Let’s just dive right into it because there’s quite a bit to cover here.
Over the past week, actor and “comedian” Kevin Hart has come under fire for past tweets that conveyed some bigoted and, in some cases violent, views around Gay people. Here are just a few of them:
Many people attempted to brush this off by saying that these tweets are “old” and “you have to give people a chance to change.” Here’s the thing about that…yes, I absolutely believe in giving people the opportunity to change. Opportunity. That doesn’t mean coddling and assuming change. Bigotry doesn’t magically disappear with time; it takes intentional work, an active desire to un/learn and tangible action. I still need to see intentionality and evidence of growth; neither of which he’s shown. The best he’s done is avoid talking about the subject and that, in and of itself, is not a sign of growth.
We literally have a 70+ year-old racist/anti-LGBTQ/misogynist/ableist/etc. sitting in the white house right now. Time didn’t just magically cure an ounce of President Tangerine’s bigotry, now did it? And given that anti-LGBTQ hate crimes are actually increasing, why would we just assume that people are magically learning not to hate LGBTQ people?
Some Kevin apologists have cited an interview he did for Rolling Stone back in 2015 as (the lone) evidence that he apologized…even though it wasn’t an apology, at all. He never actually admitted wrongdoing, or made clear that he wouldn’t project his insecurities around Gayness and femininity onto his son—let alone bothering to do the work of unlearning his views. He simply said that he wouldn’t make those kinds of “jokes” anymore because people are “too sensitive” these days and he wanted to avoid backlash. If that’s your idea of an apology worthy of our acceptance, then let’s just stop right here, acknowledge that you think very little of Gay people and go.
Another claim is that this was targeting a Black man in a way that white people would never be. Never mind that there’s actually a previous instance of a white cis-heterosexual man being removed as head producer of the Oscars for homophobic remarks. Seeing Black people get a pass on trash behavior because colonizers might is not a good hill to die on. We should rather see anti-LGBTQ bigotry deemed unacceptable across the board, regardless of who it comes from. I have no interest in being so invested in “Race First” identity politics that I’d give someone a pass on being blatantly homophobic towards me, just because we happen to be of the same race.
As someone who is both Black and Gay simultaneously, I can’t afford to fall into the trap of pretending like one oppressive system can be fought at the expense of fighting the other. I have to resist both methods of oppression because I, and much of my communities, live with the consequences multiple identities at the same time. One of those consequences being youth homelessness, which disproportionately affects LGBTQ children. There’s also countless cases of parents abusing their children for being LGBTQ…in some cases to the point of death.
The kinds of things that Kevin Hart “joked” about are very real and are happening to LGBTQ youth across the country…at the hands of parents who think exactly like him. It’s not the place of cis-heterosexual people to be “joking” about the kinds of violence that his own demographic commits against children of my demographic virtually everyday. If we can understand that white people shouldn’t be “joking” about the racist violence their own demographic enacts on Black people, then why move the goal post and claim that “humor” around anti-LGBTQ violence is appropriate from non-LGBTQ people?
Ultimately, Kevin Hart lost out on a big opportunity to host the Oscars (entirely by his own choice to step down, rather than sincerely apologizing to LGBTQ people), so as far as I’m concerned, that all worked out well enough. I don’t like seeing unabashed bigots winning unscathed, and his career will ultimately be fine, anyway.
But far more important than Kevin Hart, himself, one thing that’s been made abundantly clear in much of the discourse stemming from this mess, is much of the world still flat-out hates Gay people. As with Black people, or any other marginalized group, society is collectively good at pretending like we’ve greatly evolved. But it’s in the moments where marginalized people speak up for themselves that said society shows its true colors. I can refer back to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s words on “The White Moderate,” where he talked about how white people prefer the “negative peace” of Black people suffering in silence to the “positive peace” of actual justice, and apply that same basic principle here. It’s easy to perform how “cool” you are with Gay people and, others in the LGBTQ community, as long as we don’t hold you accountable for anything that you do to us. It’s easy to pretend you “love” us, so long as we coddle you through any and every infraction (even up to literally brutalizing and killing people in our communities).
