We do know that homophobia and intolerance exist in the black community right?…right. However I feel that whenever there is media coverage or a high trafficked article pertaining to this topic, the knee jerk response from many black people is “but white people do it too.” Specifically speaking in the context of gay men, many times it seems like the benchmark for gauging an issue is to determine if white people do it too or if straight people (primarily straight men) do it too. HIV/AIDS rates are disproportionately high in gay and transgendered communities of color due to unprotected sex. Yet we still see responses of “so what, straight people have raw sex too” but the difference is heterosexuals HIV/AIDS rates are still lower then rates in SGL and transgender people of color.
Making an obvious statement about what straights do doesn’t add to the conversation or address the issue. What makes white people and straight people the litmus test on what is proper or improper behavior? Two situations presented themselves recently concerning the black community and anti (black) gay sentiments.
The first came about during viewings of Dear White People, which has a black gay character played by Tyler James Williams (Walking Dead, Everybody Hates Chris). I read two articles about how the primarily black audience members reacted adversely to certain gay scenes and in one case (concerning the Morehouse football team) acted extremely loud and obnoxious again during certain scenes involving the black gay character in the film. In the initial article a viewing was had for college students at USC followed by a Q&A session with the director who happens to be a black gay man. During the film, with the director in attendance, audience members allegedly groaned loudly and expressed discomfort when the gay scenes appeared on screen.
In the comments section from both articles and from comments across social media many straight and gay blacks had similar comments of “but white people are homophobic too. I’m tired of hearing about black homophobia. What about racism?” Yes whites can be and are homophobic and racism is alive and well but what does this have to do with homophobia in the black community?
The second occurrence that was a lot more incendiary and volatile took place at the 107th Holy Convocation of COGIC (church of god in christ). The reason you may not have seen or heard about it is because it was overshadowed by the spectacle of the I Aint Gay No More viral video. Apparently superintendent Earl Carter and his son (“a 6’1 ft football player”, his words) had concerns about the large number of homosexuals walking around and attending the event. This quandary manifested itself into the below anti-homosexual sermon.
This sermon by Earl Carter set the stage for the now viral “I Aint Gay No More, I’ve Been DeliveredT” video by Andrew Caldwell. A part from the numerous commentary videos, jokes, parodies and media attention this video received, there were the comments from blacks who said, “well this happens in white churches too.” This is correct and on an almost daily basis, white conservative republican politicians, televangelist Bryan Fischer, Pat Robertson and Russian diplomats will make anti-LGBT comments and they are extensively discussed and talked about in media. This does negate that we shouldn’t address or discuss the homophobia within religious organizations and communities of color.
Ironically Tyler James Williams who plays the black gay character in Dear White People expressed his concerns and observations about black homophobia directly in an interview. He stated;
“Whether we like to address it or not, the African American community is notoriously homophobic,” he said. “We have been coming up on this rough side of the mountain, as far as civil rights issues go, but we haven’t necessarily addressed the fact that there is a whole other side to that civil rights coin, which are gay rights.”
“I feel like the new stereotypical character[s] are gay characters, where you can’t just have a regular everyday guy who just happens to be gay, just like many people that I know,” he said. “You don’t automatically need to see and know that [the character is] gay just by his mannerisms. That’s not everybody.”
He also stated that since he has played a gay character some fans have said they will no longer support him (paraphrasing) .
Like clockwork, sure enough, some comments under the interview and also on social media bemoaned “homophobia exists in the white community too.”
I’m very sensitive to images of African Americans and maybe a little hyper-sensitive when it concerns images of black men and black gays in media. When viewing many gay websites and publications that have a predominately white face, it’s annoying that these outlets and publications rarely have images of men of color. Additionally it’s very frustrating that the few times you do see men of color, it’s the face of Africans who discriminate against gays or references to HIV/AIDs as if this is all that Africa and African Americans have to offer. So I do get it.
In the context of homophobia can we just stop saying “but white people do it too” or at least use the phrase wisely? This phrase doesn’t add any valuable content to the overall discussion. By repeating this statement, we are in a way absolving ourselves from accountability and responsibility. We can’t expect change by ignoring or giving a pass to the issue. If homophobia is to be addressed or any type of healing and additional progression is to be had, the issue should be acknowledged head-on without circumventions.