A year ago, I posted an article suggesting that there is a relationship between racism and the Christian Right. Here is another shocking quote from an advocate of "ex-gay" groups, Dr. Gerald Schoenewolf, a member of the advisory board of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). NARTH is an organization that attempts to give crackpot "ex-gay" theories scientific legitimacy, and its President Joseph Nicolosi was featured at Boston's Love Won Out conference last October at Tremont Temple Baptist Church, a predominantly black church. Dr. Schoenewolf said:
With all due respect, there is another way, or other ways, to look at the race issue in America. It could be pointed out, for example, that Africa at the time of slavery was still primarily a jungle, as yet uncivilized or industrialized. Life there was savage, as savage as the jungle for most people, and that it was the Africans themselves who first enslaved their own people. They sold their own people to other countries, and those [slaves] brought to Europe, South America, America, and other countries, were in many ways better off than they had been in Africa. But if one even begins to say these things one is quickly shouted down as though one were a complete madman.
WTF?!?!? That's because you would have to be a madman to say something this fucking racist. To think, Tremont Temple Baptist Church, a church with historic ties to abolitionism, would host an organization with an open racist on their advisory board is sick, cruel irony. I only wish we had had this quote last year to ask the pastor of Tremont Temple what he thought of Dr. Schoenewolf's comments.
Schoenewolf dregs up some shockingingly primeval justifications of the slave trade, even going back to eighteenth and nineteenth century portrayals of Africans as "savages." He rehashes the old pro-slavery arguments that America was "Christianizing" and "civilizing" Africans. The idea that Africa may have had its own, proud, sophisticated culture (nah, they were just a bunch of primitive bushmen) and may have wanted to industrialize on its own terms (yea, even that they may have had the right to do this!) escapes the good doctor.
These terms were also applied to other victims of European conquests, e.g. Native Americans, Aztecs, Incas, Africans, Indians, the Chinese, aboriginees, Arabs, etc--cultures with very different worldviews than that of Europeans.
Equally disgusting is the fact that Schoenewolf has no concept of the scope and scale of slavery's brutality in the United States. While slavery in all contexts is immoral, there is no comparison between the ravaging and kidnapping of African slaves and the slavery practiced by indigenous Africans. Slavery was practiced by Africans, but their entire economic system was not based on chattel slavery. Slavery was critical to the economic foundations of this country and the free labor gave capitalism a big kick--and led to the industrial capitalism Schoenewolf was talking about.
The problems that indigenous peoples have are often used to justify their conquest. Of course, the problems of the "civilized" Europeans with their two extraordinarily destructive world wars, not to mention their unjustifiable acts of cruelty and brutality to third world countries, are never used to suggest that the West deserves to be conquered.
Schoenewolf's comment was made in the context of a tirade against how the gay rights movement and civil rights movement used "hysteria" and "emotion" to get their points across. Now, let's see. You had millions of people living in deplorable poverty, segregated schools, under regimes of police brutality and everytime blacks protested they were confronted with angry white mobs, fire hoses, attack dogs, tear gas and horses. Add on top of that a slow federal government that had to practically be threatened into doing anything. Why in the world would black people get emotional? Again, Schoenewolf's inability to grasp the scope and scale of black suffering is incredible. So, he added this gem to his essay:
The irony is that the Civil Rights Movement has been vehement about pointing out the hysterical lynchings that took place in the old South, but completely blind to its own hysterical tactics.
Yes, the horror of a lynching (he obviously has not seen a picture of a lynching) is the same thing as advocating for being treated like a human being. And furthermore, WHAT hysterical tactics? Marching? Sitting at a lunch counter and demanding to be served? Not moving to the back of the bus?
There are a lot of other criticisms I could make of Schoenwolf's essay, such as his juvenile understanding of Marxism, its influence on contemporary political movements and his attempts to use the bogeyman of Communism to delegitimize any movement for social justice (another old tactic), but his boorish racism is more than enough to, once again, ask anti-gay black churches whose side they really want to be on.