In a recent poll on YourBlackWorld.com, 60% of the African American respondents claimed that they are against gay marriage. The results from the poll are intriguing in light of the African American affiliation with the Democratic Party, which tends to support gay rights.
My personal interpretation of the results is that the poll numbers show that the black community is actually far more conservative than most people think. Results like these are in line with the strong affiliation that most African Americans have with the black church, which tends to lean against things like gay marriage. I would expect to see similar results on issues such as abortion.
One could argue that the loyalty African Americans have to the Democratic Party is driven by the fact that the Democrats have been open to embracing the black struggle for civil rights and equality. The party is also more likely to support programs for the poor, with African Americans being disproportionately represented below the poverty line. In general, the Democrats don’t hate us as much as the Republicans do, so we tend to remain loyal to liberals, even though black issues are often at the bottom of the priority list.
When I have conversations with other black folks around the dinner table, I am often intrigued by the lack of interest many in our community have in progressive social action. Even on issues such as criminal justice, there is a large segment of the black community who strongly believes in the power of punishment, with little to no sympathy for convicted felons. Those who tend to empathize with the issue of mass incarceration are likely the ones who’ve been directly affected by it.
The conservative nature of the black community also shows itself in its treatment of President Barack Obama. Many blacks have accepted their role as quiet partners in the Obama presidency, loyally supporting the president without any clear expectation that Obama will return the favor by advocating on African American issues. With black approval consistently above 90%, one could argue that Obama should at least give 1/5 of his political energy to the group that gave him roughly 1/5 of his votes. Instead, many in the black community are fearful of speaking out, primarily because they don’t want to “mess things up” for Barack.
The general idea is that for many, to be black is to be cautious, careful and quiet. Those who make waves are typically ostracized, and the polite quest for status symbols becomes the sole objective of many in our community. Also, our collective self-esteem problem makes us unwilling to stand up for what we deserve, since we tend to be happy with whatever we’ve got. So, the gay marriage poll results are not surprising if you understand the nature of the black middle class. The truth is that we can be more conservative than anyone else.