Part of why I find people’s dismissal of Kevin Hart’s tweets as “old” so laughable is that there are white “comedians” who did blatantly racist things in the past, who many of these same people would never give such a dismissal to (how many of us are supporting Kramer again?). Many Black people will routinely rant about how white america jumps at giving white people a pass on racism (a true, valid critique). Yet hordes of Black non-LGBTQ people will jump to forgive anti-LGBTQ bigotry on the behalf of those of us who are actually LGBTQ.
Even worse, many Black LGBTQ people will give similar passes and coddle bigotry—a mentality that I’ve discussed in previous work. I’ve also touched on the “Race First” scam that can bolster this impulse.
Another topic that needs to be explored is people decrying the so-called extremes of “Cancel Culture.”
Loosely defined, “cancel culture” refers to a growing collective mindset, that sees individuals or groups of people making the decision to distance themselves from a person for a given infraction. This could be anything from being a serial rapist or abuser (e.g. R. Kelly, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, etc.), to making problematic statements about a marginalized group (i.e. Cardi B’s past social media activity around Transgender women). The popular critique of “cancel culture” is that it “disposes” of people without giving them a chance to grow, and many express that society can’t function if we “just cancel everyone.”
Simply put, those critiques are over-exaggerated bullshit and primarily function to uphold the status quo.
What I’ve come to realize is that people’s feelings on “cancel culture” will change depending on how they feel about the people and groups that are doing the “canceling” vs. the target(s) of said “canceling.” And simply put, regardless of what many claim, most people absolutely don’t care for or about LGBTQ people…especially when we’re also Black. Therefore, to people who think this way, our calls to hold people accountable for anti-LGBTQ bigotry will almost always come across as “excessive.”
I think many of these types also misrepresent what “canceling” actually entails. Many people will pretend that “cancel culture” serves to completely ostracize people from their communities and careers over the tiniest of screw-ups. But that’s just not what actually happens in practice…certainly not to people who are white, male, cis-heterosexual, and/or otherwise of identities that are already dominant and centered in existing systems. Usually, “canceling” just means marginalized folks making a personal choice to set boundaries and not make space for those complicit in harm while actively rejecting accountability. This does not remotely equate to anyone being disposed of, but many treat it that way. I believe this is because, after a long time of certain groups being used to having full reign to enact violence onto people of more marginalized identities, we just aren’t used to this age where marginalized people, not only are able to set boundaries and speak up for ourselves, but actually have those boundaries at least somewhat heard and enforced.
When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.
However, one great thing about the true reality of “canceling” is it doesn’t actually remotely inhibit one’s ability to grow. An individual deciding that they wanna do better by the marginalized people who’ve been harmed is not, remotely dependent on everyone in said marginalized group(s) reaching out to forgive. If one is truly interested in growth, then there’s a wealth of information available for you take the initiative of referencing (such as this, very blog!). You can literally start that work today if you want to. But I’ll always question the sincerity of people who demand that people of the targeted group “just get over it” or forgive as a condition of their learning. That’s arguably the #1 sign that whatever “growth” you’re touting is untrustworthy (as is the case with Kevin).
Understand that, for as uncomfortable as bigots being held even remotely accountable for their own actions may make you, what actual Black LGBTQ people have to deal with everyday is far worse. And what cisgender-heterosexual folks are gonna have to deal with is the reality that you don’t get to assert authority over what’s anti-LGBTQ and what isn’t, and you don’t get to speak over us. You also don’t get to selectively decide that “canceling” is “excessive” when it’s our turn to do it. Ultimately, all I really need from “allies” is for you to sit down, eat your food, listen and strive to do better by us, so that hopefully we won’t have to “cancel” anymore of your favs in the future.
…but I know better than to hold my breath on that, so…guess we’ll keep dragging your favs and you’ll just have to deal.
If you enjoyed this post or any of my other work, consider buying me some bourbon!