Media: Open Letter to Tracy Morgan
Submission by Craig Laurance Gidney, TNG contributor. Gidney is the author of the Lammie finalist collection SEA, SWALLOW ME & OTHER STORIES, and an editor at Lethe Press.
Dear Tracy Morgan:
Nothing happens in a vacuum. When you recently expressed yourself in an allegedly comic rant in Nashville this past week, you were adding your voice to a well-established chorus of hate that suffuses the black community. I am thinking of the Hiphop machismo of Dr. Dre (“I don’t care for those kind of people). The calls to violence by reggae “dancehall” stars like Buju Banton and Yellowman. I’ve heard this hatred rise like smog from the pulpits of black church leaders—from Bishop Eddie Long, to Ken Hutcherson. The rhetoric of whipping the demons of homosexuality out of the black body has a long and sordid history. How many black youth have been cast from their families because of these beliefs? How many more stay in the closet—or get married and keep their love and lust “on the Down Low”?
Author and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston once opined that that “black women are the mules of the earth.” I am inclined to believe that black LGBTs are the scapegoats of the earth. We are a “white disease” imported by colonialism, a blight upon the race. We are responsible for the failure of the black family. Frustration about the demasculinization of black men is foisted upon us. Black activist Elridge Cleaver wrote an infamous essay about James Baldwin, where he called him a “schoolmarm” and claimed that black gay men had a desire to bear a white man’s baby. I remember a black college professor that was my advisor was up in arms about Isaac Julien’s film Looking For Langston; my professor insisted that Hughes was asexual and it was a shame that the gay community was now claiming him as one of their own. This misguided hatred has most recently found a foothold in Uganda, with the notorious “kill gays” bill.
This rhetoric, of the evil of homosexuality in the black community, is not an exercise in abstraction to me. I have been bashed by other African Americans. I have only been called ‘faggot’ by other African Americans to my face. And yes, it stings more when the basher or bigot shares a hue and culture that matches my own. When I was younger, I used to get my hair cut at a black barbershop. It was a wonderful cultural experience—until, inevitably, the topic of homosexuality came up, I felt myself behind pushed further and further into closet. (Closet is too tame a word as far as I’m concerned—it is more like an Iron Maiden, where you torture yourself).
All of this is to say that your “comedic” rant on homosexuality and effeminate men—and the proper (violent) discipline of which—has real and tragic consequences. I bear the scars.
Craig Laurance Gidney
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