As a queer African American Womanist scholar and clergy let me begin by thanking the media for covering the stories of the several lawsuits filed against Bishop Eddie Long for sexual coercion.
Long has spewed venomous and putrid commentary towards we persons who have the audacity to be and live proudly as our queer selves, openly and closeted for quite some time. It seems to me that it would be an act of professional incompetence for the media not to highlight this behavior in their headlines. They don’t always get it right. In this case, they have done well to remind us of his history and in so doing have done the LGBTQI community a service. That is, they are actually helping make our case regarding the hypocrisy on the issue of sexuality that is so prevalent in the African American church in particular and the Church in general.
The possible sexual coercion of teenagers by anyone is horrible and should be our main concern. However, in this case it is not our only concern. How dare anyone deny the prominent issue here is not the anti-homosexual stance Long displayed before the church and the media while at the same time allegedly sexually abusing teenagers? Though the latter must be proven in a court of law, the former is fact and therefore is fodder for media headlines. Yes, there are other issues at stake here, however there have always been the “other issues” the African American community has wanted to discuss.
Any “issue” was considered more important than gay rights. For years African Americans advocating for gay rights have been told, “That’s not our issue” “We have too many other important issues to deal with in our community. We can’t put gay rights at the forefront.” We have pleaded with the African American church and its leaders to denounce bigoted language and oppression against its many LGBTQI Christian members and citizens. Time and again, we have hoped our cries to cease and desist the homophobic rhetoric and histrionic behavior would be a conversation and work we might begin on a national level only to have our appeals denied. Well, here it is! The conversation about anti-homosexuality, out front, bold and brazenly waxed across the news headlines accompanied by a picture of one of the most prominent African American clergy in the nation.
Let’s not go into denial (innocent or intentional) on this matter: This is an issue about anti-homosexual rhetoric! It must be spotlighted with as much vigor as other matters surrounding this case such as ethical boundaries (including the utilization of power and authority), possible adultery and pedophilia. None of these topics should be had without us also finally having the critical discussion about homophobia.
Since I have been writing and lecturing on queer theology for a while now, let me add a final poignant note edited from an earlier email I sent to Womanist scholars:
I doubt that the media headlines have or will do anymore damage than Bhomophobia (my term for Black homophobia). It is “pandemic in our community, agencies and churches and Long is not the first clergy to be so vicious in his attacks. In fact, African American LGBTQI persons have endured years of torment, ridicule, rape and sexual harassment from our own Black church leadership. Long is not the first Black pastor to lead a march against the LGBTQI community. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. was vituperative in his behavior against members of our queer community even to the point of leading public demonstrations against them. In the midst of all this, “good church folk” have stepped to the plate again and again to defend, support, pray for and forgive Black male leadership though they have been openly sexist, misogynistic, adulterous, thieves, physically and emotionally abusive and even drug dealers. Black folk- not all – have watched, supported and participated in this deviance even when we ourselves have not had a pot to piss in and a window to throw it out of! Scores of Black preachers have gotten rich off the hard earned dollars of straight AND queer folk. We have fed into the making of these monsters. For this I have repented more times than I can number! It is from my own sense of passionate responsibility and love for neighbor and the oppressed that I have moved from being lachrymose to dissident.”
Could it be that the African American community in larger numbers than ever before finally wants to talk? Are the members of our community and the American public willing to hear from African American LGBTQI persons or must we sit back and listen as other folk attempt to speak for us?