President Obama’s Remarks on the Supreme Court Ruling on the Affordable Care Act

June 28, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Southern Baptist Convention Elects Its First African American President; Will He Push Anti-Gay Agenda?

June 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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GUEST EDITORIAL BY REV. IRENE MONROE

Rev. Fred Luter, president, Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA.

African American voters are President Obama’s largest and steadfast supporters. They are also one of the largest and steadfast opponents of marriage equality. So, when President Obama finally made publicly his support of same- sex marriage, one group wondering how they might parlay their support against him with African American voters are white Southern Baptists—a huge denomination comprising the Christian Right.

For over two decades, white Southern Baptists have been trying to make inroads to the African American community, particularly black urban community, to not only increase their dwindling membership but to also promulgate an aggressive anti-gay agenda.

With just months to the November election, the Southern Baptist Convention’s elected Rev. Fred Luter this past Tuesday as president. This may pave the way to their goal of promoting an anti-gay message.

Rev. Fred Luter, a native son of New Orleans, ran unopposed and was unanimously elected. He is the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). But Luter’s ascendency to the highest office of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination (and the world’s largest Baptist denomination) raises the query—is his post a symbol of honorific tokenism?  Will he have any real power with a predominately white denomination.

While minorities make-up a new worshipping contingent in a shrinking membership body, it is this group the SBC is wooing. And ministers of color are now the front persons evangelizing for the denomination.

“We cannot expect to reach this do-rag, tattooed, iPod generation with an eight-track ministry. We have to somehow change how we do things,” Luter told reporters, expressing shock and utter surprise that his proposed descriptor could be viewed as offensive.

At present the SBC is approximately 20 percent people of color with about 7 percent African-American, 6 percent Latino, 3 percent Asian, 4 percent other. And African-American congregations have grown by 85 percent, up from 1,907 in 1998 to 3,534 in 2010.

The paltry number of people of color in the SBC is rooted in its once upon a time unabashedly racist history. Notoriously known to have filled the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan, Southern Baptists have been vociferous defenders of anti-miscegenation laws, Jim Crows edicts, lynching mob justice, to name a few. The Southern Baptist Convention was founded in 1845 in defense of slavery.

“We lament and repudiate historic acts of evil such as slavery from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest,” the Southern Baptist resolution on racial reconciliation stated, acknowledging that some congregations still excluded African Americans but promising to “commit ourselves to eradicate racism in all its forms from Southern Baptist life and ministry.”

Sadly, Luter was unaware of the SBC’s dark history.

As a huge denomination comprising the Christian Right and its anti-gay agenda, Luter may also be unaware of how the Southern Baptist Convention may actively recruit him, during this election period, to reach African American voters to unseat Obama by exploiting black homophobia.

Since 1995—when the SBC held a conference on racial reconciliation in Dallas, and it generously donated $750,000 to rebuild Southern black churches that were recently burned—the once non-existing relationship between the SBC and black churches has now become wedded in an unholy matrimony.

The first sign I saw here in Boston was back in 1998 when an editor called me to solicit my opinion about an African-American minister named Rev. Jackson, who had joined with Ralph Reed’s Christian Right movement to funnel $5 million to $10 million to Black Churches to help them rejuvenate African American urban communities nationwide; it was called the Samaritan Project.

While the culture of many faith communities and denominations (that were once upon a time helplessly homophobic) are changing, a preponderance of these black churches will not (and sadly to say they won’t in my lifetime).

And its this homophobic faith tradition that Obama—in his first presidential run to the White House—unabashedly wooed and won votes from.

Although many African American clerics came out in support of Obama’s stance on same-sex marriage, so, too, did many decry it.

With right wing organizations like National Organization for Marriage (NOM) courting black churches for their strategic 2012 election game plan to drive a wedge between LGBTQ voters and African American voters, the question is will Luter fall into their hands—either as the SBC’s titular head or simply as a misguided Christian homophobe?

Either reason Luter would wield enormous influence in pushing a right wing agenda.

