DETROIT – Throughout American history the black family has endured and evolved under pressures of slavery, discrimination, poverty and social unrest. Two black pastors discussed black family structures and why the argument against marriage equality “to preserve traditional marriage” conflicts with the history and current reality of the black family in America.
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Rev. Darlene Franklin, former pastor of the Full Truth Fellowship Church in Detroit, moderated the Mar. 29 discussion at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary
between Rev. Michael C.R. Nabors, senior pastor at First Calvary Baptist Church in Detroit, and Rev. Roland Stringfellow, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church in Ferndale.
“If you do a historical analysis you will gain an understanding that the best way to control a group of people is to tear the families apart in the first place,” said Nabors who recently “came out” as a supporter of LGBT rights including marriage equality. “Upon our arrival there was no recognition of family unit. And during the institution of slavery there was no family unity that was respected and appreciated among slaves – there just wasn’t. Because where there was the possibility of unity, there was the possibility of rebellion. And so if they saw there was some unity that was created, then the first thing that happened was someone was sold down the river – this person is sold, that person is sold. So to now come back and use the argument against the LGBT community that we need to have this ideal nuclear family as the only way to exist, is to not grapple with our own history,” said Nabors.
“For African Americans to demand that the ideal model is the only way, and we’re going to take this to court to defend it – that simply has not been our reality,” said Stringfellow. “Single mothers, two women, two men – the point is how have these children fared? It would be insulting to try to criticize the many single mothers who have done a spectacular job raising boys. Is it easy? No. It is not always easy. But in terms of family configuration it has always been varied for African Americans.”
“I think that kind of argument is a basic affront to 70 percent of the folks who are single parent families in the black community who are doing the very best they can, often a great job, above and beyond the call of duty,” said Nabors. ” To say, ‘No you have to have a husband, you have to have a wife,’ we don’t have that. It doesn’t exist in our community. So I’m offended by the very fact that they would approach it in that manner.”
“In 2008, I was hired by the Pacific School of Religion to do sacred activism” said Stringfellow. “I went into many churches and congregations to do training and discussions to understand the issues of marriage, sexuality, etc., doing the work within the African American faith community around LGBT issues.” He said that there building trust between the LGBT community and the black community requires patience and a willingness to question conventional wisdom. “When Prop 8 passed in 2008 in California, a lot of gays and lesbians blamed the African American community, and believed that black voters had voted for Obama but against Prop 8. That turned out to not be true,” he said.
“In the DeBoer v. snyder trial that ended a few weeks ago, the state says they are concerned about stabilizing the family. Do you think the Michigan Marriage Amendment is stabilizing or destabilizing?” asked Franklin.
“I do not believe that same sex marriage is a destabilizing factor for the institutions of marriage or the family,” said Nabors. “If there is a destabilizing factor in the family and our political system is so concerned about the family, then they need to attack all the issues that contribute to poverty and discrimination. But to come along and say that this hot-button issue is the core problem for families today is just reeking of politics. It’s trying to divide people, to get folks on your side, parlaying for votes. They are hoping that if they are lucky enough and the spotlight is on them, they can get more votes.”