I Hate Black Men

April 1, 2009 § Leave a comment

In early June, during Gay Pride Month, singer and celebrity drag queen Kevin Aviance was viciously attacked by four teenage boys after leaving the Pheonix Bar on 13th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A, the East Village, Manhattan.

The boys repeatedly shouted “faggot” and threw items from the street at Aviance until they finally knocked him to the ground and kicked him unconscious.

On July 9th, Jarrell Sears 20; Gregory Archie, 18; Akino George. 20; and Gerald Johnson, 16 were indicted on charges of first-degree assault and could face 25-years in jail if convicted.

The assault, Gerald Johnson claims, was provoked by Aviance who bumped into him and said, “Calm down, sweetie.”

Johnson said that he did not hit Aviance because he was gay but because he did not want his friends to think he was a “pussy.”

Three of the attackers are African-American. The other is Latino.

Almost everybody in New York City and the gay milieu has heard about the Aviance attacks. But despite all the media attention being paid to the attacks, nobody seems to want to talk about the issue of race or, more precisely, black masculinity and its queer competitor, homosexuality.

Because black men have made the life of the modern gay black man a living hell.

Personal story: a fair amount of black men have made it their business to tell me how much I am unlike them, whether for not being straight or for not being the iconic ultra-masculine and all-powerful black cock machine. “Man, why you talk white?” “Look at them clothes! Why you dress white?” or “He like it in the booty” are phrases that have been rehearsed to me once too many.

So one day I had an idea: I decided to try it out. You know, to be black. Maybe I was missing out on something fabulous—just like how the occasional straight guy has a “gay experience” in college to, you know, feel out his homoerotic desires.

Off I went, parading around in baggy jeans, basketball jerseys, oversized t-shirts doing what I thought black people were supposed to do. After all, that’s what the media tells us black people are like and how they dress. Since I didn’t, I figured that’s what my “brothers” wanted me to do. Maybe that would remedy my lack of blackness.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that when I turned “black” I was as unauthentic as a weave ponytail. So from that day forward I vowed to be myself, whatever category that fits into, and to not let black masculinity get the best of me. If I talk “white”, so be it. If I look “gay”, ok.

I know that I am not the only gay black male who has had problems with his image and the black community. My best friend Christian, of Caribbean heritage, often complains about how he is sometimes afraid to walk home to his Lower East Side apartment at night, a neighborhood with a large black population.

“Whenever I see a group of black guys on the sidewalk, I know it’s time to cross to the other side of the street.” he says.

Just last week Christian came up to visit me at Yale, which is located in a heavily black and Latino populated area. As we were walking to my apartment from Union Station on the 9th Square, a couple of black guys carefully took the time out of their day to shout “I like dick!” out of their moving van at us.

We know we like dick. But you don’t need to shout it at 40 miles per hour.

The point of all this is to show that for many black gay men, the bulk of the name calling and homophobia comes from other black men, a group with whom we are supposed to feel solidarity. People believe that because you’re black, you instantly share common beliefs, values and a kind of solidarity with other black people.

It ain’t necessarily so. And most do not realize the extent to which a lot of gay black men actually avoid contact with the black community because of homophobia.

I know I do.

So a little while ago when I was deciding whether or not to go to Yale, I talked with a current student about New Haven’s infamously dangerous and crime-ridden reputation. When I told him that I was worried about New Haven he assured me that I would be ok.

“Eh, don’t worry. You’ll be fine.”, he said to me. “They won’t mess with you—you’re black. They only go after the rich white kids.”

This is a prime example of the supposed solidarity people think black people feel toward other black people. I actually avoid contact with “quintessentially” black men. And quite frankly, I have never felt “solid” with any of them because my gayness keeps me in the window of their disapproval while also confirming my ambivalent attitude toward them.

It is not surprising, then, that Aviance’s attackers were mostly black, save the token Latino.

Of course, not all black men are homophobic, and white people, Latinos, Arabs and closeted men are equally as capable of homophobia. And obviously, I do not hate black people, as the uncareful reader might think. I grew up in the baptist church. “Praise the Lord.” My sassy black diva alter-ego, “Kwelolo” as I’ve called her, can appear without a moments notice. “Do ya’ll got some good myou-sic?” And I, too, can recognize a hotmess when I see it. Nevertheless, it remains peculiar, and publicly ignored, that a great deal of homophobia exists in the black community.

So when a homophobic black man sees a queer trotting down the street, especially a queer of color, instead of solidarity or feeling brotherhood, he might feel betrayed, as if the queer traded his black masculinity card in for a sissy card. As if by insulting and beating-up on this queer he were acting on behalf of the black masculinity police in the name of black masculinity.

Being black and gay is to be a member of two separate minority groups, each with its own grocery-list of stereotypes and expectations. If I act too black, I won’t fit into the gay world. If I act too gay, I won’t fit into the black world.

I say, why have any “worlds” at all? Why be “black” or “white” or “gay” or “X”? Why do we have to label ourselves? Because ultimately, social prejudices stem from somebody not fitting a label. That’s why I don’t really think of myself as “black” “gay” “jewish” or “male” for somebody will always be there to argue that I am not “black” or “jewish” enough. Besides, none of these labels tell you anything about what I am like as a human being.

Black masculinity, then, only exists because black men feel a need to label other men who don’t fit their rubric. Well move over, black men! It’s time to get your hands off your big black egos! Homophobia in the black community, and in society at large, will continue to exist as long as people are tripped up in labeling themselves and others.

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