Tracy Morgan, stand-up comedian and actor on NBC's 30 Rock, now joins the long list of influential or well-known black Americans who publicly spew their homophobia. The list includes actor Isaiah Washington, basketball star Kobe Bryant, popular rap icons and untold numbers of preachers.
Morgan showed his hatred of gay people during a recent performance at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, when he said that he would "pull out a knife and stab" his son to death if the boy spoke to him "in a gay voice," mimicking his version of a gay voice. He apologized following a barrage of social media attacks and after fellow entertainers publicly condemned him.
As a comedian, Morgan has every right to tell his jokes. That is not my concern. I am concerned that the lame routine manifests the enduring rot of homophobia in black society. What Morgan said is not just a Morgan thing. It is a black thing.
Several studies and polls show that homophobia is a major part of African-American culture, enabled by religious and political nonsense and emotional and intellectual immaturity. Based on everything I have read, we are, in fact, the nation's most homophobic population. One striking example of our contempt for gay people came in 2008, when California passed Proposition 8, which constitutionally outlawed same-sex marriage in that state. A whopping 70 percent of blacks voted for the measure, compared to 53 percent of Hispanic voters, 49 percent of white voters and 49 percent of Asian voters. In other states where gay rights issues are put to the vote, a majority of blacks consistently oppose such rights.
I always have been confounded by the paradox that black people, historical victims of discrimination in the United States, discriminate against another minority. I am even more confounded that the black church — the most powerful institution in black life and at the forefront of the civil rights movement — is a major source of black homophobia.
Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown University and an ordained minister, has condemned the black church's homophobia: "One of the most painful scenarios of black church life is repeated Sunday after Sunday with little notice or collective outrage. A black minister will preach a sermon railing against sexual ills, especially homosexuality. At the close of the sermon, a soloist, who everybody knows is gay, will rise to perform a moving number, as the preacher extends an invitation to visitors to join the church.
"The soloist is, in effect, being asked to sign his theological death sentence. His presence at the end of such a sermon symbolizes a silent endorsement of the preacher's message. Ironically, the presence of his gay Christian body at the highest moment of worship also negates the preacher's attempt to censure his presence, to erase his body, to deny his legitimacy as a child of God."
Most other black preachers are not as reasonable as Dyson. Take the Rev. Bernice King, daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, who has been an aggressive and shameless gay basher. In 2004, the good reverend led a march to the Atlanta tomb of her father and called for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Some members of her father's inner circle condemned the march. As far as I know, Martin Luther King never addressed the issue of homosexuality publicly, but it is commonly known that one of his closest advisers was the brilliant and openly gay Bayard Rustin. Coretta King unequivocally supported gay rights.
Another homophobic black preacher is Bishop Eddie Long, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga. Until recently, Bernice King was an elder in this megachurch, which endorses prosperity gospel. Long, who accompanied King on her 2004 antigay march to her father's tomb, regularly denounces gay people in his fiery sermons.
Like so many other gay bashers in the pulpit, the bishop is a hypocrite. Earlier this year, four young black males, all members of one of New Birth's youth ministries, accused the pastor of coercing them into sexual relations. Rather than go to trial, he settled out of court, agreeing to pay $24 million to his victims.
Bernice King, by the way, has since stepped down as an elder of New Birth and is establishing her own ministry. Now she can further her antigay campaign from her own pulpit.