Like the biblical Samson, Trump will eventually bring the entire edifice of American conservatism crashing down around him. Some species of evangelical religion will ultimately rise from the rubble, but it will be greatly curtailed, politically irrelevant and, I pray, more recognizably Christian.
Ultimately, Jimmy proved to be too good for either the White House or his beloved Southern Baptist Convention. But he was never too good; just a little better than the rest of us. He was of our tribe.
Pro-slavery comments from the audience drew unwanted attention to a breakout session at last week’s CPAC convention. The session was called, “Trump the Race Card: Are You Sick and Tired of Being Called a Racist and You Know You’re Not One”. Unfortunately, some attendees were racist and proud of it. Or, to put the matter more delicately, they were proud of “their demographic” and feared that once-dominant white folks are gradually being disenfranchised. (more…)
By Alan Bean
Quentin Tarantino has definitely been reading Michelle Alexander. Last month, while talking up his new movie, Django Unchained on a Canadian talk show, the controversial film director launched into a discourse on the American war on drugs:
Like most celebrities with a limited grasp of the issues, Tarantino garbles his facts a bit. Most drug war prisoners aren’t held in private prisons and aren’t working for corporations who exploit prison labor. This happens, to be sure, but it isn’t the typical scenario. (more…)
By Alan Bean
The American electorate is more racially divided in 2012 than at any time in the recent memory. This encourages the simple conclusion that white Americans prefer Mitt Romney to Barack Obama because Mitt is white. But a recent report by the Public Religion Research Institute paints a far more complex portrait of the white American voter.
As has been widely reported, white women are about equally divided between the two candidates; it’s the men who break strongly for Romney. In 2008, Barack Obama carried a higher percentage of the white vote (41%) than any Democratic candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976. Moreover, working class whites give Mitt Romney a favorability rating of 45% compared to Barack Obama’s 44%; among college educated whites, both men are favored by 49% of those surveyed. If white America throws its support behind the Republican candidate in tomorrow’s election (as they assuredly will) it has little to do with a birds-of-a-feather firing of mirror neurons.
The white electorate divides sharply along five distinct fault lines: education, gender, age, geography and religion. The Public Religion Research Institute Survey compares the white working class to college educated whites. College educated white voters favor Romney, but by a scant 2 points; the white working class favors Romney by 13 points (48-35).
In other words, when we are talking about “the white electorate” we are primarily talking about white working class voters. In this election, 80% of minority votes will go to the Democrat; Romney will be the overwhelming favorite of the white working class; and white college educated voters will fall somewhere in between these extremes. Since white middle class voters comprise 36% of the voting population, their clout is difficult to exaggerate. White college educated voters account for 21% of the electorate, black voters, 11%, and Latino voters, 13%. (For the poll under discussion 11% of white voters are neither working class or college educated).
As we have seen, white women are far more likely to favor Obama than their brothers, boy friends and husbands; and this applies just as much to the white middle class (41%-41%) as to white college educated women. White working class males, on the other hand, will favor Romney by 27 points (57%-28%). It should be noted, however, that working class males making less than $30,000 divide their votes evenly between Obama and Romney while working class males who have received food stamps in the past two years, favor Obama by a margin of 48% to 36%. The authors of the study use this data to argue that the white working class, contrary to popular opinion, do not always vote against their perceived interests. (more…)
By Alan Bean
An article in the Guardian, a British paper, discusses the challenges the rising tide of Latino voters in the United States poses for the Republican Party. Gary Younge argues that the ill-famed “Southern Strategy” made sense when white Americans comprised 85% of the electorate, but has become problematic in an age when the majority of babies born in the United States are non-white. These babies are almost two decades from voting age, however, so 74% of voters are still white. According to today’s Washington Post poll, Mitt Romney holds a commanding twenty-three-point lead among white voters.
This is the major dilemma for the Republican Party: racially loaded messages may appeal to many white voters, but they lose you minority votes. You can win white votes by railing against the entitlement-addicted 47% and the crime-prone “illegals” who cross the border in search of welfare, but not without giving Latinos and African-Americans a bad name. White racial resentment remains the greatest single force in American politics. The economy tops everyone’s list as an election season concern, but these issues are viewed through a racial lens. Black voters cannot be persuaded that Obama wrecked the American economy; white voters can.
Three-quarters of white evangelicals vote Republican. If you ask them why, they certainly won’t tell you they feel more comfortable voting for a white man. They may say that Obama is a free-spending socialist and we need a president who believes in American capitalism. But most, I suspect, will say it’s all about abortion. Republicans want to stop the Holocaust and Democrats don’t–simple as that. (more…)
By Alan Bean
As things presently stand, Mitt Romney can count on 60% of the white vote, 33% of the Latino vote and 0% of the African American vote.
Not 5% . . . 0%. There may be a few thousand black Republicans nationwide willing to pull the lever for the white guy, but there aren’t enough of them to constitute a single percentage point.
I would have thought that a small but measurable contingent of black voters would be with the Republican candidate. He is the pro-life, anti-gay rights candidate, after all, and black evangelicals have a reputation for being pro-life and anti-gay rights.
