When we too quickly apply the terms racist and homophobic to someone, not only is it a rush to judgment; it shuts down any possibility of meaningful dialogue between you and the person. More importantly, it lets the person off the hook without their ever really examining their shadow beliefs about people of other ethic groups or sexual orientation. The person quickly says, oh I'm not racist, or I'm not homophobic. And of course there are those who go a step further and say, some of best friends are.... This may or may not be true, yet, it allows the individual to skirt the larger issue, which is the benefit of white and heterosexual privilege.
Now mind you, heterosexual privilege is an issue that I had to struggle with as a straight black women. There was a time I felt that as a woman and a person of color, I was afforded few privileges if any, and did not see my heterosexual orientation as any kind of privilege. However, overtime, and with some very heated discussions, my homosexual friends educated me on the errors in my thinking. I was able to remain open to the dialogue because my friends were smart and sensitive enough not to just call me names, but engaged me in ways that allowed me to honor my feelings and opinions, while exploring new ways of seeing and being in the world with others who had a different sexual orientation.
Now let me be clear, I've come a long way in my thinking, but I am not at the "Gay is the new Black" stage by any means. I still feel that when I walk into a room my blackness and the negative historical legacy connected to my ancestry enters with me. I am at the mercy if you will, of the other person to be enlightened enough to know that I am more than my color. On the other hand, in my opinion, when a gay or lesbian person walks into a room their sexual orientation is not immediately known or for that matter judged. Again, IMHO.
However, I digress. I was motivated to write this post because of the article, "Oh Shit, I'm Racist" (http://uncrunched.com/2011/10/28/oh-shit-im-a-racist/). Mike Arrington could easily let himself off the hook by saying he's not a racist, which he probably isn't. Nevertheless, this quote from his article made me think Mr. Arrington might just need to dig a little deeper into his world view as it relates to issues of race and even class. He stated:
"I may be the poster child for racial ignorance in Silicon Valley, but my motives are pure and I always have and always will do anything to help out the underdog. Frankly, I’ll invest my time in people like Will.i.am, who are actually trying to fix the problem at the root level."
Will i am. Dude are you serious? Rubbing shoulders with a black guy, by the way, wealthy entertainer should not excuse your "racial ignorance". Yet, this is what happens when we use language like racist and homophobic loosely. People get a free pass and continue with their lives feeling exonerated that they are not racist or homophobic, while their negatives views and the bigotry of low expectations remain intact.
The moral of this rant if there is one: The next time you confront someone who is expressing negative views or comments about a racial or sexual minority; don't immediately brand them racist or homophobic. Instead, engage them in meaningful dialogue if at all possible.