Social conservatives on wrong side

By Leonard Pitts

This falls into the category of being careful what you wish for.

Me, I have long wished the Republican Party would offer black voters a credible alternative. For years, I have tweaked the GOP for its inability to attract black voters. Especially since the black community, though often derided as ultra-liberal by people who don’t know any better, actually contains a deep core of conservatism.

But the Grand Old Party never even bothered to make a case to black voters. It was too busy using them as scapegoats to scare up white voters — Richard Nixon’s infamous “Southern strategy.”

That may be about to change. And not for the better.

I refer you to two reports that ran last week in the Los Angeles Times. They detailed a meeting of 70 black religious leaders in L.A., said to be the first in a series to be held around the country. The GOP supported the meetings with an aim toward drawing black religious conservatives into a political alliance with their white counterparts.

I’d be excited to see the GOP finally making a serious push for black voters — if the party was offering fresh ideas on police profiling, housing discrimination, unemployment and other issues of importance to black folks. But the focus of the meeting wasn’t on any of that. Rather it was on that gosh-darned “homosexual agenda.”

Attendees were even shown a video featuring Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott, last seen apologizing up and down for saying that segregationist Strom Thurmond would have made a darn fine president. On the video, Lott decries the “moral degradation” posed by gay marriage.

One does not know whether to laugh or cry. One wonders if it is possible for that many black ministers to be, simultaneously and in one place, out of their ever-lovin’ minds.

Let me point out something that ought to be obvious: Social conservatism has never been a friend to black people. And here, I am not talking about the conservatism of small government, low taxes and strong defense. Rather, I refer to the self-appointed defenders of so-called “traditional values.”

Once upon a time, those folks called themselves Southern Democrats. These days, they are Republican religious conservatives. Not that it matters. What’s important is the simple fact that the traditional values position on matters of specific importance to blacks has never once been validated by history.

Whether the issue was slavery, segregation, lynching, voting rights or housing discrimination, social conservatives have always taken a position that history later judged to be ignorant and flat-out wrong. They have a similarly abysmal track record with regard to women’s rights and anti-Semitism.

Which leaves me at a loss to understand why any black possessed of a functioning brain would give this atavistic bunch the time of day.

Because the Bible tells them to?

Would this be the same Bible that once told social conservatives they had a divine duty to kidnap and enslave Africans? The same one that justified them in hacking to pieces any black man who cast a stray glance toward a white woman?

Give me a break.

It would be the height of stupidity for blacks to align themselves with those whose philosophical forefathers maintained the machinery of our subjugation. It would be the height of hypocrisy to do so in an effort to deny someone else his or her civil rights.

But I can see it happening. Homo-hysteria is sweeping this country like the Red Scare did in the ’50s. Then as now, opportunistic politicians are not above using unreasoned fear to further their careers.

Still, shame on any black that joins this retrogressive crusade. Social conservatives have been on the wrong side of virtually every American freedom movement.

News flash: They still are.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may contact him at: lpitts@herald.com