“Black People’s Teachable Moment”

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 15 2011 @ 10:19am

John McWhorter uses the Tracy Morgan incident to confront "the acrid brand of homophobia [that] lies “just underneath” in too many of America’s black men":

CNN’s Don Lemon, who came out last month, pretty neatly nailed the nature of the thing. The problem is partly rooted in the strong role of conservative Christianity in black culture, and then there is a highly traditional conception of black manhood, very John Wayne. Talk about black people’s history: Neither of these things is exactly surprising among a people with a history in subjugation. Both are useful to an urgent brand of community strength. …

It’s really pretty simple: If America is supposed to do a month of penance every time a white person uses the N-word—and even when just referring to it, a la Dr. Laura last year—then it’s time for black people to start buttoning up on “faggot” and other expressions of unenlightened bigotry against gay people. It’s not funny. It’s not overblown—say “get over it” and remember that if T.R. Knight had called Isaiah Washington a nigger, Knight would never have worked again.

What worries me about the rant – unlike Michael Richards' – is that Morgan spoke of knifing his own son to death if he told him he was gay in an effeminate way. Endorsing violence against gay children is beyond a bad joke. It happens too often to be mocked. And this is not the first time he has gone on a tear about God not "making mistakes", i.e. gays.

Pushing his public apology to the limit, Tracy Morgan now comes out strong for marriage equality and plans to campaign against Tennessee's "Don't Say Gay" bill. There's almost a kabuki dance with these things now, isn't there? Well, at least he didn't go into rehab.