The Importance of Being Tracy

Uproar over comedian's anti-gay rant shows a bigger issue at hand

Posted: 06/22/2011 11:13 AM EDT
The Importance of Being Tracy

There you have it, folks. After almost two weeks of upheaval over Tracy Morgan’s inflammatory stand-up about gays, the comedian sat at a news conference in Nashville with GLAAD and apologized. If you didn’t believe his remorseful words, the Huffington Post provided the ultimate money shot—Morgan giving a heartfelt hug to Kevin Rogers, the gay man who initially reported Morgan’s June 3 rant on Facebook. 


Thus concludes—or at least winds down—the uproarious back-and-forth over the 30 Rock star's hurtful comedy bit about, among other things, gayness being a choice and that he’d stab his own son if he heard him sounding gay. It was a rant many had likened to Michael Richard’s N-word meltdown at a comedy club in 2006. (Though, I disagreed with the comparison because Morgan made a passionate, albeit boneheaded, point about a group, which was a part of his act, and Richards was passionately insulting a Black patron, who he thought heckled him, with racist insults.)


Comparisons aside, the point being, once again, a Black male—this one a comedian—became the whipping post for the issue of homophobia. Only, that’s because anti-gay sentiments within Black America, and its feelings on gay rights, has become just as high-profile. Or do we need to review well-publicized moments like the Black church getting blamed for California upholding its ban on gay marriage or Kobe Bryant’s utterance of the f-word on the bench or the hot topic of the black “down-low” boogeymen hating the gay title or… now… the banter between Black celebrities over the Tracy Morgan stand-up scandal.


Does this mean Black males are being unfairly targeted for displays of homophobia? Absolutely not. It’s just that the mainstreaming of Black urban (and, let’s be honest, homophobic and machismo) culture—hip hop, basketball and comedy—is colliding with the 21st Century fight for gay rights.


Black comedians have made anti-gay jokes, publicly, for years. But in a climate where gay youth are beaten to death or shamed into suicide and the fight for marriage equality has become the new civil rights movement, violence-as-humor from a comedian just couldn’t stand. A point, amidst all the flying opinions, made by The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, who wrote “The right to say impolite things is sacred and essential. Unfortunately, the right to not be misinterpreted is not.” Violence is violence, and Tracy now understands that. Do we?

 

(Photo: Royce DeGrie/Getty Images)

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