Friday, September 16, 2011

On Black People and Homophobia, Part II: The Game

With everything going on this week--the anniversaries, the debates, the new acts, statistics on poverty--two news reports stood out to me: one on Black LGBTQ youth and another on the rapper The Game's comments on coming out in hip-hop.

First, Danielle Moodie Mills' article on LGBTQ youth confirmed what many of us know: the combination of racism and heterosexism/homophobia deeply structures the lives of Black youth, particularly at school. The recent beating death of Marcellus Richard Andrews and a jury/defense team citing "gay panic" as the reason for the murder of Lawrence King, demonstrate that things are not getting any better for queer youth of color. And, it looks like they are only getting worse. Having worked with, mentored, and been friends with teenagers and young adults of color who are LGBTQ, I've witnessed how hard their daily lives are, even as the visibility of LGBTQ people explodes. Many of the youth that I worked with were/are harrassed daily at school by their friends and by their families at home. And while much attention was put on how much better  things will get for bullied LGBTQ youth who want to kill themselves, Black (of color, poor, homeless) youth are often left out of this hopeful frame, left on their own to find other spaces to be. So, like many of us, they turn to other sites, like hip hop, to belong/hide out/carve out a space for us.

So, I find it difficult to let the comments of rapper The Game on coming out in hip-hop slide in light of the state of things for queer Black youth. In a recent interview on VLAD TV, the Game was asked about homophobia and hip-hop. Basically, he had this to say:

"Be gay, you can do that. Game don't have a problem with gay people. Game has a problem with people that are pretending not to be gay and are gay... because the number one issue with that is that you could be fooling somebody and you could give them AIDS and they can die... so that in the closet sh** is real scary. So we've got to get into the real seriousness of it and it's just not fair to other people. Then that sh** spreads because that girl that you might be fooling might leave you and go find another dude who ain't gay and give him the disease. And he goes and cheats on her, so it's an ongoing thing."

In the beginning it seems like it's going to go one way, you know, "If that's you, do you. I got no problem with that."

Aw, thanks Game. ;)

But then in the next breath he spits out the same stereotypes that have "plagued" Black gay men (before) since AIDS first gained national attention. Reducing Black gay men to sexual acts, nothing more. Not seeing the irony that this is how all Black men are perceived: as sexual predators. Over sexed. Diseased. Liars. Cheaters. Dogs. Punks. Faggots. Pussies. Guilty until proven otherwise. And his concern really focuses only on men (gay men and heterosexual women become the transmitters). Basically, "you're gay, closeted, sleeping with women, sleeping with men, infecting women who then go and infect other men who ain't even gay." In other words, it's ok if gay men (and straight women) have AIDS and die, as long as they keep it the f*ck away from us.  And with recent statistics on young Black gay men, HIV, bullying, and murder, this level of disregard and disrespect is targeted at an ever younger group.

And this is unacceptable.

It's unacceptable to disregard the lives of Black people at any age, but at this moment, Black youth are being particularly disregarded and it. has. to. stop. Don't act like you got love and respect for folks and then in the same breath let us know who you think we really are and what we're worth. I have never been a "fan" of the game, but I have been and continue to be a lover of hip-hop. It's one place where I found a place as a teenager and, later on, as a queer Black girl. And we have to do better so that it is better now for Black queer youth. The sh*t is dire, there's no other way to speak about it. So, my people, my fellow lovers of hip-hop, this is what you need to speak on. This is what we need from you as straight allies, as adult allies to young Black and brown queer youth. Anytime you hear this type of bullsh--, speak up. I don't care if it doesn't sound "that bad" or if it's from a marginal rapper whose album is about to drop. Especially when it's coded in this, "it's ok but..." That's worse.

And it's not acceptance, it's (social) death. And your silence is killing us.