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14 June 2011, 9:00 am 16 Comments

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.

c. David Shankbone, Wikimedia Commons

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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16 Comments »

  • My Open Letter to Tracy Morgan « Strange Alphabets said:

    [...] The New Gay posted my open letter to comedian Tracy Morgan. You can read it here. [...]

  • Io said:

    Dear Mr Gidney
    Well and poetically said. May we all call out homophobia and bigotry no matter it’s source.
    Io

  • Joseph Ross said:

    Craig -

    Thank you for this thoughtful and necessary piece. A sadness indeed.

  • Another Jeremy said:

    How very clever of TNG to have a black person articulate what racist, indignant gay white people are itching to scream to the high heavens. Black people are great when they are calling out Harry Jackson and speaking out against anti-gay black public figures, but not so great when it comes to socializing.

    http://hsb.sagepub.com/content/49/4/436.abstract

    Daniel Tosh said in a stand up routine last year that there was a new test to see if your child is gay. He said it’s called an HIV test. Oddly, I recall no collective outrage from the gay community that was followed by stereotypes of the white community. Where was the valiant gay white man to come forth and speak truth to this white anti-gay comedian?

    Frankly, I am sick to death of hearing about the terrible homophobic black people who are coming to get the innocent gay white boys and keeping black men from coming out. Instead of condemning every black figure who makes a stupid remark, why not bother looking around at the gay bar and asking why is it that even in predominately black communities gay bars are dominated by white men? Why not bother asking how often the LGBT community reaches out to the black community? And if this problem is mostly because of Tracy Morgan and Marion Barry then where are the Asians?

    The LGBT community has a huge problem with misogyny, superficiality and racism. It is racially segregated and stratified. It seems that there is this concentrated effort to seize upon examples of black leaders who make homophobic remarks in an attempt to make African-Americans own homophobia in a way that no other race does. This is especially comical when taken in light of the fact that almost all legislation against gays lives and dies at the hands of predominately white legislative bodies. The Anti-Gay movement is funded heavily by white Evangelical Churches, so where are the broad judgements about the white community?

    This Tracy Morgan bullshit is just the cause of the moment in the gay community and this article (with it’s juvenile characterization of the black community) will no doubt be used by racist white gays to exclude blacks.

    Well done Mr. Gidney. You did an excellent job doing what white gays do already, which is condescend to the black community. And of course, since you’re black and saying something white people tend to agree with about the black community it must be true.

    Here’s a challenge. Next time you hear one of your white buddies rant about the crazy anti-gay black men waiting in the bushes to cut off their genitals and how no one dares speak up to them because they’re black, ask them how many black people they’ve ever been good friends with or considered dating.

    This article is an excellent reminder of why I take no part in gay activism. It exists almost exclusively for the benefit of white men. I will continue to take no part in a gay community that demonizes and ostracizes me because I’m black.

  • Dave said:

    @Another Jeremy: Dude you are constantly itching to pick a fight on here. You think this author is just making this stuff up? Did he say things that weren’t true? If you think so, challenge him on those points so we can come to a better understanding.

    I often get the impression that you don’t really even think about what you’re writing, because you seem to have a very specific agenda to advance. For example, you said:

    “Frankly, I am sick to death of hearing about the terrible homophobic black people who are coming to get the innocent gay white boys and keeping black men from coming out.”

    The OP seemed actually to deal more with the issue of violence/hatred by black people towards other (LGBT) black people. The topic of conversation, Tracy Morgan, refers to a situation where he jokes about beating up his (hypothetical) gay son, who I’m just going to go out on a limb and assume would be black.

  • Dave said:

    And in response to the original author… your discussion of how queerness is often linked to whiteness/European colonialism is a good point. I think that this area in particular can lead to a broader discussion about traditional African forms of queerness that pre-dated the arrival of whites by centuries. Not many people know about this history and I think it can provide a positive way to re-situate a discussion of different sexualities and genders in an Afro-centric context. I think that getting that history out there would help to undercut the virulent current of homophobia we see now across post-colonial Africa. That would also enable us to look at the African roots of black sexual/gender identities as distinct from the origins of various sexual identities emerging from within white culture.

  • Another Jeremy said:

    @ Dave

    Did I say he made something up? Or did I say he was generalizing about black culture in a way that gays do not generalize about white culture? There are certainly black people who hate gays. I’ve encountered them. And there are white people who hate gays. I’ve encountered them too. So fucking what? Tracy Morgan’s “blackness” has nothing to do with the stupidity of his remarks, and it is not a reflection of the thoughts of all or the majority of black people. The author’s point was that black people treat gays poorly. And my point was that white people do the same thing, but their race remains a nonissue. With white people, it’s all about their religion. So why not the same with black people?

