Why gays great till they gotta be great?
By Buddy Early, February 2020 Issue.
month a coworker made a racist comment to me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
shameful and embarrassing for our community.
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.
two queens get bad service at a restaurant and there is hell to pay!
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?”
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.
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.