The most bizarre thing that is going on in the Black community is this thing of Black men on the "down-low." It is bad enough that Black people in our community are not married and I can almost see why 80% of our women are single and raising children on their own.
Down Low culture has risen out of obscurity to develop a well-connected set of institutions, including Web sites, Internet chat, private parties and clubs readily available to those who know where to look.
I was re-reading J.L. King's book On the Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of "Straight" Black Men Who Sleep with Men and it reminded me of a conversation with a man who I have known for a while who confessed to me that he was sleeping with other men while he was married. I asked him why would he put his wife at risk and he told me he did not give a damn anymore. He figured that she could no longer please him but his "man" could. His man knew what spots to hit it (even though there is only two spots he could hit it anyway). That conversation took place 10 years ago. I have not seen him since. To tell you the actual truth I hope never to see him again because I feel that there is no room for a man having sex with another man (and vice versa for women).
But the bigger reason why I have no interest in talking to this person is because he is a pastor who was having sex with his "man." The man was a deacon at his church. The First Lady was his wife. Ironically, I read a similar story in King's book.
Popular hit songs like TLC’s 1994 tune “Creep,” Brian McKnight’s 1995 song “On the Down Low,” and R. Kelly’s 1996 tune “Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)” all talked about the duplicitous lives of some African-American men.
The long-term effects of secrets and lies contributes to the alarming health crisis among African-American heterosexual women. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health organization, African-American women account for 72 percent of all new HIV cases in women, and they are 23 times more likely to be infected with the virus than white women. What is also unnerving is that 67 percent of African-American women with HIV contracted it from heterosexual sex. And two ways that the virus is contracted heterosexually is through intravenous drug use and African-American men on the down low.
Studies have found that African Americans make up the majority of AIDS cases in the southern U.S. And the South also has the highest percentage of DL men infected with HIV/AIDS while a large portion of the African-American community nationally sits passively on the sidelines.
What we have learned about HIV/AIDS is that it knows no cultural, racial, ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, geographic, political or ideological limits. We also know that it is 100 percent preventable, since its transmission is dependent solely upon human behavior.
DL men come from all walks of life. For example, college students are being impacted. North Carolina health officials released a study in 2004 that found that of 84 percent of male college students infected with HIV in the state in the last four years, 73 percent were Black. Of those Black men, 67 percent said they had sex with men and 27 percent with female partners. Also alarming is that a higher percentage of African-American men over 50 are contracting the virus. With men taking Viagra and sleeping with younger women who unbeknownst to them have been with young DL men infected with the virus, the cycle is insidious.
Sounds like a pandemic if you ask me. I was talking to my good friend Rev. John Straub, who is the pastor over at Peace Lutheran Church on the far east side in Detroit. We talked about saving our boys. He told me that if we can save our boys then we can save our families.
I have been saying that all along. This is why I am a strong proponent of more Black men in the church, more Black men in the schools teaching and becoming strong educational leaders.
The Black Church’s gender ideology and sexual politics also contribute to this DL subculture. A study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life indicated that African-American churchgoers are the least likely of all faiths to support gay civil rights. The Forum also indicated that since 2000, Black Protestants are less likely than other Protestant groups to believe that gays should have equal rights. For example, Black Protestant support for gays dipped to a low of 40 percent last year, down from 65 percent in 1996 and 59 percent in 1992.
You can find them (men on the DL) in just about any church in our community. There are gospel conventions throughout the nation for churches. There is one for ushers, Sunday school departments, music departments and ministers. . . These events allow men to meet men and to have sex while away from their hometowns. Many midnight concerts turn into affairs where brothers are cruising each other.
The hypocrisy of Black pastors and their congregations who ostracize men who have sex with men, lie about their own secret sexual hook ups, and present themselves as loving Christians. This is widespread across the Black community as well as in our schools. Think I'm joking? Ask yourself why would Black state lawmakers support an anti-bullying bill? An anti-bullying bill is a bill designated to support homosexuals for being harassed.
As much as the African-American community, Black churches in particular, remain silent about Down Low culture. I wonder why?
The economic and social challenges for Black men in general make it more difficult to risk alienating friends, family and even the church by coming out because those are the traditional safe harbors of retreat in times of trouble. Meanwhile, innocent people are dying while the Black community sits back and do absolutely nothing.
The Black community once again needs leadership to address an internal crisis. We cannot allow Black men on the DL to continue to play Russian roulette with their lives and those of their partners. But the solution cannot be found in homophobic messages from the pulpit or community wide alienation when most of these pastors are practicing the same thing.If the Black community, including the church, cannot find a way to talk honestly and openly about sexuality it will be complicit, through the silence of consent, in the preventable loss of life.