Friday, February 09, 2007

Homophobia Knows No Race

By Steve Charing

Senior Political Analyst

The recent brouhaha stemming from Grey’s Anatomy star Isaiah Washington’s calling fellow co-star T.R. Knight a "faggot" (or the media’s dubbing it as "F-word") during an on-set confrontation spawned criticism over the protests. Several African-American columnists and pundits are questioning the virulent reaction by the lgbt community and some of its organizations by suggesting that the race of Mr. Washington was a primary motivator in the backlash.

They offer that the hostile reaction among gays towards Mr. Washington represents a prevailing perception that African-Americans are more homophobic than whites and, therefore, his use of the "F-Word" is somewhat expected. Implied here is that that the protests by whites within the lgbt community would be less intense if the "F-word" user were white and the calls for his firing would not be so evident.

I disagree.

The unfortunate use of the "F-word" is deplorable whether the individual who said it was black, white Asian, Latino or whatever. The same goes for the target of the insult.

I would be equally outraged, as I am sure most in the lgbt community and its allies would be, no matter what the ethnic background of the person who delivered the slur was or who the recipient of the offense might be. The protests would have been similarly justified had white co-star Patrick Dempsey called T.R. Knight a "faggot."

Homophobia knows no race.

To be sure, there is considerable homophobia among African-Americans. But for every black preacher who condemns homosexuality there are many more white ministers and other religious leaders doing the same. Moreover, there is widespread homophobia among the Latino and Asian communities, not to mention among white socially conservative folks. Consequently, no one particular race or ethnic group corners the market on homophobia or is exempt from it. Perhaps blacks conceal it less, therefore, contributing to the perception.

Not that Latinos and Asians haven’t been discriminated against, but many in the lgbt community feel more disappointed at African-Americans for their homophobia. The main reason is that black preachers use the same Bible that white racists waved against blacks to justify segregation, discrimination and violence. They sermonize from the same pulpits where they previously once stood to condemn past racial injustices, presenting a double standard.

These preachers are aware of the pain and suffering that discrimination brings, and gays believe that African-Americans should be more compassionate as a result of their own tragic experiences. Plus, gays and lesbians had been traditional allies during the peak of the civil rights movement, a fact that fuels more disappointment.

But these writers who speculated there was a more concerted outcry from whites in the gay community over Isaiah Washington’s comments simply because of his race leads me to the world of sports to reject that theory.

The late Reggie White, an African-American professional football star, was a first-rate homophobe. On a number of occasions he made blistering comments about gays. For example, he once said, "I'm offended that homosexuals will say that homosexuals deserve rights." He also accused the U.S. of going away from God by allowing homosexuality to "run rampant" and compared gays to liars and cheaters and those who are malicious. Get the picture? But any protests were relatively tepid.

An uproar did occur when former baseball pitcher John Rocker, a white Southerner, railed against gays and foreigners during an anti-minority, stereotype-laced diatribe while being interviewed for a sports magazine. For his comments, Rocker was vilified for many weeks. The furor forced the Atlanta Braves organization to discredit his comments and pressured Rocker to recant. But his apology was aimed at his racist remarks, not the homophobic part.

He was ostracized in virtually every ballpark the following season and eventually, aided by injuries, ended his once promising career. Rocker will always be defined and remembered by his rant about the eclectic assortment of passengers, including "some queer with AIDS," on New York’s No. 7 subway train.

A correspondingly potent backlash was launched against New York Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey, a white man, for anti-gay comments on the Howard Stern Show and later apologized under pressure.

While Reggie White went on and on publicly for an extended period of time—years, not minutes, as in Rocker’s or Shockey’s case—about how sinful gays are, not so much as a peep was heard from the lgbt community or its African-American components, much less the NFL. Although he did receive rebukes from GLAAD and the media, he was never forced—only requested—to apologize for his anti-gay venom. Yet Rocker and Shockey were broadly condemned for their brief but hurtful tirades.

Therefore, I disagree with those who opined that the reaction against Isaiah Washington was motivated by his race. Reggie White, a black man, more or less received a pass for his ongoing anti-gay comments and was elected to the Hall of Fame. John Rocker, a white man, was shamed out of baseball (and rightly so), and Jeremy Shockey had to eat his words.

Hate is hate, and it must be eradicated. So should racism and homophobia regardless of the source. Isaiah Washington deserved the hostile reaction he received. It was not about race; it was about homophobia. People should be called out for using anti-gay slurs regardless of their race. Nobody should get a free pass when making homophobic comments.

Homophobia knows no race.

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