And what about the small sliver of the black electorate wealthy enough to be helped by Republican fiscal policy? What’s with those guys?
According to the Washington Post, Republican candidates like George W. Bush and Bob Dole captured just over 10% of the black vote. Hardly a stellar performance, but an improvement on an absolute electoral vacuum.
The lack of Latino enthusiasm for Mitt Romney is understandable. A harsh anti-immigrant stance lay at the heart of Romney’s primary season strategy and the new Republican Party platform shifts to the right of their standard bearer.
Romney made a point of attending the NAACP conference in July where he claimed to be the candidate who would do the most for African Americans.
No one was fooled.
When the Republican candidate used his NAACP address to flay “Obamacare” it was obvious that the folks assembled before him weren’t his real audience. Romney’s cynical handlers were hoping that the sight of their man being booed and heckled, however politely, by a room of black opinion leaders would help his standing with the white electorate.
And we’re not talking about the conservative white voters who wouldn’t vote for Obama if you held a gun to their heads. The message was aimed at white swing voters; the folks on the fence.
This level of cynicism has characterized Republican political algebra since the notorious Southern Strategy was cobbled together in the late 1960s. Racial resentment runs so deep in America that a solid majority of white voters can be manipulated by a thinly-veiled racial pitch.
You can’t be too gross about it, of course, no one outside a few counties in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia wants to be accused of overt, “I love the Nigra, in his place” bigotry. But whenever Romney contrasts Obama’s entitlement nation with the personal responsibility America dear to the hearts of Republicans he’s fishing in the slough of racial resentment.
When white voters think welfare, they think black, and Romney’s handlers know it. The bogus complaint that Obama has scaled back work requirements in the welfare-to-work system doesn’t have to be true. To most white swing voters, sending out checks no-questions-asked is just the sort of thing a black president would do for his kind.
This is called “dog whistle” politics, the theory being that only conservative whites can hear the high-pitched whine of racial resentment. Although, from a Republican perspective, it hardly matters, the ears of African Americans have become highly attuned to dog whistle politics over the years, and for good reason. If you’re black, that ear-splitting siren always spells trouble.
This year the squeal is so loud and persistent that zero percent of African American voters fail to hear it. It’s white moderates, the kind who generally vote for Democrats, who remain deaf to the whistle, and so long as that’s true the Southern Strategy marches on.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Joe “America’s toughest sheriff” Arpaio are accusing Barack Obama of granting illegal immigrants de facto amnesty. The immigration problem could be settled amicably, Arpaio says, if all the illegal aliens went home, but since that is unlikely to happen, earnest public servants must do what they were elected to do.
Jan Brewer grabbed the big headlines by announcing that the Dream Act young people Obama saved from deportation won’t be getting any state services in Arizona–and that includes drivers’ licenses. (more…)
By Alan Bean
This brief article from Bob Allen of the Associated Baptist Press made my heart sick. It wasn’t because I was surprised. The only surprising thing about this pathetic episode is that the bad guys didn’t just mutter over their coffee and donuts like good Baptists should. They actually came right out and spoke the unspeakable. But this is Mississippi, folks, and lot of white people in the Magnolia State (and elsewhere) can’t look at a black person without being reminded of the indignities to which the white South was subjected in the wake of the civil rights period.
There are two ways of responding to racial resentment. You can repent and work for racial healing (this approach helped make Fred Luter the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention). Or you can double down. The folks at FBC Crystal Springs took the second route. Hardly surprising, but tragic nonetheless.
By Bob Allen
A Mississippi couple claims they were not allowed to get married in the Southern Baptist church they attend because they are black.
According to WLBT television in Jackson, Miss., Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson had already printed and sent out invitations to their wedding at First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs when their pastor called with some bad news.
“The church congregation had decided no black could be married at that church and that if he went on to marry her, then they would vote him out the church,” Charles Wilson told the NBC affiliate. (more…)
The Southern Baptist Convention is poised to elect its first African-American president. Is this a big deal, or a cynical ploy?
As this Morning Edition article makes clear, Fred Luter isn’t just a prominent African-American preacher; he’s a transformational figure who stuck with his New Orleans congregation when the sanctuary washed away with Hurricane Katrina. Luter is that rarest of preachers, a man who rose from the streets, understands poverty, and spikes his call to conversion with a strong dose of compassion.
In other words, the Southern Baptist Convention isn’t just placing a token black man in an honorary position to deflect attention from the denomination’s racist past; Luter rose to prominence the hard way and deserves all the accolades he is receiving.
But there is another side to the story embodied in the passionate minority report filed by Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. McKissic is as theologically conservative as a Southern Baptist can be. He preaches against “the gay lifestyle” with notorious gusto, but he is even more passionate about racial injustice.
Fred Luter notwithstanding, Rev. McKissic sees little evidence that the moral fervor of the overwhelmingly white SBC “messengers” who will attend this year’s convention extends to civil rights.
This impression was reinforced in a particularly painful way when Richard Land, head of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, launched into a racially tinged radio rant that made him sound like the reincarnation of George Wallace circa 1962.