    If you are so keen on validating the experiences of others, do you also give credence to the numerous instances of overt racism as told by some of the black commentators on this website? I wonder. There again, it isn’t part of something that serves your particular interest. You’ve been victimized by homophobia, but not white racism. And I maintain that white racism magnifies the relevance of these instances of hate-mongering (though in this case it was in stand-up comedy routine.) This factor plays a large part in making black men feel disenchanted with the gay movement, and it effects the manner in which isolated instances of black homophobia are perceived.

    My point about white gay people making specific enemies of black homophobes still stands. The author did indeed focus on other black homophobes targeting other blacks, but the furor that made this a media phenomenon has been generated by mainstream (white) LGBT public figures to carefully fit into the following narrative: “blacks hate gays.”

    This article attempt to make a case for the isolation of black homophobia from the homophobia in society at large, and that is a dangerous mistake. When someone calls me a faggot it does not sting any more or any less because of the color of their skin. Hate is hate. Would you not agree?

    Also, what say you about Daniel Tosh and/or the selective outrage of the gay community?

  • Kayle said:

    I have no idea about the historical context for black v. white here, other than to say that sociologically, doesn’t it make more sense to equate this behavior among non-queer black to misogyny??? than to “reverse” racism???

    The reason homosexuality is so persecuted in the black community is because it is done in defense of hegemonic masculinity. That violence is also more pronounced is due to both the violence and the homophobia being passed down from slavery (in the context of the “black” church) and to things that can be attributed to the black community being much lower on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a whole. In light of that reading, the writer’s implicit comparison to “lesser” white homophobia is degrading and sounds ignorant of society’s structure as a WHOLE. it sounds like scapegoating just like right after prop8 passed.
    And can’t cleaver’s remark be read as homosexuality “feminizing” a black man and *thereby* turning him into a race traitor? I.e., wasn’t he was accusing homosexuals of being against the “movement” by betraying masculinity through confirming the “less than a man” status that was conferred by whites? and not as some sort of diffuse, unknown contaminate (standard homophobia)?

  • Craig Gidney said:

    @ Lo and @Joseph Ross: Thank you for your kind words.

    @Another Jeremy: Your response is so filled with hyperbole, twisted logic and violent rhetoric, it is nearly impossible to untangle. I will say this: no-one from the New Gay approached me to write this. And I have no loyalty to black homophobes or white gay racists. Furthermore, the homophobia in the black community is not a “secret shame.” It must be exposed.

    @Dave: I will have to research homosexuality in pre-colonial West Africa

    @Kayle: No. Cleaver most certainly knew that Baldwin was homosexual, and included all black homosexuals in his twisted, violent rhetoric.

  • Another Jeremy said:

    @ Craig Gidney

    Since my posts are in such dire need of untangling, let me take a shot. The fact that you are black does not give you license to make absurd generalizations about other blacks. If you had been a gay white man who had reiterated the number of times you had been harassed by black gay bashers while making no mention of the harassment you have received from other whites, then this article would have been roundly condemned as racist. There is nothing particularly insightful or unique about this article. You just happen to be a black man who is repeating a lot of party lines that are often regurgitated by the mainstream LGBT movement (which has a habit of ignoring minorities aside from its own political interests) about blacks being a collective enemy of gays. Yes, Dr. Dre said some bad things about gays. But so has Eminem. And Dan Savage is very much for gay rights. And so is Julian Bond. There are black men who are shunned by their families after coming out. And there are white ones too. How about focusing on the views of the person instead of the color of their skin? How is their race relevant to these tragedies at all?

    Further, feel free to highlight an instance in which I advocated violence. I’d also love to hear how my pointing out that all races are homophobic is somehow “twisted logic,” but that your isolating black homophobia from the homophobia in society at large is not “twisted logic.” Funny that you maintain that I employed hyperbole, but then assert that in this monolithic black culture you have created gays are blamed for the breakdown of the black family. I also love that your professor’s anger over Langston Hughes being “claimed” by the gay community is somehow related to the passing of a bill in Uganda that permits the murder of human beings because of their sexual orientation. Since when are Ugandans emulating American black culture?

    The homophobia in the black community is not a secret because blacks are part of society, which (as a whole) is homophobic. I’m sorry that you feel the need these distinguish between these acts of intolerance along racial lines, and I’m sorry it hurts you more when a black person calls you a faggot than a white person. I’ve only ever been called a faggot by white people. What conclusions should I come to about white people? If it’s wrong for Tracy Morgan to portray gays as effeminate, then it’s also wrong for you to portray blacks as intolerant gay bashers.

    Questions?

