship with "ex-gay" McClurkin from 2001-04, which just happens to be during the height of the gospel singer's "gay cure" rhetoric. I won't link to the blog posts because I deplore the way these nameless, faceless voices arise, with no corroboration, to (purport to) tell incredibly private details about a public figure's sex life. The politics of personal destruction claims yet another victim, however deserving he might seem.
That last phenomenon, which we witnessed most recently in the Larry Craig drama, was the subject of a column I wrote a few weeks back, about how the "sex police" on the Left feed on this sort of despicable, invasive and uneverifiable information. I never posted it in any form here on the blog, so I'll link to it for those who are interested.
Lost in all the P.C. posturing -- and I don't use that term lightly -- is the way Obama has taken a clueless staff decision to invite McClurkin in the first place and turned it into common ground for two seemingly incompatible constituencies: gays and conservative black Christians. In a letter released by his campaign today, the two groups put it plainly:
In the midst of division, we hope and believe that this is a moment to bring together communities that have been divided for far too long. A few things are clear.
First, Pastor McClurkin believes and has stated things about sexual orientation that are deeply hurtful and offensive to many Americans, most especially to gay Americans. This cannot and should not be denied. At the same time, a great many African Americans share Pastor McClurkin’s beliefs. This also cannot be ignored.
Finally, we believe that the only way for these two sides to find common ground is to do so together. Not at arms length. Not in a war of words with press and pundits. Only together.
When was the last time conservative black pastors joined gay religious leaders for a statement like this? I argued earlier this week that this flap has only reaffirmed Obama's unique ability to construct the kind of big tent that could not only win elections, but effect real change. It's a point echoed in the letter:
In gatherings of LGBT Americans and African Americans of faith, Obama has stated that all individuals should be afforded full civil rights regardless of their sexual orientation, and that homophobia must be eradicated in every corner of our nation. If we are to end homophobia and secure full civil rights for gay Americans, then we need an advocate within the Black community like Barack Obama.
At the same time, while Obama has said that he "strongly disagrees" with Pastor McClurkin's comments, he will not exclude from his campaign the many Americans including many in the African American community who believe the same as Pastor McClurkin.
We believe that Barack Obama is constructing a tent big enough for LGBT Americans who know that their sexual orientation is an innate and treasured part of their being, and for African American ministers and citizens who believe that their religion prevents them from fully embracing their gay brothers and sisters. And if we are to confront our shared challenges we have to join together, build on common ground, and engage in a civil dialogue even when we disagree.
All I can say is amen to that. One warning, however: I haven't confirmed the racial identity of the letter's 16 signatories, so we'll have to wait to hear whether enough rings have been kissed for it to past blogo-muster.
For a complete gay news summary on the Democratic presidential primary, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/demprimary
For a complete news summary of interest to black gay men and lesbians, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/black
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