Discrimination is Discrimination

Black Conservatives Must Rethink Anti-Gay Views in a Larger Context


Blacks supporting Chic-fil-A betrayed a group that has faced forms of discrimination similar to their own. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Pres/MCT)


Blacks supporting Chic-fil-A betrayed a group that has faced forms of discrimination similar to their own. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Pres/MCT)

“Adam and Eve NOT Adam and Steve!” is a line my pastor has bellowed in the sanctuary every now and then on Sunday mornings. The soundwaves radiate throughout the pews, just tapping the stained glass windows enough so they don’t crack. Mahogany bald heads and lavish, wide-brimmed hats wrapped in ribbons nod in agreement. Some bold people clap their hands vigorously, yell affirmations or even stand as a testament to the power of his words.

I, on the other hand, sit still. Silent. I am not moved by statements like these in the way my fellow church-goers are. I am turned off by them. But I do not protest. I do not even raise an eyebrow to show my disdain. I just sit quietly to avoid bringing attention to myself.

This is one of the unwritten rules for participating in my black church community: If you’re young and you disagree with the church’s teachings, but still want to participate in the church, keep your mouth shut. You do not gain respect for being a non-conformist. My church community’s staunch anti-gay views are just something I have had to overlook to stay involved.

But all summer, those anti-gay views were something I couldn’t ignore. Dan Cathy, president and chief operating officer of Chic-fil-A, the Christian fast food chain specializing in chicken, said in interviews that his company operated on “biblical principles” pushed for the traditional family, as evinced by their support anti-gay organizations like the Marriage & Family Legacy Fund, the National Christian Foundation, Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.  EqualityMatters.org found that his company donated over $2 million to these organizations. On marriage Cathy said, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.’”

What’s funny is that Cathy’s statements were vague and harmless since they’re so open to interpretation; he didn’t explicitly say anything disparaging or threatening to anyone identifying as LGBT. He could have been talking about swingers or polygamists or people who get married at a Vegas chapel after too many vodka shots. But opposing liberal activists, bloggers and celebrities pounced once Cathy’s “anti-gay” comments surfaced, as well as conservative organizations and politicians like Mike Huckabee that supported Cathy’s Christian values. The once presidential-hopeful was so enthusiastic about the COO’s comments that Huckabee organized a “Chic-fil-A Appreciation Day” for Aug. 2, in which patrons were encouraged to buy products at their local Chic-fil-A to show their support of Cathy’s comments.

It was a nationwide phenomenon—Huckabee’s Facebook timeline is full of photos of Chic-fil-A restaurants from Colorado to Illinois to West Virginia with lines for days.

In all of the excitement of various articles and protest kiss-ins, college students were now getting more involved with classes starting soon. Advocacy from LGBT student groups has lead schools across the country  such as Emory,  Duke, Davidson and possibly the University of Maryland to closing down Chic-fil-A locations on their campuses.

But my favorite group involved in the Chic fil A controversy are black conservatives trailing behind Huckabee. Project 21, a sector of African American professionals in the National Center for Public Policy Research and the Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP) have spoken out against politicians like Mayors Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Thomas Menino of Boston that have prevented Chic-fil-A from opening restaurants in their districts. The CAAP has also developed a campaign called the “Mandate for Marriage,” demanding President Obama to stop supporting same-sex marriage to gain more support from black voters in November.

I agreed with Project 21 and Rev. William Owens of CAAP when they criticized opponents for being intolerant when they prevented Chic-fil-A opening up stores in their cities. Chic-fil-A is a business that has the right to the opportunity to serve people their food items wherever they please.

However, I see several things wrong here. First there is the almost embarrassing, familiar visual of droves of (conservative) blacks running to the nearest Chic-fil-A franchise to get their hands on some greasy goodness, showing their love for an old white man. I say “almost”because in reality, regardless of skin color everybody loves chicken.

The second problem is that black conservatives are crippling their own efforts for the black community by supporting Chic-fil-A’s sponsorships. As Kristen West Savali brilliantly points out in her op-ed, “An Unholy Alliance: Black Folk and Chic-fil-A” in Clutch Magazine, the donations that Chic-fil-A is giving to anti-gay organizations are ultimately supporting conservatives that  attack policies and resources aimed to help black Americans, like Obama’s healthcare reform.

However the biggest problem I see in this is at the core of the issue, blacks attacking the LGBT community, even though the two groups both have histories of discrimination. At a conference for the National Press Club on July 31, Owens talked himself into a trap when he compared the backlash against Chic-fil-A’s biblical views to the struggles black activists faced during the Civil Rights Movement. He lamented over people trying to silence blacks, denying them basic resources in education and housing, and targeting them for hate crimes.

I believe that no other race has suffered as much as black people have. Look closely at the gaps in academic and economic achievement, the frequently misrepresented historical narratives, and Du Bois’ never ending double consciousness and you’ll think the same. But blacks are not the only ones who have suffered. Just as blacks have to fight stigmas that they are sub-human, mentally inferior and criminal sexual deviants, LGBT people have to fight stigmas that they are mentally ill, potential child molesters, and have to run from homophobes literally out to kill them. The black struggle is not the LGBT struggle. But experiences of oppression can only be cured with solidarity. Black conservatives don’t need to march in pride parades. They just need to let LGBT people march and marry in peace.