  • Craig Gidney said:

    Questions?

    Huh? Seriously, all I got from that convoluted response is: “Don’t write about black homophobia unless you write about white homophobia.”Along with a bunch of…stuff.

    Also, this is crazy talk:

    Here’s a challenge. Next time you hear one of your white buddies rant about the crazy anti-gay black men waiting in the bushes to cut off their genitals and how no one dares speak up to them because they’re black, ask them how many black people they’ve ever been good friends with or considered dating.

    This article is an excellent reminder of why I take no part in gay activism. It exists almost exclusively for the benefit of white men. I will continue to take no part in a gay community that demonizes and ostracizes me because I’m black.

    Again: huh? On more serious note, the bit quoted above made me not want to engage you at all. That’s some very disturbing imagery.

  • Another Jeremy said:

    @ Craig Gidney

    Ummm . . . . . If all you got from my “convoluted response” is “don’t write about black homophobia unless you write about white homophobia” then maybe I am wasting my time talking to you. There is no need to talk about black or white homophobia because races are not homophobic. Religious people are. No one talks about the races of homophobes unless they are black.

    My response addressed the jumble of personal anecdotes and racial stereotypes you employed to explain why things like Tracy Morgan’s stand up routine make life especially hard for gay black men. Some rappers have made homophobic statements, you’ve been bashed by blacks who have also called you a faggot, and your professor was mad because Langston Hughes was being “claimed” by the gay community. Oh yeah, and Ugandans proposed a Kill the Gays bill. Say what? This article didn’t even really address Morgan’s comments so much as it gave you cause to use your negative experiences to launch an incoherent tirade about how homophobic black people are. You seemed less interested in the obscene nature of his comments and more interested in the fact that it was a black person who said them.

    Homophobia tends to be associated with a person’s education and religion, not their race.

    As to the bit you excerpted above, you’re damn right it’s disturbing imagery. And it isn’t mine. That kind of ridiculous logic is used by gay white men to justify their preference for other white men socially and romantically. Here is one of my favorite comments from “Why am I not Attracted to Black Men.”

    “In reality, all I want to do is go to school, work my two part time jobs, and pay the rent at the end of the month without having to look over my shoulder all the time. I promise, I’m really not trying to destroy black people’s marriages and I’m also not trying to kick poor black folk out of their unkempt houses and make them fabulous again, because I don’t have the money for that… like most gay guys in the real world. I wish I could get this message across, but I can’t, because people like me have been so unfairly caricatured that many people’s eyes (including within the LGBT community) can *only* perceive a racist little white f—-t instead of someone who’s actually concerned about what’s really going on around him.”

    Wonderful. He doesn’t want to date black men (who all live in unkempt houses) because he’s constantly looking over his shoulders for a scary black man who may leap from the shadows and attack him because he’s gay and white. So no, it isn’t crazy talk.

    Perhaps you should take some of your own advice and realize that your own words do not exist in a bubble. You would have served your readers better with an article focusing on the effects of violent rhetoric then you were in portraying black people as morons who are incapable of reaching the same conclusions that other races have.

  • Kayle said:

    @Craig Sidney. YOU DIDN’T READ WHAT I WROTE AT ALL. Please read it again for comprehension and then onlyrespond.

    and i’m yeah a little cheezed off at the bs that is being slung at another commentor who has perfectly salient points and everyone is just being obtuse and pretending not to follow his rhetoric in order to paint him as hateful and insane. If the best you can do is attack the *existence* of an argument in lieu of presenting a valid dissenting opinion with some sort of support, YOU’RE ALL EITHER SLOW OR FULL OF IT. PICK ONE. YEAH I SAID IT. Not all opinions are equal-especially when one of them is not an opinion.

    and that bs about “oh, gee, this *imagery* just got too violent for me, so I’m going to pretend the guy who clearly stated that he’s repeating it from the mouths of people he is clearly accusing of of saying is the guy who made it up and is therefore a threat” is an OLLLLLLD-A$% form of WWT and I’m calling you on it. gotta love that kind of mental process: it’s like saying black people who tell you about lynchings are really just crazy black militants threatening to lynch whites. got to love that. I wouldn’t be surprised if the it wasn’t a metaphor, either…and yes, there are known documented links between the people who were against proposition 8 and people who in Africa who are promoting capital punishment for gays. and heezy, the BIBLE is only ONE of them. The rest of them are either missionaries’ epistles have been published by members of AP.

  • The New Gay » Politics: An Open Letter to the White Gay Man said:

    [...] the latter, The New Gay even posted a moronic article called “An Open Letter to Tracy Morgan“ in which Craig Gidney (whose post scarcely even addressed Morgan’s remarks) launched [...]