Let me preface this by saying, because it needs to be said, that I don’t agree with Tracy Morgan’s homophobic ‘jokes’ in the slightest, even if he has apologised for them. I think his remarks were deeply heterosexist, violent, degrading, disgusting, and horrific. I would say that I seriously hope for safety’s sake that his son isn’t gay, but that would assume that his comments could only hurt if his son was.
The fact is, Morgan’s comments were unacceptable and incredibly ignorant. It doesn’t matter what is in Morgan’s “heart”. It matters what he said. Words matter. When I was confronted with the word “faggot” constantly in high school and bullied, I could care less if those people were truly homophobic or not. On that same token, the words we used to insult Morgan when he does something angers us – as righteous as our anger may be – they also matter.
I don’t know why I continue to be surprised how easily people resort to bigotries to address bigotries. I knew I would see it in the case of the UCLA student who posted a racist rant about Asians in her library on YouTube. And I wasn’t disappointed. The internet graced me with loads of comments suggesting she deserved to be raped, suggesting her clothes had something to do with her racism, and all-round misogynistic garbage.
I knew better than to click and read the comments on PinkNews.co.uk’s Facebook page regarding the original story. Something in my mind said someone would be ignorant enough to make a racist comment. But I guess something in my heart had a little faith. This is the queer community. Surely, for as much vitriol and hate we’ve taken, we’d know better than to spew that same venom out into the world, into another community. Surely we know that Tracy Morgan represents the African American community just about as much as Perez Hilton represents us.
But no. Sadly, I can’t expect that from my fellow queers. I don’t know why I’m surprised. I know for a fact that my own experiences with homophobia made it sometimes impossible for me to accept that I am privileged because I am white.
If I got up on stage and let out the same homophobic tirade, no mentions of nooses and slavery would come at me. No one would say anything about my skin. They might threaten to rape me, they might suggest there is something about my intelligence that can be gleaned by the size of my breasts, they might make all manner of comments regarding what they assume I am – but my skin colour will go unnoticed.
I’m unsurprised that I’ve often heard that queer people of colour don’t fit in with mainstream gay culture and don’t feel a part of the community. I should be shocked by the virulent and despicable racism I witnessed. I should be surprised that people tried to justify it by saying homophobia is particularly a problem in some racial cultures – as if the white men who make up the vast majority of our legislative bodies are wonderfully accepting and have taken our pleas for equal rights seriously in ways other races have not.
I wish I could say I’m shocked by this behaviour and that I’m sad that that there are such ignorant people in the queer community – people who see bigotry as a useful tool to attack bigotry. But I’m not.
I do however, expect better. I expect better from the white members of the queer community. And I do seriously hope that the next time there’s any attack on our community, no one stoops to the level of our attackers, whether it’s based on race, sex, disability, etc.
Believe me, I understand anger. I support anger. Be angry. Get mad. Stonewall didn’t happen because we turned the other cheek to be struck too. But Stonewall happened with the help of other communities. The Black Panthers were there with us. Allies were there with us. The LGBTQ community is not only white and you are not supporting us by racist thoughts and action.
You can get angry without resorting to bigotry. I do not expect everyone to be the smiling tour guide through the museum of bigotry every time we see another hurtful comment from someone. But I do expect us to not resort to racism or to think racism is okay due to homophobia, or to so blatantly ignore the queer people of colour that share our community.
Homophobia is never okay. Racism is never okay. Misogyny is never okay. Addressing one bigotry by using another is never okay. The queer community is not one colour, one gender, one sex, one anything. Fighting bigotry with bigotry is illogical and proves nothing.
Lola Olson is a genderqueer graduate student of International Studies at Goldsmiths. Her personal website is lolaolson.co.uk.