Kappa Controversy Brings out the Bully

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

We’ve all heard it before. For me it was when I was in fourth grade. It was a Thursday and Imani, my arch nemesis, had gotten the better of me that day. When the clock struck 3:30 p.m., I ran 10 blocks home and told my mother all about my grade school melodrama.

She kissed me on the forehead and hugged me tight, whispering in my ear those famous words that almost every parent has said to a bullied child, “Kids can be so cruel.”

Grade school and the real world are very similar. Just like the cliques that form in school, the grown up world is full of people that surround themselves with others who share the same values, opinions, and prejudices. Communities of people usually share the same basic ideals, but anyone countering the loose opinion of the majority might attract a few Imani’s on the playground.

The African American community is no exception.

As members of the black community we are familiar with prejudice and stereotypes; we are often victims of them. But we are so familiar that we also find it easy to perpetuate these things with other people.

Recently on Morgan State’s campus, Brian Stewart, a former White House intern, decided to go out for the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. After he was denied, a GroupMe text message conversation surfaced which implied that Stewart was denied access into the organization due to his sexual orientation. Stewart, who is gay, took the controversy to the media. Yesterday, President David Wilson announced that  the Alpha Iota chapter was placed on disciplinary probation until 2015. Now, homophobia in the black community is a hot topic on campus.

Gay discrimination is nothing new. No sooner does a person proclaim themselves to be an out-and-proud member of the gay community, than they are greeted with whispers, stares, slurs, and a bunch of people who have never read the Bible telling them of the great sin they are committing.

People can be so cruel, can’t they?

Being a race of people who have fought racial discrimination for over 400 years, one could ask why such a large number of African Americans inflict the same type of discrimination on the gay community?

Two reasons: the church, and more interestingly, the perception of masculinity in the black American culture.

“There’s a definition of what a man is, and then there’s a definition of what a black man is,” says Zachery Jones, a sophomore at Morgan State University. Jones is a hard working student who loves to dance. He almost never sags his pants and is an animated conversationalist. Growing up in the outskirts of Washington, he says he’s often been mistaken for being gay, but that’s only because he doesn’t fit into the image of a stereotypical black male. “A girl told me that she thought I was gay because I talk proper. It’s stupid,” Jones says with a smirk. “So basically, because I carry myself with class and I don’t sag my jeans, don’t smoke, or don’t have dreads, I’m gay?” he asks, not really expecting an answer.

I know what you’re thinking, “Everyone doesn’t think like that,” or maybe, “I don’t judge people like that.” And yes, I know that the people you hang out with and the people they hang out with would never judge someone based on how they look, or how they talk, or how they dress, but let’s try a little experiment.

Picture this: A gay black man who attends college. Can you see the brown Michael Kors bag he carries to class? Stereotype. And do you notice the more than slight sashay in his walk as he is walking to class? Stereotype. Or perhaps you can see his sense of animation as he talks to his best friend Nicole, using feminine hand gestures to tell his story. Stereotype. After seeing and noticing all of this, would you feel comfortable inviting this person to your house to meet your family, or even to hang out with some of your straight male friends?

Could it be that black people have stereotyped the black male down to what he should look like, talk like, and act like? Or maybe it’s just the opposite, maybe the black community has stereotyped the gay black male into being this flamboyant soprano singing, hair weave wearing, Lady GaGa loving queen?

In a Blacklight article, independent film maker John Soares told the paper, “Too many believe that (the street sissy) is the only gay role available to them because it is the only one they are fully aware of.”

As the gay black male stereotype is repeatedly reinforced in the black community, many people dismiss gay males as not being “real” men.

“A lot of people think that because I’m gay I must be a bitch or something,” said Marquel Wallace, a senior at Hofstra University. “They forget that being gay isn’t my entire life, just like being straight isn’t someone’s entire life. First and foremost, I’m a black man, not a gay black man.”

As I learned in fourth grade, there are always going to be Imani’s in the world. When people don’t understand something it is easier for them to reject it. But it’s time to stop caring what other people are doing in their personal lives and treating them differently because of the choices they are making here.

Just once, let us not be so cruel.

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