By now I am sure that many of you aware the Kobe Bryant has been fined 100,000 dollars after calling a referee “a fucking faggot” in a fit of rage. He has since apologized and claims that the language he used is not reflective of how he feels about the LGBT community. Uh huh, not buying that one for a second. When someone says something homophobic, it is normally only a matter of time before justification of the comment begins. The very fact that this slur came from a Black man, was enough for me to realize that conversation would not be productive in the mainstream and sure enough, David Kaufman at The Root, more than adequately affirmed my belief.
Armed with their well-oiled media machine, both groups quickly issued formal statements blasting Bryant, which were snapped up by major LGBT blogs whose writers and readers have now declared the pro-baller America’s homophobe-in-chief.
Although Bryant’s word choice is certainly unfortunate, equally worrisome is the near-instant racial — and racist — overtones now permeating this debate. At its core is the comparison of the word “faggot” with “nigger,” a comparison that has become emblematic of the LGBT movement’s unabashed co-option of the African-American struggle. In this case, reader comments on blog after blog repeatedly invoke the word “nigger” in their Kobe takedown as — in the words of Joe.My.God reader “beeblmeyer” — they “wonder how Mr. Bryant would feel if someone said, ‘Fucking nigger.’ “
The real wonder here is how folks could think there is anything to compare in the first place. Without a doubt, Bryant uttered the epithet in anger, but in a fit of homophobia? Not necessarily, at least until we know for certain whether referee Bennie Adams is gay.
Despite what gay, black ex-NBA player John Amaechi might have said in today’s USA Today, calling someone a “fucking nigger” has an entirely different historical meaning and context. A black person is called a nigger precisely and exclusively because he is black. Period. And the core of the word’s offense — and racism — stems from this sheer conspicuousness. I’ve been called a nigger more than once, and there’s no doubt it was because of the color of my skin, not because I’d pissed someone off.
We cannot necessarily say the same thing about Kobe’s — or perhaps anyone’s — use of “faggot.” Yes, the word is loaded with offense and has been a centuries-long tool of homophobes. But unless we’re certain Bryant expressly chose this word to specifically dis Adams’ sexuality, this charge of homophobia doesn’t hold up. Nor do the overwrought responses by GLAAD and HRC, who clearly have far more important enemies to battle than Kobe Bryant.
And hopefully they’ll soon start doing that, now that Bryant has been slapped with a $100,000 fine by the NBA and released an official apology statement to GLAAD late Wednesday. Sounding both on message and most likely sincere, Bryant said that his actions “were out of frustration during the heat of the game … [and] do not reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities.” I, for one, never thought they did.
First, let me start off by saying that it is semantics to suggest that because Bryant was not actually aware of the sexuality of the person that he attacked, that it did not amount to an anti gay slur. We know without equivocation, that [email protected] exists specifically to oppress and dehumanize the LGBT community. Every single connotation of this word is negative. When those words passed Bryant’s lips, they affirmed his heterosexual privilege, thereby elevating him above another human being. It is specifically because the intent was meant to debase based in sexuality that makes the comment anti gay. The only sexuality that matters in this case is Bryant’s, and at no time, can a straight person utter that word [email protected] without an element of homophobia.
Throughout the article, Kaufman pointed out that LGBT blogs brought the issue of race into the conversation by suggesting the Bryant would not be pleased had he been called a nigger. My answer – no shit, but that does not give them the right to bring up the analogy. I completely agree with Kaufman when he said:
Meanwhile, from complaints about “gay apartheid” to declarations that “gay is the new black,” LGBT leaders demonstrate a kind of movement mooching never before seen in the history of identity politics. Yet like the word “holocaust” for Jews or “genocide” for Rwandans, the word “nigger” — because of all it conveys — is a sacred statement that must be kept off-limits from those who would massage its meaning. Using it in the context of Bryant’s slur is that kind of abuse, writ large.
The only thing slurs have in common, is that they are meant to dehumanize. Nigger has a very specific history, just as [email protected] has a specific history. When I consider the continued appropriation perpetrated by Gay Inc, how can any POC take this analogy in good faith? How is it that Gay Inc remembers racism now, but cannot be arsed to listen to our objections regarding their appropriation? In face of the ongoing appropriation and at times out right racism, this analogy feels more like they are reminding Bryant, that niggers should stay in line.
I think what bothers me about this is that neither side can see the sun through the trees. Look, the word [email protected] cannot be justified. Getting into a game of semantics leaves everyone a loser. It is equally wrong for anyone White, inject a racial slur into the conversation. No White person will ever know what it feels like to be called a nigger, and all analogy accomplished was to level the playing field and remind the Black person of the racial hierarchy. Why is it that marginalized groups cannot seem to understand that using oppression to fight oppression simply leads to – you guessed it – more oppression. Everyone loses when we take this approach. The bottom line is that White people don’t get to invoke the word nigger as a teaching lesson, and no straight person gets to say the word [email protected] and get away with it. It all seems pretty simple to me, the moment one stops focusing on semantics.