While I will continue to argue that the African American community doesn’t have a patent on homophobia, it does, however, have a problem with it.
And Tracy Morgan, comedian and actor on NBC’s “30 Rock,” is another glaring example of the malady.
During a recent standup performance at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, Morgan’s “intended” jokes about LGBTQ people were nothing more than insulting jabs:
“Gays need to quit being pussies and not be whining about something as insignificant as bullying.”
“Gay is something that kids learn from the media and programming.”
Morgan has publicly expressed his mea culpas to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, and he has now — as part and parcel of his forgiveness tour — spoken out in support of LGBTQ equality.
But Morgan, like many of us who grew up in communities of African descent — here and abroad — cannot escape the cultural, personal, interpersonal, and institutional indoctrinations in which homophobia is constructed as if it were in our very makeup — part of what we define as being black.
And the community’s expressions of intolerance towards LGBTQ people is overt regardless of gender. For example, sisters mouth off about us while brothers get both — verbally and physically — violent with us.
My son “better talk to me like a man and not in a gay voice or I’ll pull out a knife and stab that little n-gger to death,” Morgan told his audience at the Ryman Auditorium.
(Just as the LGBTQ community got on Morgan for his homophobic rant, the community should have also called him out on his use of the n-word. Let’s not forget about the racist rant in 2006 by Michael Richards, who played the lovable and goofy character Kramer on the T.V. sitcom “Seinfeld,” for his repetitive use of the n-word in the context of supposed humor that has, many of us feel, cost him his career.)
CNN’s Don Lemon, who recently came out, gives a window into the male perspective on homosexuality.
“It’s quite different for an African-American male,” Lemon told Joy Behar on her HLN show. “It’s about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You’re taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine.”
Black GBTQ sexualities within African American culture are perceived to further threaten not only black male heterosexuality, but also the ontology of blackness itself, which is built on the most misogynistic and homophobic strains of Black Nationalism and afrocentricism that were and still are birth, nurtured, and propagated in black churches and communities.
The belief that exposure to LGBTQ people and anti-homophobia workplaces, classrooms, workshops and trainings lessens, if not eradicates, the prejudice is true. But for African American males that is not always the case.
For example, life imitated art for Isaiah Washington, but he, like Morgan, went on his black male homophobic rant nonetheless.
In 2007 Washington’s public apology to the LGBTQ community for the derogatory comments he deliberately and repeatedly made about his costar T. R. Knight’s sexuality was a disingenuous effort to deflect attention away from his desperate attempts to save his job.
Washington knows of both the psychological damage and the physical harm the word “faggot” engenders. And he knows it not only from empathizing as an African American where the n-word has been hurled at him, but he also knows of the harm the word “faggot” engenders from being called one.
Washington played the handsome Dr. Preston Burke on the hit drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” but he has taken on many other roles. His most challenging and rewarding role was that of an African-American gay male in the context of the most dangerous environment one can be in — the company of homophobic black men.
In Spike Lee’s 1996 film Get on the Bus, Washington and Harry J. Lennix play a black gay couple (Kyle and Randall, respectively) in the midst of a breakup that gets played out in high homophobic drama in the cramped quarters of a group of African-American men taking a cross-country bus trip from Los Angeles to our nation’s capital in order to participate in Minister Louis Farrakhan’s historic Million Man March — a march that explicitly forbade women and gay men to attend.
Playing the role of a black gay Republican Gulf War veteran, Washington imparts to the group the violent acts of homophobia and racism he incurred on an ongoing basis from his fellow comrades, like being purposely shot at by his own platoon because of both his sexual orientation and race.
In October 2006, Washington got into fisticuffs with “Grey’s Anatomy” costar Patrick Dempsey by grabbing him by the throat and outing Knight, saying, “I’m not your little faggot like [T.R. Knight].” Washington plays out a similar scene as Kyle in Get On the Bus.
Morgan’s homophobic rant is not about LGBTQ people, but rather it’s about the tightly constructed hyper-masculinity of black manhood.
While it is important that my brothers cultivate and embrace “images of strong black men,” can’t the brotherhood include the diversity of sexual orientation?
Rev. Irene Monroe