Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Don Lemon: Homophobia, Racism and the Wider Culture

When Don Lemon first came out, I was surprised.  His sexuality makes no difference to me personally, but the conversations that have happened since he announced to the world that he is gay, are another matter entirely.  Lemon has made it absolutely clear that he has experienced homophobia in the Black community.  I have no intention of questioning his lived experience, though I absolutely refute the idea that Blacks are uniquely homophobic.  This is something that has been inferred from his commentary, because he has continually failed to discuss homophobia as a systemic force.  Homophobia exists not simply because some Blacks are homophobic, but because society is homophobic.  The Black community is simply a microcosm of the larger community on this issue.

Much attention has been given to Lemon's commentary about the Black community, while ignoring what he had to say about his fear of what kind of reception he would receive from the  LGBT community.  This kind of silence tells me that once again a very specific narrative has been chosen to present to the public.  In an interview with Loop21, Lemon had this to say regarding his fear of coming out:
One of the reasons I didn't come out earlier is because I am not the Ken doll that represents the gay community. I didn't think anyone in the gay community would support me because I'm not the classic gay role model. I’m not the Clark Kent type. I would go and host events at gay organizations as a news anchor and I would be the only African-American in the room so I thought maybe, nobody's going to care because I'm not the blonde, white guy. That was a concern for me. (source)
I have heard crickets chirp louder than the response to this quote.  I found myself once again wondering why the focus is on the homophobia in the Black community and not the racism in the BLGT community?  I certainly do not believe that White members of the TLBG community are uniquely racist, despite the continued appropriation of our history, assertions that Gay is The New Black, the false blame for the results of prop 8, and the racist rantings of Dan Savage. I know that any racism that  occurs in the LGBT community, exists because it is a microcosm of the larger society. Don Lemon's identity as a gay man, does not supersede his identity as a Black man.

Black people need to admit homophobia continues to proliferate in our community.  It is poisonous and we must actively strive to  eradicate it.  White GLBT members need to admit previous acts of racism and identify  racist elements in their community, while working to eradicate this injustice, because it is counter to any movement whose goal is equality. This one sided conversation suggests that homophobia is more of a problem to the LGBT community, than racism is to Blacks and that my friends is classic oppression olympics. It further completely erases people like Don Lemon and Wanda Sykes who straddle both identities. Conversations in the social justice community that continue to ignore intersectionality and focus on demonizing fellow marginalized people, instead of understanding that the true enemy is our belief in an hierarchy of oppressions ultimately limit our ability to make change.  It is time that we realize that playing gotcha, gets us nowhere, because what is at stake is equality for all people, regardless of what ism we are currently negotiating.