You can't understand black folks without understanding LGBT community, Pastor Barber says

William Barber
The Rev. William Barber II. |

Social justice advocate and pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, William J. Barber II said a “rift” between the black and gay communities is a “false narrative” created by the National Organization for Marriage, but the conservative nonprofit insists it is Barber’s narrative that’s a lie.

In an address to his congregation while hosting gay Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg Barber argued that America cannot understand black folks without understanding the LGBT community and vice versa.

“You know we keep hearing … there is some rift between certain communities. Black folk. Stop putting that on black folk. There is some phobia among all folk. But the flip side is more true and that is that all people … are in God’s love, God’s care and have contributed,” Barber said before touching on the issue more directly.

“Stop all that stuff about rift. There ain’t no data behind that, that there is some rift between black folk and gay folk. That’s a false narrative that was created by the National Organization [for] Marriage to separate people who, when they come together have always pushed America forward especially when it comes to addressing issues like poverty and healthcare,” he continued.

“You can’t understand the LGBT community without understanding black folk, you can’t understand black folk without understanding the LGBT community. Stop pushing that line. Don’t you know about Audre Lorde? Lesbians don’t you know about Langston Hughes? Lorraine Hansberry? Don’t you know there would have been no March at Washington with black and white and brown and Jewish folk together if it hadn’t been for a gay brother named Bayard Rustin that God used? So let’s instead of pushing these unfounded, unfactual narratives, just decide that we are determined to show everybody the love of God,” he said.

Pete Buttigieg
Chasten Glezman (L) joins his husband South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg on stage after Buttigieg announced that he will be seeking the Democratic nomination for president during a rally in the old Studebaker car factory on April 14, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana. |

Responding to Barber’s criticism on Monday, Joe Grabowski, a spokesman for the conservative National Organization for Marriage, which lobbies to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it, told The Christian Post that while there may be some sympathies between the black and LGBT communities as marginalized groups in America, there is indeed a fundamental disagreement between the two groups at the policy level concerning marriage and family.

“I disagree with his characterization,” Grabowski said. “I think in fact the false narrative that’s being promoted by some elites in our society is that the left and particularly now, the Democratic party have the values of ordinary Americans in mind as they pursue their progressive agenda whereas in actuality our experience in the past has been that the black church has been very strong in favor of traditional values on marriage and family.

“That has always been the case and it’s not us sort of offering a false option but rather the left offers this false option. That if you want to care about the welfare of black Americans, if you want to care about lifting them out of poverty and empowering their communities and things like that, then you need to go along with this progressive agenda to redefine marriage and family. We think that’s actually the false dichotomy. We say you can do both. If you strengthen the family you are going to empower marginalized communities that have been disproportionately affected by the negative fallout of the breakdown of family and the sexual revolution,” Grabowski said.

The NOM spokesperson further noted that despite their disagreement on marriage, they have never said black people don’t like members of the LGBT community.

“Individuals and the choices of individual peoples’ life are one thing … what the National Organization for Marriage focuses on is policies, and specifically policies regarding the institution of marriage. If he’s saying that there is no data to support the fact that black Americans have historically supported the traditional model of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, that’s just not true on its face,” he added.

As recently as 2012, Grabowski added, black voters voted overwhelmingly in North Carolina for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

“There is various data that shows that black Americans, especially the black church in America have traditionally aligned with the value of marriage as between a man and a woman and traditional values about the sexes. So I would disagree with his characterization there,” Grabowski argued.

Denison University political scientist Paul Djupe has noted that polling supports the view that black voters are less likely to back a gay candidate. 

Barber’s comments come at a time when Buttigieg is struggling to attract the support of black voters. The latest poll shows former Vice President Joe Biden leading the Democratic field with 24% of the national vote, followed by Buttigieg, and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. A South Carolina poll, shows Buttigieg with less than 1% support among black voters, who will cast their primary ballots in the 2020 primaries on Feb. 29.

Last month, in a blunt warning to Democrats pushing the openly gay Democratic presidential candidate as a viable nominee, Bishop Paul S. Morton, founder of Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, said Bible-based Christians will not support “a man with his husband” by his side for president of the United States.

“Dems I pray U will use wisdom in voting. Being too liberal will not win. I am not homophobic. But it is definitely not the time 4 POTUS 2b a man with his husband up there by his side. There are those of us who love everybody but we believe in the Biblical Definition of Marriage,” tweeted Morton, who serves as senior pastor of Changing a Generation in Atlanta.

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