Why gays great till they gotta be great?

By Buddy Early, February 2020 Issue.

Last

month a coworker made a racist comment to me.

I

almost referred to it here as a joke, but although he intended it to illicit

laughter it certainly wasn’t funny. He knew it was inappropriate, as evidenced

by the way he leaned in and said it rather quietly. Aside from being completely

disgusted that he would assume I’m fine hearing racist “jokes,” I’m equally

disappointed in myself for tolerating it. You see, while I gave him an

unmistakable disapproving look, I let loose a tiny chuckle.

I

have always – and especially since 2016 – touted myself as a person who will

call out racists and racism whenever I encounter them or it.  So why, in this scenario, did I make a split-second

decision to let it slide and offer tacit approval of his comment? Perhaps it

was because up until this moment I really liked this coworker; I was hurt when

I found out the kind of person he is. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for such

a confrontation at this particular time.

The

best I can do is promise myself that the next time I won’t let this opportunity

pass. I have forgiven myself. But what has been weighing on my mind more that

my cowardice is this coworker’s comfortability with telling me a racist

joke.  This person knows I’m gay, and he

knows that … well, that’s all someone really needs to know in order to assume I

am not cool with bigotry.

I’m

not naïve; I know that gay people do not all share the same politics and

values. I know our community includes liberals, moderates and conservatives.

Many of us care about our fellow humans … and some others are current members

of the Republican Party. (I couldn’t resist.) But if there are things we all should

be on the same page regarding, it’s bigotry and bias in all forms.

I’ve

been an out gay man for almost 25 years now and, if I do say so myself, have

been an active, contributing, well-connected member of this community. During

that time, I have, unfortunately, witnessed deplorable behavior from gay men

and lesbians. I’ve seen people of color excluded, derided, and segregated. I’ve

witnessed both blatant and subtle displays of racism in some of our community’s

watering holes. And I’ve overheard more racial slurs and “jokes” like the one my

coworker told than I care to remember.

It’s

shameful and embarrassing for our community.

There

are a good number of gay men and women who would be outraged the second

marriage equality is put on the chopping block, adoption rights for gay couples

threatened, or employment discrimination codified. On those occasions they leap

into action as Super Social Justice Warrior. But that’s where it stops for

them. They’re peculiarly quiet when the topic is black men being stopped by

police for no reason — and then shot by police for no reason. They remain

silent when Hispanic parents are separated from their young children at border

camps. They keep their mouths shut when a Muslim individual is escorted off a

plane because one of the passengers got scared.

But

two queens get bad service at a restaurant and there is hell to pay!

All

of this is what went through my head after I tolerated my coworker’s racist

comment.  I kept thinking “How could this

person not know that I don’t approve of that?” I wanted to return to him and

say “You know I’m gay, right? So why did you feel comfortable saying something

racist in front of me?”

But

after a bit of contemplation I realized: he didn’t assume I’m anti-racism because

there are plenty of racist gay people. 

I can fault him for his racism, but I can’t fault him for his assumption

about me – or lack of assumption. That fault lies with my community. He told me

his lame racist joke because he figured, gay or not, I was a good old American

racist like him.

In

January, I celebrated two decades of being a writer for this magazine. I’ve

witnessed a lot of wonderful things; gay people have won our equal rights and

protections in almost every arena. My wish for this next decade is that we

understand that other communities’ existence is being threatened in numerous

ways. My wish is that our racist coworkers will automatically know we are a

people who are not racist. I think it should be a given.




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