Bishop Harry Jackson, who is leading a campaign to prevent same-sex couples in the District of Columbia from being able to legally marry, is employing increasingly divisive rhetoric designed to push a wedge between the District’s African Americans and supporters of gay rights in the city. In his weekend speech to national Religious Right activists at the Values Voter Summit and in a recent column, Jackson ignores African American LGBT people and portrays the gay community as enemies and oppressors of poor black single mothers. In his Values Voter Summit remarks on Saturday, Jackson urged attendees to be more careful about attacks on President Obama that might sound racist, because it was making it harder for him to convince black pastors to join his anti-gay crusade.
“Harry Jackson appears to have no shame,” said People For the American Way Foundation President Michael B. Keegan. “He portrays himself as an advocate for interracial cooperation while shamelessly and aggressively following a racially divisive game plan on marriage. Equality is for everybody.”
“Harry Jackson is showing why we call him ‘Point Man for the Wedge Strategy,’” said People For the American Way Foundation Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery, who authored a report on Jackson by the same title. “He is working hard to stir up hatred and resentment in hopes that he can use it to stop progress toward equality. We urge reporters covering the debate marriage equality in the District to take note of Jackson’s ugly and divisive tactics.”
Jackson said repeatedly of people who don’t support his agenda that “there are people in our culture who are easily led.” He went on to say that African Americans who don’t support him are “in an ideological plantation” and “easily led” to believe the worst “character assassination” about white conservative evangelicals. That’s why, he said, right-wing activists need to tone down their attacks on Obama. In the fight to keep same-sex couples from getting married, he said, he “can’t win if my own black brothers see me as a traitor.”
“Bishop Jackson is tragically blind to the fact that manyof the LGBT people to whom he seeks to deny equality are black people. He is also blind to the fact that he himself is being manipulated by conservative forces to sew seeds of divisiveness between black straight persons and black gay persons as well as between black clergy and black progressives,” said Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Samuel, pastor of Victory for the World Church in Stone Mountain, Ga. and vice-chair of the African American Ministers Leadership Council, a program of People For the American Way Foundation. “Jackson’s divisiveness is being advanced at a time when Americans need to be in dialogue and partnership across the lines of race, class, religion and sexual orientation in orderto collectively combat the problems of health care, public safety, educationand the economy which plague us all.”