Again on the Black Church
Glenn Ford, found atBC and I don't agree on everything, but he hits this one out of the park. Please read it all, but for the time challenged, here's the really important part:
Faith-based initiatives and private school vouchers, they theorized, could provide portals directly into the realm of Black grassroots politics. If generously funded and working in tandem, the twin strategies had the potential to subvert a portion of the Black clergy and create a wedge to divide inner city residents from teachers unions and other pillars of the Democratic Party. The synergy of bribed clergy plus a phony voucher “movement” would give the appearance of an authentic conservative “groundswell” among African Americans. Corporate media could be counted on to provide a narrative lifted directly from the position papers of the same think tanks that crafted the faith/vouchers strategy. The stage would be set for the media-hyped emergence of a “New Black Leadership” – Democrats as well as Republicans and “independents” – reflecting the supposedly growing conservatism of the Black middle class and youth.
All this, of course, came to pass. Once Republicans won the White House, the full resources and prestige of the federal government were made available to the preachers, hustlers and voucher operatives of the new, corporate-invented African American leadership.
I'm so glad he used the word "hustlers."
Once upon a time back in grad school, I got picked to be one of a couple of students to attend an elite conference of Black clerical leaders and organizers. I was really excited. I grew up hearing stories about the great generation of religious leaders who helped bring about the successes of the Civil Rights movement, and I felt honored to get a chance to be up close to some of them, as well as meet the new breed.
It was very disappointing.
Basically, the group sat around for the whole day chatting it up with each other, shooting the shit about the Glory Days, and also about how much easier it was to make money off the
suckers taxpayers now that all this 'faith-based' money was out there to be had. I was a bit shocked, but I suppose when con artists and hustlers are off stage, this is how they talk. Yes, I'm being a bit harsh, but I recall how my temper kept rising and rising, and how I was more and more annoyed that at this "action" conference, the only action being planned was how to increase the amount of government money flowing to church coffers.
One of the bigname Chicago preachers noticed the look on my face, and at a break, he asked me about it. I said, "Y'all been talking for what, four hours now? And I have yet to hear even one of you mention the word "education." He knew I wasn't an intellectual pushover, and switched into another mode, trying to hustle me that he too shared my concerns about the need for better education in black communities. He later ran for public office, and I followed his campaign. Concrete and substantive education reform policy wasn't a high priority to him, or at least not in anything I ever heard or read from his camp. (He lost.)
We're going to hear a great deal about "the black community" and its "leaders," and a lot of the people the SCLM will put on the teevee will be religious leaders. While it may have been the case that 30 years ago, there were great people in the Black Church, these days things aren't so simple. It's one of the reasons that I don't write off Hillary in SC; she's well-versed with the 'who's who' in the Black church there, and I don't doubt that among her many promises to them, more faith-based money is in the mix, prominently. I doubt Obama is any different, especially after his little trick of having a blatant homophobe campaign for him.
I've written here many times about increasing homophobia in the Black religious community, and in large part, I believe it is a direct result of Republican attempts to peel off Black religious voters from the Democratic party. As BC notes, it's met with some small success. I suppose one could say that it's "smart" to reach out to homophobic hucksters because they "speak for" the Black electorate. I don't think they do, and even if I'm wrong, catering to conservatism is hardly the progressive value I want in my next Democratic president.
Be suspect, when you are presented with a religious "leader" from the Black community. Not all of them are scam artists and frauds, but lots of them are. And when they tell you how much Black voters are responding to this or that Unity Pony BS, remember where their bread is buttered, and who's been buttering it for eight years now. Just as our media has shut out progressive voices in the most of the rest of its discourse, don't expect anything different when it comes to the coverage of "Black America." There are plenty of Black radicals and progressives out there working for real change and who help their communities. Unfortunately, they aren't going to often be included in the discussion of what is good for Black America, at least not in the SCLM.
...and I hope Black Folk understand my anger with the Churching set; I lived a long time on the South Side and went to many sermons, churches and gatherings of religious people. How few times did I meet a preacher who could point to a meaningful, permanent change or improvement s/he had brought about for Chicago's Black poor. How very, very few.