Roy Hibbert, "No Homo," And the Myth of Harmless Hate6/03/2013
This weekend Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers used the phrase "no homo," along with som...
This weekend Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers used the phrase "no homo," along with some other colorful language, during a post-game press conference. Hibbert's words immediately stirred both debate and controversy and resulted in Hibbert receiving a $75,000 fine from the NBA.
NBA Commissioner David Stern called the fine "necessary." He's absolutely right.
Hibbert uttered the phrase that many of us have heard countless time nonchalantly. It was to him a normal affirmation of his sexuality and masculinity. But after the public outcry, Hibbert offered a speedy apology on Sunday and reached out to Jason Collins, NBA's first openly-gay player. It seems he did not realize the offensiveness of his words until they had already been spoken. Therein lies the problem. “Soft” homophobia has become so normalized that many of us don't raise an eyebrow when it is invoked.
I'm almost ashamed to admit that calls for fines and suspensions of Hibbert immediately puzzled me. Despite identifying myself as progressive on issues of inequality, I had no idea that many gays and lesbians viewed the language as a slur.
As the discussion unfolded, I realized that as a woman whose daily life isn't marked by navigating a homophobic society that it simply is not my place to debate whether or not the phrase is homophobic enough to warrant outrage. Clearly the language marginalizes an already stigmatized group,thus it deserves public chastisement.
In situations like this, those who call themselves allies too often reveal themselves unwilling to do the self-reflection necessary needed to truly change culture. As a Black woman, detractors often attempt dismiss my needs and concerns. I know the anger and frustration that accompanies constant demands to prove my worthiness to be heard, and it is my responsibility, when I occupy the position of ally, to not to repeat that offense.
This weekend, we learned that straight people need to know when to shut up. The personal experiences of those outside of the LGBT community with the phrase "no homo" are immaterial to determinations of whether or not the phrase is offensive. Moreover, it is not a straight person's place center themselves or their thoughts in discussions of homophobia.
But you need not be a member of a marginalized group to recognize the base humanity in others. Homophobia causes us to confuse offering gays and lesbians basic respect with giving them special treatment.
The fight for full equality for LGBT Americans rages on and continues to face opposition. Despite the increasing visibility of these issues, overt hatred and hatefulness toward gays happens routinely. This bigotry has real consequences.
The hypermasculinity throughout American culture that takes root in professional sports breeds a contempt toward that which is perceived to be feminine. Overtly homophobic displays in these spaces are unsurprising; consequently, the NBA's actions following this event mark an important milestone.
Discrimination against gays and lesbians is so deeply entrenched in US culture that some of us have convinced ourselves that it's harmless – that pointing it out and punishing the offender demonstrates hypersensitivity. The bottom line is there is no such thing as homophobia that doesn't harm gay people. These comments contribute to dangerous culture, and they deserve to be taken seriously.
Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet. Email or Follow @KimberlyNFoster