by Rev.Irene Monroe
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 comedian Kevin Hart is another glaring example of the malady.
Just days after taking the coveted post to host the 91st Academy Awards, Hart stepped down rather than offering an apology for when his 2011 homophobic tweets re-surfaced.
“I chose to pass, I passed on the apology,” Hart, presenting himself as an aggrieved victim, said in a home video he made for the public. “The reason why I passed is because I’ve addressed this several times. This is not the first time this has come up. I’ve addressed it … I’m not going to continue to go back and tap into the days of old when I moved on and I’m in a completely different space in my life.”
As one who has purportedly evolved on LGBTQ issues, Hart squandered his elevated profile to educate the public how his evolution came about.
Although Hart’s now a crossover phenom, he still plays largely to a black audience. And, sadly, in 2018 this audience is a demographic group- young, old, church or unchurched- still unevolved and not completely woke to the deleterious effects of homophobia on its community. It’s not easy for any person of African descent to be LGBTQ in our black communities, but our transgender brothers and sisters might feel the most discrimination.
Black trans death rate is as meaningless to the larger black community as it is to the larger society. Many trans reside in black and Latinx communities, and their lives are in as much danger in their communities for “walking while trans” as it is for “walking while black or brown” in America. While many in our black and LatinX communities will take to the streets when another young unarmed presumed heterosexual African American male has been shot and killed on the streets of America, the community goes dark when a trans death has occurred.
And the thought that our black and Latinx communities, especially its churches, would annually honor Transgender Day of Remembrance, an international event memorializing transgender people murdered because of their gender identities or gender expressions, like it does MLK Day and Black History Month highlights whose lives matter.
While it’s shockingly troubling that Hart chose to walk away from hosting the 2019 Academy Awards as an aggrieved victim rather than to offer an apology is evident he gleaned very little, if anything, from a similar incident with his pal Tracy Morgan. In 2011 Tracy Morgan, comedian, and actor on NBC’s “30 Rock went on a homophobic rant during his stand-up performance at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. Morgan’s “intended” jokes about LGBTQ people were instead insulting jabs.
Morgan, unlike Hart, however, publicly expressed his mea culpas as part and parcel of his forgiveness tour and he spoke out in support of LGBTQ equality.
Hart, like Morgan, and many of us, who have grown up in communities of African descent — here and abroad — cannot escape the cultural, personal, interpersonal, and institutional indoctrinations in which homo/transphobia are constructed in our very makeup of being defined as black.
And the community’s expression of its intolerance of LGBTQ people is easily seen along gender lines. 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.
And, Hart shared during a stand-up routine how he had advised his 3-year-old son having a “gay moment”:
“Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my daughters doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay.’ ”
These homophobic rants are not about LGBTQ people, but rather it’s about the tightly constructed hyper-masculinity of black manhood. I ask, in my brothers cultivating images of strong black men,” can the brotherhood also include the diversity of their sexual orientations and gender expression?
While Hart will not go on a mea culpa tour as Morgan did I do suggest Hart read or go see “Boy Erased,” a tour de force memoir about a minister’s son trapped between the dictates of fundamentalist Christianity, conversion therapy and his queer sexuality.
But the pain this moment with Hart has caused many LGBTQ of African descent mustn’t go unnoticed. I must confess I was a fan of Hart until this kerfuffle. My spouse and I just recently went to see him in the comedy “Night School” with Tiffany Haddish.
“As a gay man, I was painfully aware of Hart’s history of homophobic jokes,” Ernest Owens wrote in “Kevin Hart’s Oscars controversy feeds the stereotype of the black homophobe.”
Many feel there’s a double standard, undoubtedly, when it comes to homo/transphobic statements blurted out by public figures and artists versus racists statements.
For example, 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. sit-com “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.
However, many black comedians like “Saturday Night Live” star Michael Che and Nick Cannon point out a double standard when white comedians make homophobic jokes with no reprisal or backlash from the public. Cannon reposted homophobic tweets from Chelsea Handler, Amy Schumer, and Sarah Silverman in defense of Hart.
Some of us who live at the intersections of these communities will choose between standing with our black homophobic brothers and sisters versus standing with racist white LGBTQs. I, however, choose to do neither in order for me to not only free myself from these “isms” but to free them, too.
Hart feels he has evolved on the issue of LGBTQ sensibilities to the point no apology is needed. And, consequently, a forced and heartless one was offered.