The wonderful thing about being in America is having the ability to speak one’s mind. Not only that, there are so many ways an individual can express his/her thoughts these days via social media. Add to these traditional media such as newspapers, magazines and television, we find ourselves surrounded with 24/7 access to thought and opinions on all subjects political, social, religious and so forth.
What I do find particularly frustrating at times is the simplicity and lack of nuance and imagination within many thoughts and opinions. With the tools we have to communicate with one another, there is so much opportunity to discuss, debate, and grow as a society. But what seems to happen on most occasions, is that the simplest, most unsophisticated thoughts are the ones that not only get the headlines, but are also leading the discussions. I plan to follow that thought up with another blog post soon. But for this thought, I will direct my attention to the trending topic of Michael Sam being drafted by the St. Louis Rams.
Personally, I don’t care what people think of Sam in terms of his sexuality. You can be for it or against it. In this world, and certainly in this country, people are going to have an opinion on what they think is right or wrong for whatever reason. As we can see via many comments on Sam kissing his boyfriend on ESPN as he spoke to Rams’ brass, there is no shortage of opinions on either side. I’ll address my thoughts on it shortly.
People who know me understand that I have no sacred cows when it comes to my perspectives. All of us individually and as a group deserve a basic level of respect. And we all deserve our fair share of criticism. I love being black and I love black people. That doesn’t mean I vouch for everything black folks say and do. I am pro equal rights for all, regardless of ethnicity, political, religious preference, sexual orientation and so forth. Still, I don’t blindly endorse what any political party, Christians, Muslims, atheist, the straight or gay community says and do either. Unfortunately, far too many have a ‘you’re for me or against me’ victimization mentality, when they are called on the carpet for inconsistencies or hypocrisies.
With this in mind, on the subject of Sam’s PDA with his male partner, I have a message to all parties who care.
The Religious/White Folk: I’ve already spoken to you about this before. Be anti-gay. Just don’t talk to me about morality and your kids seeing Sam and his boyfriend kissing on TV. Fact of the matter is, Ray Rice knocked his fiancee’ the hell out and I don’t see any of you protesting that. Straight players have publicly cheated on their wives, laid pipe all over the country, objectify women in strip clubs making it rain… and again, you never mentioned that in your pulpits or your social media formats. What trips me out the most though, is that for every preacher, politician and anti-gay public figure, a certain percentage of them are closet drag queens, or somebody on the down low having sex with men. Seriously?
The Religious/Black Folk in General: See message to white folk. But add to this that as you say things like, “I’m tired of this being thrown in my face; when you say, “Yuck!” or “Gross” or “I don’t want my kids to see this on TV…,” remember that Dorothy Dandridge got in a pool at a hotel, and the same white folks who said they don’t have a problem with black people had that pool drained. Traditionally, racist white folks have always had a use for black folks. As slaves, mistresses, servants, entertainers, or even as a ‘friend.’ JUST NOT AS EQUALS. There are layers. I don’t expect everyone to accept me for who I am. But not attacking me is not the same as respecting me and protecting my right to exist as an equal! For a person to say I have gay friends/family, but I wouldn’t teach my kids that it’s OK, is like saying, I don’t have anything against black people, I just don’t want my kids dating them. It’s still bigotry. At least admit that. That doesn’t make you a criminal, it just means there is some potential for growth.
**Most bigotry is in some form or fashion related to sexual fears and myths. That’s another story.**
Look, we all have biases to overcome. The first time I saw Omar Little kiss his partner on The Wire, I was like, “Whoa WAIT! What just happened? It wasn’t a shock because it was sickening. It was shocking because I hadn’t seen it before.
Black people especially should be mindful of our own history with biases against us and the imagery that was important towards our own progression as a people. When I was a kid, I remember my parents gathering us around the television to watch The Flip Wilson show because there wasn’t another show like that for black people. There were hardly NO shows for black people. From ‘Good Times’ to ‘The Jeffersons,’ we were able to receive images on television about our families, our values, often referencing issues that were important to us. Many times in Southern states, they refused to show black people in a light that was integration friendly. They lost their minds when Petula Clark touched Harry Belafonte’s arm in 1968. Can you imagine what it was like when Jim Brown (who was then the personification of black male sexual power and prowess) did a love scene with white sex symbol Rachel Welch in “100 Rifles?” Talk about an OMG moment! This struggle has continued despite many strides. Even when the Cosby show was on, many criticized the show because they felt a black family with a father who was a doctor and a mother who was an attorney was ‘unrealistic.’
Naturally, the gay and lesbian community is going to support images on television that reflect a celebration of their value and right to exist. So seeing Sam kiss his boyfriend at the pinnacle point of his life is a big deal. There is no gay conspiracy to force acceptance upon the straight community. Will and Grace is for them is what Sanford and Son was for us.
Acknowledging this puts me in the cross hairs of many of my straight friends. Even now, on social media when I defend gays, I am often assumed to be gay. They say things like, “I don’t care about what you do with your life.” When I try to show them the parallel between our plights with bigotry, I’m told, “Be gay and do you! Enjoy your lifestyle… but don’t force it down my throat!” Remind me of how many whites were and are called “nigger lovers,’ when they stand up for our rights as a people.
I believe the topics of free thought/free speech is a wonderful thing to discuss. Donald Sterling’s fiasco as well as Michael Sam’s coverage are just the latest opportunity which brings that subject to bear. I just hope that we maximize all these thoughts and speeches to do more than hyperbolize.
You know what came to my mind when I first saw the kiss? I thought, “Look, Michael Sam is just like most other African-American big time athletes. They get to college and go white! No different!
See,.. now there is a bias for you!