Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Isaiah Scandals

I don't know how to put it any better than I did on Queer Sighted. Here's my short reaction to the "Grey's Anatomy" + Image Awards uproar in the GLBT community, followed by an add-on:

There was another GLBT blog where someone was complaining about the Image Awards failing to recognize the show "Noah's Arc," which is/was about four black gay male friends. Anyone familiar with that show can argue about whether or not it was worthy of recognition by any awards show. But I still feel like the Image Awards is very reflective of feelings regarding homosexuals within the black community in general, and I would agree with David that gays (my particular feeling is white gays) should work harder at expressing an interest in race and coalition-building if you want to receive anything reciprocal. I have felt left out of the GLBT community as a black person, so if you're not doing a good job of reaching out to gays of color then don't expect heterosexual blacks who claim the bible is on their side to be supportive of you. I'm not saying I don't have a problem with their views and Washington's slur, but I'm also honestly not very surprised. I think that right now blacks view the GLBT community as competition, so approaching them with the mindset of reaching out and working together to combat all types of hate could make a difference. You can question why gays should be the ones to reach out, but that's really not going to solve the problem.

Also, being honest in responding to John, I think the reaction to Washington has actually been roughly the same as the reactions people have to racial slurs. He got media heat, and then turned around and received an Image Award. Trent Lott and Arnold Schwarzenegger got media heat for their racial comments, and then turned around and got re-elected to office (and NOBODY complained about that). And Mel Gibson's career is not seriously hurting over his anti-semitic tirades. If you want understanding from other minority groups, then you have to calm down on acting as if everything that happens to gays is so much worse and as if there is so much more tolerance for or uproar over race than homosexuality--there's not.

Additional Comments
I saw Greg Hernandez write in his blog about why he suspects it is that Washington received a standing ovation upon winning the award.

Is his Grey’s Anatomy role particularly ground-breaking? Did he have a storyline that was especially significant to African-Americans? If so, I sure haven’t heard that. Or was the crowd responding to something else perhaps? Like maybe they think Isaiah got treated unfairly for use of the “F” word perhaps? That gay people who felt he got off to easy for tossing about the slur needed to be sent a message to just shut up and get over it? Nice message to send. But, hey, it’s not like homophobia is anymore prevalent in the African-American community or anything.

I think it could be argued that his role is ground-breaking, given his very prominent position at the hospital on the show. I mean, next time you go to the doctor or hospital, check for how many black doctors you see around, let alone black surgeons and chiefs of staff, let alone that person being considered "brilliant" or "the best." However, I agree that that's not the reason he received a standing ovation. Hernandez has realized something that a lot of white gays really don't understand, and that's that black people are not exactly upset about Washington's slur. I think the message Hernandez suspects is right on. I don't know if black people think Washington got treated unfairly (because what really happened to him other than a media scandal, which can happen for anything when you're famous??) so much as many of them feel like--hey, gay people are "faggots." The majority of black people do see something wrong with being gay, and they're not mad at Isaiah for pointing that out. So this is why I'm not surprised by anything that has happened in the past few months surrounding his slur, including the award or standing ovation. I do think a message was being sent.

Imagine the reaction if Michael Richards won a comedy award and received a standing ovation or Mel Gibson won an award from a Catholic group and received the same. How would that not be saying something very ugly to African-Americans or the Jewish community?"

In other entries, I've talked about how I am not particularly affected by slurs or why gay/black comparisons are of very little utility. It doesn't matter that black people get called "niggers" just like gay people get called "faggots." A lot of black people just don't see it as the same because they view your lifestyle as a choice. They don't buy the "we get called names for being who we are just like you do" argument, because they believe you don't have to be that way. I'm not necessarily saying they believe homosexuality is a choice, though some do. But many view living as gay as a choice, which it is...i.e. my choosing not to come out. On the other hand, we have to be black.

And it's not as if white racists don't get rewarded. White racists get along in life just fine, regardless of whether or not they are celebrities or politicians. Racism is still very much accepted, and something "ugly" is said to our communities all the time. I have white friends who have racist friends--they know these friends are racist and they keep these friends, and I feel like a message is kind of sent to me about how much racism really bothers these white friends of mine vs how much they say it does. It's not like with family members--which I also have white friends who have racist family--they could get rid of these friends.

I'm not defending black homophobes. I hate hearing that being gay is "wrong," but I know full-well that there are a lot of people who think that way. I'm explaining the mindset, as I understand it, because a lot of white gays are seriously perplexed about homophobia coming from black people. But a lot of these blacks feel you're comparing playing victim to actually being a victim and are, in the process, taking the focus off black people's problems by "shoving yours down everyone's throats." And I actually do agree that the fight for gay rights does kind of take away from attention to black issues, but that doesn't mean I don't think there should be a fight. I just would like for white gays to understand that blacks have issues, too, and every group of people is more concerned with their group than with any other group--including gay people. And that's what makes understanding and sympathizing with each other and building coalitions so hard.

At the same time, if you're not going to make the effort to understand or reach out, then don't expect it in return. Part of the reason why I have started this blog is because there's nobody else really giving voice to these issues. There's an important identity intersection and cross-identity dialogue that needs to be happening that isn't. I see black people complaining about their problems and gay people complaining about their problems--both saying their problems are worse, gays insisting black people should understand, etc. And no one is talking about why there's a lack of understanding or what to do about it. There's just blame, hatred, competition, exclusion, etc. The very first thing is to open the lines of communication, and that's absolutely not being done. Until it is, don't expect anything different.

I'm tired of complaints without action from both blacks and gays. I'm tired of going to Queer Sighted and other blogs and reading about how black people should understand gays but they don't. And I'm tired of black people talking about all the discrimination that we still face but being complacent, ignoring blacks who are even more worse off than we are and failing to validate the GLBT community. My action is law school. I hate law school, but I am thinking of the end result--practicing civil rights law and working to make things better for both blacks and gays.

What is your action?