Let me be clear. All black people are not homophobic.
That being said, the reaction to Roland Martin’s suspension by CNN for sending a homophobic tweet has once again highlighted a divide in our community about how we treat our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
Black men and women have been both a catalyst and an impediment in the fight for LGBT equality. On one hand many black writers, clergy, and activits preach tolerance and acceptance, while others argue that there is no place for black LGBT people in our community. This struggle—between acceptance and intolerance—continues to wage on in our barbershops, schools, churches, songs, and social networks.
When GLAAD cried foul over political pundit and journalist Roland Martin’s offensive tweet, many in our community brushed it off as a “joke.” Some (even a few Clutch readers) claimed those who were offended were just “too sensitive,” and shouldn’t have taken offense to Martin’s tweet stating, “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him!” Although Martin claimed he was talking about smacking a man for liking soccer, not David Beckham, the damage was done. Once again violence against gays was not only normalized, it was celebrated (and excused) by many.
While some will say Martin’s tweet isn’t that bad, it comes on the heels of a viral video showing a young, black, gay man being beaten by a gang of other black men. This gang of men targeted the young man simply because he was gay and proceeded to viciously attack him in broad daylight. The video was then posted to World Star Hip Hop where many of the early commenters cheered on the attackers (others later chimed in to condemn the attack).
Even though I’m sure Roland Martin wouldn’t excuse the heinous violence caught on tape, his words add to an attitude that makes it acceptable to mistreat gays and lesbians because they are somehow defective or dirty or different than the norm.
If anyone should understand the weight of words, it should be Roland Martin. And if any group should be able to sympathize with being discriminated against for no fault of their own, it is black folks.
Words, and even those we don’t intend for others to take seriously, have power. We can no longer excuse, make light of, or give ignorance a pass simply because it doesn’t seem offensive to us. We can no longer continue to shrug off normalized violence by calling it a joke. Unlike the popular nursery rhyme, sticks, stones, and words can hurt, and in some cases, kill.
As black folks, we know what it feels like to be discriminated against. We can look at our parents, grandparents, and our history to see the sacrifices that were made for us to be able to live life however we want. So why do some of us feel justified in not only advocating against equality for others, but actively participating in normalizing violence against them?
I agree with dream hampton when she writes, “As a community, we must continue to press for a culture free of hypocrisy and condemnation. And we have to press for sensitivity from our community leaders, within our churches and where ever there is gay bashing. The idea that sexists or homophobes can never be oppressors because they themselves are oppressed by racism is a non-argument. Black homophobes should and must be called out to create a safe community for all us sinners.”
What do you think?