Unfortunately Reggie White
Speaks For Many Blacks

When Green Bay Packer star Reggie White ranted against homosexuality in a speech to the Wisconsin legislature, he was blasted as a vile homophobe by gay groups and many in the media. But the truth is that White spoke for far too many African-Americans. I remember the reaction I got when I condemned discrimination against gays during a recent interview on a black radio station. The phone lines immediately jammed with irate callers attacking me for defending a "decadent" and "degenerate" lifestyle.

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, some black writers and rappers go even further and publicly claim that homosexuality threatens black communities. They ridicule black males that don't act like "real" men as "sissies" and "faggots."

The only comprehensive study that measured black attitudes toward gays published in the Journal of Sex Research in 1995 found that blacks, like many whites, had not slackened up one bit in there hostility toward gays. While there was less anti-gay sentiment among the more educated, less religious and more affluent blacks many blacks still continued to heap special scorn on black gay men.

But chalking up the fear and loathing that many African-Americans have toward gays to ignorance, apathy, or indifference is to easy. From cradle to grave many blacks have believed and accepted the gender propaganda that the only real men in American society are white men. In a vain attempt to recapture their denied masculinity, many black men, mirrored America's traditional fear and hatred of homosexuality. They swallowed whole the phony and perverse John Wayne definition of manhood, that real men talked and acted tough, shed no tears, and never showed their emotions.

Many blacks have listened to countless black ministers, and that certainly includes White, who's an ordained minister, shout and condemn to fire and brimstone any man who dared think about, yearn for, or actually engage in the "godless" and "unnatural act" of having a sexual relationship with another man. If they had any doubts about it, they could always flip to the oft-cited line in Leviticus in the Bible that sternly calls men laying down with men, "the abomination." The gospel singing Winans sisters drew heavy fire from some gay groups in 1997 for their anti-gay single, Not Natural, but there were no major protests from the black communities, and their record sales have jumped .

The out-of-sight, out-of-mind exclusion of gays from black life hinges on the shaky assumption that there are thousands of gay men lying in wait to subvert traditional family values. Beyond the fact that no one really knows how many black or non-black men consider themselves exclusively gay, much of what passes for traditional family values has long been turned into shambles.

But even if the American family still fully resembled the storybook Ozzie and Harriet family, the list of the mightiest destabilizers of the black family which many can recite by heart would still remain the same: poverty, unemployment, lack of education, chronic disease, violence, drugs, alcoholism, imprisonment, and early death. Gays are not on that list. It's inevitable that as public attitudes change toward gays more blacks will come out of the closet and more blacks will meet them, get to know them better as people too, or in some cases discover that they have known them all along as a family member, friend, or acquaintance. This will force even more African-Americans to reexamine their defective definitions of manhood and confront their own homophobia. And that should start with Reggie White.

Dr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson is the author of The Assassination of the Black Male Image and the forthcoming, The Crisis in Black and Black.email:ehutchi344@aol.com.

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