While we don’t know what Luter will do in his post, there is enough data to predict with certainty how African Americans will vote in this 2012 election as it was predicted in 2008- irrespective of the President’s views on marriage equality or right wing anti-gay agendas.

Rev. Irene Monroe is a nationally-known writer, speaker, and theologian.  She  has been profiled in O, Oprah Magazine, and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.  (The views expressed in this essay are solely those of the author.)

Growing Diversity Demands Dramatic Redistricting Reform

June 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Guest Editorial by Kevin C. Peterson

The emerging demography of Boston over the two last decades has virtually transformed the city’s neighborhoods, creating new social and electoral enclaves in communities that were once racially, culturally and economically monolithic.

Increased diversity in the city is critically relevant in the redistricting process now underway within the Boston City Council. Reapportionment outcomes will either negatively or positively impact the political future of historically disenfranchised groups.

The current Boston City Council district design is woefully broken. This is a testament of decades of willful voter suppression, effectively retardingthe civic capabilities of communities already seized by unrelenting poverty, violence and under-performing public schools.

A review of recent redistricting history in Boston is instructive: In 1982 the city of Boston converted to a hybrid city council representation system that allowed for a mix of elected districts and at-large seats. The logic of this momentous change responded to empirically clear evidence that so-called minorities were not adequately represented within the city council body and that the voting strength of these constituencies were severely diluted.

By creating district representation, African American, Latino and Asian voting communities increased their electoral opportunities to vote for those they felt best expressed their political interests. The result has been the election of two black city councilors in the so-called majority-minority districts.

In the 30 years since these changes, the city has continued to transform racially. Yet, redistricting practices have failed to comprehensively capture the substantive shifts in demography.

The result has been uneven political power-sharing between so-called minority communities and intransient white voting blocs. Moreover, the spirit of the 1982 effort ensuring equal inclusion of so-called minorities within elected municipal politics has ostensibly been jettisoned.

Addressing the issue of political fairness and electoral equity within the city council’s district system ought to be prioritized by the city’s redistricting committee and the broader public. In this context, a number of concerns deserve our consideration.

First, it is critical to communities of color that their numerical presence in the city be fully recognized as council districts are redesigned. People of color comprise a clear numerical majority of residents in Boston. Yet the configuration of existing districts do not allow for the fullest expression of their voting capacity. Districts are now designed in such fashions that the electoral influence of so-called minorities are drastically suppressed. Fair consideration of people of color during the redistricting process would remedy this problem. The council is urged to recalibrate district seats against a backdrop of racial and political equality. Avoiding racial gerrymandering is of the utmost importance.

Second, guaranteeing and advancing the voting rights of historically disenfranchised groups — including African Americans, Asians and Latinos — is paramount. We should be ever mindful that these protected class groups are covered by the U.S. Constitution and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

As it is now, only two of the nine city council districts are arranged in ways that allow for the maximum expression of voting rights for people of color. It is demonstrably clear, however, that an additional three districts can be reconstructed in ways that would allow for a total of five “true” districts of color where voter strength is not diluted. A district that would give voters a preference to elect a Latino or Asian to the city council should appeal to us as compelling. This would be fair and legally defensible.

Third, efforts should be directed toward keeping communities of interest intact, especially if they pertain to protecting the voting strength of so-called minorities. Under the current district plan the black neighborhood of Mattapan is cracked or split in two. Because Mattapan is unique and comprised of distinct challenges that intersect with issues related to perennial evidence of racial bias, it is best included in a singular council district. This is also the case with Chinatown. While neighborhood cohesion is important in the redistricting process, the protection of voting rights for so-called minorities trump all.

Allocating political power on the basis of population shifts and racial equity ought to be our commitment during the remainder of the redistricting process in Boston. Focuses on these concerns will respond to the obvious ethnic and racial transformation occurring in Boston.

 
Kevin C. Peterson is the director of the New Democracy Coalition, which focuses its efforts in the area of civic literacy, civic policy and electoral justice. This opinion editorial is an expanded version of a letter sent to the Boston City Council.

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