Romney’s Black, Mormon problem
By Christine A. Scheller
ABOVE PHOTO: Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney is reportedly not even trying to court the Black vote and doesn't want to talk about his church's racist past. Will Black Republicans rally for him anyway?
Romney Ignores Black Voters
Now that Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has dropped out of the race, an Obama/Romney contest is all but inevitable. With that inevitability come questions about how the candidates are doing with black voters.
In an article published last week,The Daily Beast reported that there are no African-Americans in the "top ranks" of the Romney campaign and his most prominent black endorsement to date may be from Aubrey Fenton, a former Burlington County freeholder. The article also said that the two black Republicans in Congress (Tim Scott and Allan West) have yet to endorse the Republican front-runner.
"Romney, running against the first black president, has no chance of winning most African-American voters. But neglecting to court them at all sends the wrong message to swing voters, said political players and observers. Romney's problem, they said, isn't that blacks aren't buying his message but that he hasn't bothered to sell it to them," the article said.
Romney Refuses to Address Mormon Race History
Romney may also have a Mormon problem when it comes to African Americans. Last week, at a Wisconsin town hall meeting, there was a "tense moment" between Romney and a Ron Paul supporter who questioned him about his views of inter-racial marriage based on teachings in the Book of Mormon, ABC News reported.
Referring to a passage that links black skin with a Canaanite curse, 28-year-old Bret Hatch asked Romney if he believes it is "a sin for a white man to marry and procreate with a black?" "No," Romney "responded sternly," according to ABC News, before turning away from Hatch.
And today, in a strongly worded article at blackamericaweb.com, Michael H. Cottman asks where the "tough questions" from black Republicans are on this issue.
"They should hold Romney's feet to the fire instead of giving him a free pass. Many blacks view the Mormon church as racist and the African-Americans who make up only one percent of the six million Mormans in the United States are hard-pressed to convince critics otherwise," said Cottman.
President Obama Will Use Mormon Issue Against Romney
Cottman also said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is predicting that the Obama campaign will use Romney's Mormon faith against him in the presidential campaign, but President Obama may have his own problems with African Americans. Some, including Thy Black Man staff writer Boyce Watkins, are asking where Obama's Black campaign workers are and why African Americans haven't received more government contracts from the Democratic National Convention, given the fact that an overwhelming majority of them voted for the president in 2008.
"If we can't figure out exactly and specifically how large numbers of African Americans are benefiting from the success of elected officials that we support, then we may want to reconsider whether or not we are wasting our votes," said Watkins.
Black Mormons Defend Church
As to the Black Mormon issue, last year New York Times religion columnist Mark Oppenheimer met with a group of some 300 black Mormons who defended their faith. He also talked to Harvard scholar Max Perry Mueller, who was writing a dissertation on African-Americans and the Mormon church at the time. Mueller told Oppenheimber that "the church has 'made a very sincere effort' to welcome blacks, but that so far few American-born blacks have joined the church." He also said "'the idea that Mormons' were until recently 'exceptionally exclusionary or racist is probably unfair'" given the racist histories of other religious groups.
Christians Used 'Curse of Cain' to Justify Slavery
For more on that, Wikipedia's article on the "Curse and mark of Cain" is a place to start. It refers to a 1998 Los Angeles Times article that reminds readers that the Mormon church was not alone in connecting the curse of Cain with black skin.
"In the past, Mormons as well as other churches believed that Africans were descendants of the biblical personages Cain and Ham, who, according to the Bible, displeased God and were cursed. ... Over time, the curses on Ham and Cain came to be associated with black skin and were used as a justification for slavery–and, in the case of the Mormon church, one rationale for denying its priesthood to blacks."
What do you think?
Should Mitt Romney address his church's racist past? And, how would you feel about the Obama campaign using Romney's faith against him in the campaign?
Christine A. Scheller is UrbanFaith's News & Religion editor. In past articles, she has explored her personal journeys in urban ministry and racial diversity. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have news tips or story ideas.
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