Nothing exacerbates a problem more than good intentions.
And, Ellen DeGeneres had no idea the Pandora Box hers opened by trying to revive talks for comedian Kevin Hart to host the Oscars.
When Ellen invited Kevin Hart to her show, she provided a broader platform for Hart to explain his non-apology for previous homophobic statements. DeGeneres, however, didn’t take into account the outcome of her good intentions — she cannot speak for the entire LGBTQ community, and she cannot fully understand the ongoing struggle the black LGBTQ community has with self-proclaimed evolved brothers like Kevin Hart.
“We need to speak up for the young black kids in the LGBTQ community,” Don Lemon stated on CNN in response to the Hart controversy. "I'm saying these issues need to be addressed. Because [LGBTQ youth] need to know that they have value and it’s OK to be who they are. We have to stop low-key co-signing homophobia. It’s not cool. We won’t tolerate jokes that do otherwise.”
In 2011, Lemon penned a memoir, Transparent, and came out of the closet. Lemon knows first hand the sting, embarrassment, debasement, and violence that comes from the Kevin Harts in our communities.
“Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my daughters doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay,’” Hart shared as parenting advice during a stand-up routine.
“It’s quite different for an African-American male,” Lemon told Joy Behar on her then-HLN show. “[Being gay is] about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You’re taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine.”
There are very few safe places for GBTQ brothers of African descent to safely acknowledge their sexuality as well as to openly engage the subject of their sexualities. Black GBTQ sexualities within African-American culture are perceived to further threaten not only black male heterosexuality, but also the ontology of blackness itself.
And, the community’s expression of its intolerance of LGBTQ people is easily seen along gender lines. For example, sisters mouth off about us, while brothers can get both verbally and physically violent with us.
My son “better talk to me like a man and not in a gay voice or I’ll pull out a knife and stab that little n-word to death,” comedian Tracy Morgan told his audience at the Ryman Auditorium in 2011.
Ellen, however, is standing her ground in supporting Hart’s heartless apology. Hart is, too.
On the Wednesday morning segment of Good Morning America, Michael Strahan, however, took a different tact and more forcefully confronted Hart.
"I’ve addressed it and said all I can possibly say," Hart said. "I’ve done all I can do. Don’t know what you’re looking for. I’m over it. Shouldn’t have to prove who I am."
Although Hart’s now a crossover phenom, he still plays mostly to a black audience. And, I hope the young LGBTQ sisters and brothers who fell in love with Hart in the blockbuster hit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle witnessed Hart’s defensiveness.
Strahan pushed Hart further on his response by asking, "How have you evolved?"
"I’m over it!," Hart responded. "I’ve said it many times. If you don’t see it. It’s you. I have nothing else to do or prove."
While I will continue to argue that the African-American community doesn’t have a patent on homophobia, it does, however, have a problem with it. As one who has purportedly evolved on LGBTQ issues, Hart squandered his elevated profile to educate the public how his evolution came about. Instead, Hart has become a cause célèbre by flipping the switch as an aggrieved victim of attacks on his career rather than confronting the homophobe he purports not to be.
I’m glad Hart has a friend in Ellen. And, I know Ellen wants to save her friend and save the Oscars. But, Black LGBTQ Lives Matter, too. Perhaps over time, both will look back at this moment anew. At present, both, are co-actors to an ongoing problem in black communities — the deleterious effects of homophobia on LGBTQ African-Americans, especially children.
Ellen not only defends Hart’s stance, she also absolves him: "You have grown, you have apologized, you are apologizing again right now. You've done it. Don’t let those people win — host the Oscars."
Ellen sees herself as a peacemaker rather than an interloper, but she doesn’t realize she unleashed a monster in the simple gesture of reviving the Oscar host talk. The monster is not Kevin Hart. It’s black homophobia.
REV. IRENE MONROE does a weekly Monday segment, “All Revved Up!” on Boston Public Radio and is a weekly Friday TV commentator on New England Channel NEWS. She’s a theologian and religion columnist.