Land lost his radio program over his diatribe (largely because his racist comments turned out to be an unacknowledged quote from an obscure right-wing zealot), but he kept his post with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Land has apologized for dismissing prominent civil rights preachers as “race hustlers” and suggesting that Barack Obama only addressed the Trayvon Martin case in a desperate attempt to improve his standing with black voters.
Is Richard Land truly repentant? McKissic is hedging his bets. And for good reason.
As law professor Michelle Alexander points out, New Jim Crow racism differs markedly from Old Jim Crow bigotry. Richard Land has renounced his denomination’s support for Old Jim Crow segregation and the overt commitment to white supremacy that was part of that package. But when it comes to the New Jim Crow realities associated with mass incarceration and the creation of a black male undercaste, the high-profile Baptist preacher is essentially clueless.
As Michelle Alexander points out, you can’t understand the dynamics of the New Jim Crow unless you are willing to sympathize with the plight of poor young black men who are making all the mistakes Fred Luter made as a young man on the mean streets of New Orleans. Luter loves these guys, even as he laments key features of their lifestyle. So does Dwight McKissic. White Baptists like Richard Land has come to terms with a long-dead Martin Luther King Jr., but isn’t ready to acknowledge the full human dignity of the pre-conversion Fred Luter.
For savvy black Baptists in the SBC like Dwight McKissic, that’s a big problem.
June 19, 2012
The Southern Baptist Convention is expected to elect its first black president on Tuesday: Fred Luter, a former street preacher who turned a dying New Orleans church into a powerhouse. His election is a milestone for the 167-year-old denomination at a time when minorities make up a growing share of a shrinking membership.
Luter, who is running unopposed for president of the nation’s largest Protestant body, is a departure from his predecessors. He was the middle child of a divorced mother, and until a motorcycle accident landed him in the hospital at age 20, he had little interest in God.
Then God changed him, he told NPR earlier this year.
“I grew up in the ‘hood, and my mom worked two or three jobs. So I hung out with a lot of bad guys, did a lot of crazy things I should not have done,” Luter said. “And so, when I gave my life to the Lord and saw what God did in my life, then I wanted all those guys I ran the street with to experience what I was experiencing.”
Soon, Luter was preaching on the streets in New Orleans. In 1986, he was invited to take over Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. Under him, its congregation grew from a couple of dozen people to 7,000 — the largest Southern Baptist church in Louisiana. Then Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, destroying the sanctuary.
“It would have been easy for Fred Luter to have said, ‘I think God’s calling me elsewhere,’ ” says Russell Moore, dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. “And he could have gone to a very comfortable pastorate anywhere in the country.
“And yet, he stayed,” Moore says. “And he stood with the people of New Orleans and said, ‘We’ll be back, we’ll rebuild’ — and became a spiritual anchor.”
‘The Future Of The Country Is Urban’
Luter’s decision to stay, and his personal charisma, propelled him to national prominence in the Southern Baptist Convention, says pastor David Crosby.
Crosby leads First Baptist of New Orleans, which shared its space with Luter’s congregation while they rebuilt. He adds that Luter brings something else desperately needed to this denomination, which has seen its numbers drop: He understands how to reach the only growth area of religion.
“The future of the country is urban; the future of the Southern Baptist Convention is also urban,” Crosby says. “We’ve got to learn how to operate and do our mission and thrive in the urban environment. And Fred brings that. He knows it instinctively.”
The SBC has made some progress in that area. Two decades ago, the denomination was “as white as a tractor pull,” as one critic put it. Now it’s 20 percent minority. Richard Land, who heads the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, says Luter’s election shows how far the Southern Baptists have come from the days when they supported slavery.
“It’s as historic a moment as Southern Baptists have had,” Land says, “because the president of SBC is not just an honorific — it is a position of real power.”
Maybe — and maybe not, says Dwight McKissic, senior pastor of the largely African-American Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.
‘A Historic Moment’
“This is a great job, but it’s somewhat symbolic and ceremonial,” he says.
McKissic says the two-year presidency is a good first step. But he says African-Americans are absent from all the real positions of power.
Some say there’s a latent racism in the denomination. And many were troubled by a recent broadcast on Land’s radio program in which he said President Obama and black leaders were using the death of Trayvon Martin for political purposes.
“This is being done to try to gin up the black vote for an African-American president who is in deep, deep, deep trouble for re-election,” Land said on the air.
“It was like someone took a knife and stuck it in my heart,” McKissic says. “It validated suspicions that many black Baptists have had all along, that this is how a good number, if not the majority, of Southern Baptists felt.”
Land has apologized and asked for forgiveness.
“I don’t want anything I’ve said, or any mistakes I’ve made, to detract from — in any way — from what is going to be a truly historic moment — a historic moment in which I rejoice,” he says.
Luter has forgiven Land; he says it’s time to look forward. He notes that if he’s elected, it will be because white Baptists voted for him.
“It won’t be because of the handful of black folk that’s going to be there,” Luter says. “So, it will say something to the country and to the world — that the Southern Baptist Convention is not just talking this thing, we’re actually walking this thing.”