On Black People And “Our” Homophobia
1. As I listened to Jason Collins and Oprah discuss the extra “stigma” of being gay and Black, I couldn’t help but wonder how true the “Blacks are more homophobic than everyone else” sentiment truly is. I think many of us—myself included—have said it so much that we’ve accepted it to be true, and since we’ve accepted it to be true, we don’t bother challenging or even testing that theory. And, over time, this widely-held theory is repeated as fact.
I’m not here to argue whether it’s true or false (at least not yet), but how do we really know? Sure, we can cite a few rap lyrics or some loosely connected vagaries about Black people and Christianity, but all that might prove is that a certain type of Black person might be more likely to be homophobic. But, once you control for education, class, location, and any other environmental factors, how would we (Black people) fare?
This phenomenon sort of reminds of me of the theory that Black people are the worst tippers. Whether or not the theory might be true is inconsequential (And yes, I believe it to be true). It’s so ingrained into so many people’s minds that they don’t even bother challenging it, they use confirmation bias to strengthen their beliefs, and after enough circular thinking it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
2. I think that when people say that Black people are more homophobic than everyone else, what they’re really saying is that Black men are more homophobic than everyone else. Black women generally get a pass, and I think that pass is undeserved.
Generally speaking, I think straight Black women are more superficially accepting of homosexuals—more likely to have gay male or lesbian friends, more “comfortable” around gays, more likely to participate in the fight for gay rights, etc. But, when it comes to actual beliefs about what constitutes male homosexuality, they’re no different than the typical Black male, as both the typical Black male and the “gay-friendly” Black woman tend to believe that there’s no such thing as a bisexual male. Basically, if a man has ever participated in any type of non-straight activity—a one-time act, a thought, a recurring dream, anything—he’s gay now, and gay forever. This is homophobic.
3. I think quite a few women are going to read those last couple sentences and tell me that I’m wrong, that they and most of the Black women they know don’t have any homophobic bones in their bodies. I think that before they leave any comments today, they should ask themselves two questions: Would you date a man who had one gay experience fifteen years ago? If no, would your answer change if you were 100% certain he wouldn’t do that again? If the answer is still no, I’d like to know why. What is it about that one-time act that would completely eliminate a man from your consideration?
4. I think I’m anxiously waiting for the day some prominent person just stops the denials, double-talk, and mealymouthedness and just comes out and says “Yes, I’m homophobic.” I think I’ll be waiting a while for that to happen. I don’t mind that, though. I’ve been waiting a couple decades now for a public figure to just say “Yes, I’m racist. Can you stop asking me whether or not I’m racist now?” so if anything it proves I’m patient.
5. I think I don’t like it when certain people (and by “certain people” I mean “certain Black Christians”) are asked about their views concerning homosexuality, and are criticized for responding honestly. But, I also think that socially abhorrent views are meant to be criticized. I think my problem isn’t necessarily with the criticism but with the ambush tactics—ask someone a question even though you already know how they’re going to answer just so you can make an example out of them—especially from other “progressive” Black Christians.
6. I think you can ask a million Christians about the Bible and what they take from it and get a million different variations. I mean, we (Christians) all believe that, to paraphrase Bill Maher, there’s a “magic genie in the sky that’ll grant our wishes if we ask really hard,” so is it really that bad when one of us also believes homosexuality is a sin or that you can legitimately pray your gay away?
7. Speaking of progressive people and homosexuality, I think there’s a bit of a disconnect when it comes to what people are willing to admit. To wit, many people (myself included) believe that human sexuality exists on a continuum. Basically, there’s a sexuality scale that we all fit somewhere on. Most of us are gathered either at the gay end or the straight end, but the rest of us are somewhere in the middle.
But, if a scale exists, I think it also stands to reason that a person in the middle can consciously choose to be gay or straight. Yet, I think you’re unlikely to find a liberal/progressive person publicly admit that people who can actually make that type of choice exist because it opens a Pandora’s Box for “less enlightened” people to say “See, I told you that all gay people are only gay because they chose to be.”
8. I know I’m far from the first person to say this, but I think someone needs to invent another word to use to describe someone being uneasy around, unaccepting of, or hateful towards homosexuals. “Homophobic” just doesn’t seem comprehensive enough to capture all of that. Feel free to list any suggestions.
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)