The natives are restless. There’s been an online battle waged among Obama supporters over whether or not African American pastor/gospel singer Donnie McClurkin should be allowed to perform in South Carolina concerts supporting the Obama campaign. The reverend is a “former gay” who believes God can — and should — cure homosexuals of their ills. It’s a silly point of view based on the premise that sexual orientation is a “choice.” Barack Obama has stated, clearly and for years, that this is not a point of view he shares. Nor does he condone it.
The online Obama community spent days in-fighting over the McClurkin inclusion. There were “Christian” Obama supporters, quoting anti-gay scripture, fighting GLBT Obama supporters arguing for human rights and African American Obama supporters telling everybody where the black community stood on the issues–if anybody cared to listen. There was a lot of hyperbole about the “divisions” in the black community in South Carolina.
I write this from South Carolina. My home. I am not black. I’m as white as the underbelly of a right sickly frog. But I’ve lived and worked with the African American community here for years. I’ve been their voice on the op-ed page down here for longer than I’d like to admit. Last week I spent Thursday evening in a black church, among black Obama supporters. I spent Saturday in black beauty salons and barber shops. Sunday I was invited to a regional NAACP meeting. It was not my first.
There is division in the African American community in this state. It’s not about homosexuality. It’s not about religion. There is the feeling, among black voters over 55, that white America cannot be trusted to actually vote for an African American candidate. They also share a common dread that, if elected, Obama will be assassinated. Women are particularly concerned about his safety. Their fears are based on a collective memory of what life was like down here as they grew up. Zero tolerance. And, in their experience, America has not been kind to her visionaries.
Younger voters do not share such deep concerns; they can imagine an America led by a black president. Assassination, to them, is not a familiar or shared experience. They acknowledge “it could happen”, but that fear does not impact their support. Older African American voters are saying things like “I can’tvote for him. We’ve got to protect him. If he’s elected, they’ll just kill him.” One 67 year old told me “He’s a fine man, but if he’s elected there’ll be riots and looting and shooting in the streets!” These fears are real, and we’re doing our best to counter them.
Speak at length with most black voters who support Hillary Clinton here and you’ll find they cannot talk about her without linking her election to “getting Bill back in the White House.” They still miss him. And she’s a “safe bet” — whites will vote for her, Obama will be “spared.”
There is no battling on the street here about Donnie McClurkin. The buzz about the upcoming gospel singings ia all good. No one cares about McClurkin’s personal opinion on homosexuality. They like his music.
As for the rest of us, the squabblers: Personally I cannot and will not reconcile homophobia with Christianity. I find the hard-right fundamentalist “judge-and-condemn” approach to all things moral a very narrow, hateful view of God’s intent, of Christ’s message. No one chooses to be gay, to live in a toxic, threatening environment if you dare to love — or to live a life barren of love altogether to suit the moralizing, the aggressive posturing, of a Prosperity Gospel church which has forgotten “Judge not…” and “Love one another…” right along with “…the least of these…” My take? We are seeing the new generation of vicious bigotry. We replace niggers with queers. A new group to victimize from our perch of superiority. It stinks.
But all that is my personal belief. I am free to shout if from the town square if I like. What I am not free to do is impose my belief system on every other person who supports my candidate. Or to demand that my candidate sanitize his campaign by throwing anyone with a dissenting or unpopular personal belief off the bus. Or under it.
This campaign is about diversity and inclusion. So we accept one another even when we disagree. It’s about building bridges, not blowing up the one that looks different. Most of us, if we talk long enough, will find we do not agree on every issue. It is not necessary that we do. We share a broader vision, a tolerant one.
It’s certainly not the province of any sub-group of Obama supporters to dictate the terms of inclusion or exclusion for any other member or group. Our time — and our energy — can be put to far better use.