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The Culture Of Tolerating Homophobia


Nathan James

Two particularly disturbing items came to my attention at the beginning of thgis week, and both of them point like a blazing signpost towards a third ugly reality. The first came immediately after the Super Bowl, when CNN’s Roland Martin, no friend of the LGBT community, attacked anew with a Tweet: “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s underwear ad, smack the ish out of him”.

This latest example of blatant homophobia from Martin, who has a long history of making anti-gay remarks in public, is just another sorry example of the kind of homophobia that led to the second disturbing thing I saw this week: a brazenly filmed video of gang members in Atlanta attacking an innocent, defenseless young gay man as he came out of a grocery store.

As three gangsters mercilessly sucker-jump and beat the poor victim, anti-gay slurs and cackling laughter can be heard while the attack continues. So far, even with the Atlanta police and the FBI on the case, no arrests have yet been made. You can see the awful video in its entirety here.

All this brings up the third disturbing reality I noticed this week: the video was posted to WorldStarHipHop on Sunday. It’s gone viral since then, yet in spite of this, the silence from black leaders like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the NAACP is deafening. It amounts, in my opinion, to quiet toleration of the treatment of black gay men in communities like the Pittsburgh section of Atlanta where this vicious beating takes place. It encourages attitudes that suggest gay men wouldn’t get beaten or killed if only they wouldn’t “flaunt” their sexuality in public by acting effeminate, wearing tight jeans, or carrying pocketbooks.

The fact that there haven’t been any arrests, in spite of clear video of the attack, underscores the “no snitching rule” present in many communities of color, and the tacit acceptance of anti-gay violence. The gangsters weren’t the least bit uncomfortable about filming their crimes for all the world to see.

These things reinforce my overwhelming impression that the deeply embedded culture of tolerated homophobia is not just alive and well, but it’s getting worse. It’s bad enough that national figures (including all three current GOP presidential candidates) have publicly made anti-gay remarks (and largely gotten away with it, and even been applauded for it), it’s bad enough that people stand idly by–and even encourage–violence against gays, and it’s bad enough that those who can speak out the loudest against this kind of deadly hatred suddenly find themselves tongue-tied when the victim is a gay man of color.

The victims of anti-gay rhetoric, which leads to gay-bashings, which leads to public apathy, are not just those who get sent to the hospital or morgue. The victim of tolerated homophobia is our society as a whole. When we condone by silence what we should be condemning by action, we beat ourselves down every bit as viciously as did those rancid, disgusting, pathetic excuses for human beings on the WSHH video.