By Pastor Rasheed Z Baaith
“I said I would be wise; but it was far from me.” (Ecclesiastes 7:23)
I have watched and listened to the debate and commentary around the remarks of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty’s” Phil Robertson regarding homosexuality and the contentment of Black people during the times of segregation. The discussion has been interesting to say the least. I believe there are several messages.
One is that the popular thought today is that homosexuality should be accepted no matter what the Bible says about it. The uproar about Robertson equating homosexuality with bestiality is a false argument. Robertson gave a list of sins against God and homosexuality along with bestiality was among them. So were adultery and slander on that list of sins among others. But it was what was said about homosexuality that quickened the storm. The reactions that followed Robertson’s remarks were predictable. They were quick in coming and vociferous.
What was not predictable was the lack of response from our community about his observations about Black people during times of segregation. Even Jesse Jackson seemed more offended about what was said about the gay community than what was said about his own people.
Robertson said that he worked side by side with Black people during the segregation era and he “never saw mis-treatment of any Black person. Not once.” Black people, he said “were singing and happy. They were Godly, they were happy. No one singing the blues.” This was he said before “pre-entitlement, pre welfare.” I guess the foundation of his thinking is how he defines “mis-treatment” and “happy.” Nothing I’ve researched about that era makes me believe Black people were always “singing and happy.”
Yet despite the unbridled audacity and clear bigotry of what he said there was no united Black outrage. There was no collective statement by Black organizations; no collective demand for the removal of the television program, no constant appearance on news programs by Black leaders angry over Robertson’s remarks and his refusal to apologize for what he said.
When national television news reported on the remarks, which they did for almost two weeks, they too led with they called Robertson’s “homophobic remarks.” Almost as an afterthought did newscasters even mention his racist observations and I never heard any of them talk about the inaccuracy of what he said. The community everyone was concerned about was not our community. We did not matter to those reporting the news, we did not matter to A&E Network and it seems we do not matter to ourselves. That is the real lesson of this whole matter, we have allowed ourselves to become an afterthought.
Our leadership, such as it is, has more concern about every group of people but our own. That sad fact is both true and obvious. As a result, we can expect more of the same racist ignorance from Robertson and others who think as he does.
And unfortunately we can expect the same lack of response from what we call “Black leadership.” No other alliance of leaders has a problem letting the world know they represent a distinctive constituency except African American leaders. They worry they will be identified as being too Black. It does not seem to be something Mexican American, Cuban American, Asian American or Caribbean American leaders are pre-occupied with.
It appears that nothing offends us anymore. Not inept corrupt political leadership, not schools that mis-educate and under educate our children, not a music industry that intentionally teaches our young people destructive behavior while at the same time giving validation to using drugs, violence and victimizing our girls and women.
We are not offended by having the highest percentage of unemployed by any group in America. Or by a White House that forgets we exist except when it needs us.
We are about to enter the year 2014, I don’t see it being any better for Black people than 2013 was or 1913 for that matter. Nor will it get better until we make it better. That begins by us being important to us. Think about it.