Last week, Martin Luther King tributes were taking place across the nation. And the spirit of MLK and the courageous acts of our foremothers and forefathers of the civil rights movement are etched indelibly in many of our hearts.
But the civil rights movement of Martin Luther King’s era of the 1960’s, many would say, is dying a slow and necessary death.
And for many African-Americans of younger generations, who are now the beneficiaries of the racial gains from the Movement, feeling the Movement’s’ slow death is like a welcoming boulder gradually being lifted from their shoulders, especially for those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.
With many key African-American organizations and institutions of the civil rights movement of the 1960s still resistant to address this generation’s outwardness about their sexual orientations and gender expressions as a civil rights issues, these organizations and institutions have not only lost their mantle as part of a prophetic justice movement for this day and age, but many of our present day key African American organizations and institutions of the Movement have also lost the moral high ground that was once so easily associated with them.
For example, the bedrock institution in the African-American community, we all know by now, is the Black church. And it was also the bedrock of the civil rights movement. In March of 2010, Princeton’s Eddie Glaude Jr. published an obituary for the black church in the Huffington Post titled, “The Black Church is Dead”. Glaude talked about several of the problems facing the African-American community, but nowhere in his piece did he talk about anti-gay ministers and homophobic congregrations.
According to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, 87 percent of African-Americans identify with a religious group and 79 percent say that religion is very important in their lives. The Pew report also showed that since 2008, African-American Protestants are less likely than other Protestant groups to believe that LGBTQ people should have equal rights. And since hot-button issues like gay adoption and marriage equality have become more prominent, support for LGBTQ rights among African-American Protestants has dipped as low as 40 percent.
A groundbreaking study in July 2010 came out titled, “Black Lesbians Matter” examining the unique experiences, perspectives, and priorities of the Black Lesbian Bisexual and Trans community. One of the key findings of the survey revealed that there is a pattern of higher suicide rates among black LBTs. Scholars have primarily associated these higher suicide rates with one’s inability to deal with “coming out” and the Black Church’s stance on homosexuality.
But with various pockets within a community homophobic, clerics closeted and a church on the “down-low” about sexuality it cannot save itself from itself. And perhaps as many of us LGBTQ Christians in the Black Church have known but Glaude finally stated it: “The Black Church is Dead.”
But with a dead church so, too, will follow important historic organizations that were birthed out of the civil rights movement and headed by black homophobic ministers.
One example is the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
“We should’ve closed it down years ago,” Andrew Young, who worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr., said after Rev.
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