Hey Ellen—Black LGBTQ Lives Matter, too!
Nothing exacerbates a problem more than good intentions.
With that in mind, Ellen DeGeneres had no idea that she was opening a big Pandora’s box in trying to revive talks for actor and comic Kevin Hart to host the Oscars.
When DeGeneres invited Hart to her show at the start of this year, she provided a much broader platform for Hart to explain his nonapology for prior public homophobic statements. DeGeneres, however, didn’t take into account the potential outcome, since she can’t possibly speak for the entire LGBTQ community, nor can she fully grasp the struggle that the black LGBTQ community has with self-proclaimed evolved brothers like Hart.
“We need to speak up for the young black kids in the LGBTQ community,” Don Lemon stated on CNN in response to the Hart controversy. “I’m saying these issues need to be addressed. Because [LGBTQ youth] need to know that they have value and it’s OK to be who they are. We have to stop low-key co-signing homophobia. It’s not cool. We won’t tolerate jokes that do otherwise.”
In 2011, Lemon penned a memoir titled Transparent and came out of the closet. He knows firsthand the sting, embarrassment, debasement, and violence that comes from the Harts in our communities.
“Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my daughters doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay.’” That’s Hart’s one-time parenting advice during a stand-up routine about his three-year-old son having a “gay moment.”
“It’s quite different for an African-American male,” Lemon told Joy Behar on her then-HLN show. “It’s about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You’re taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine.”
There are very few safe places for GBTQ brothers of African descent to safely acknowledge their sexuality, or to openly engage the subject. Black GBTQ sexualities within African-American culture are perceived to further threaten not only black male heterosexuality, but also the ontology of blackness itself.
The community’s expression of its intolerance of LGBTQ people is easily seen along gender lines. For example, sisters mouth off about us while brothers get violent—both verbally and physically—with us.
In her role, DeGeneres is standing her ground in supporting Hart’s heartless apology. As is Hart.
After that appearance, Good Morning America host Michael Strahan interviewed Hart about the controversy. “I’ve addressed it and said all I can possibly say,” the comic said. “I’ve done all I can do. Don’t know what you’re looking for. I’m over it. Shouldn’t have to prove who I am.”
Although Hart is now a crossover phenomenon, he still plays mostly to a black audience. And I hope the young LGBTQ sisters and brothers who fell in love with him in the blockbuster hit Jumanji saw his defensiveness.
Strahan pushed Hart further, asking, “How have you evolved?”
“I’m over it,” he said. “I’ve said it many times. If you don’t see it, it’s you. I have nothing else to do or prove.”
While I will continue to argue that the African-American community doesn’t have a patent on homophobia, it does, however, have a problem with it. As one who has purportedly evolved on LGBTQ issues, Hart squandered his elevated profile to educate the public how his evolution came about. Instead, he has become a cause célèbre by flipping the switch as an aggrieved victim of attacks on his career, rather than confronting the homophobe he purports not to be.
I’m glad Hart has a friend in DeGeneres, who wants to save her pal and save the Oscars. But black LGBTQ lives matter, too. Perhaps over time, both will look back at this moment anew. Because at present, both are co-conspirators in an ongoing problem in black communities. DeGeneres not only defends Hart’s position, she also absolves him.
“You have grown, you have apologized,” she said. “You are apologizing again right now. You’ve done it. Don’t let those people win—host the Oscars.”
DeGeneres also sees herself as a peacemaker rather than an interloper. What she doesn’t realize is that she unleashed a monster with the simple gesture of reviving so much host talk.
I’m not talking about Hart, either. The monster, of course, is black homophobia.
Rev. Irene Monroe can be heard on the podcast and standing Boston Public Radio segment ALL REV’D UP on WGBH (89.7 FM). Monroe’s syndicated religion columns appear and the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail. She is a s a Visiting Researcher in the Religion and Conflict Transformation Program at Boston University School of Theology.