Kevin Hart and the Racial Politics of LGBTQ Call Outs

By Dr. Herukhuti

Kevin Hart is a Black comedian whose career began in the Black community. In the early 2000s, clubs like Philly’s Laff House provided him with the space and time to develop his comedic style, identity, craft, and content. After many comedy tours and movies since those early days, Hart has remained committed to Black people as his central audience as a comedian even as he achieved popularity with other folks.

He is also, as far as we know, a cishet man. And he has made cisheteropatriarchal comments in his comedy and on social media. His platform as a popular comedian, multimillionnaire, and movie star has given him ample space to broadcast his cisheteropatriarchal views.

 

His stand-up comedy bit from 2010 and tweets from 2009 came under scrutiny when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced they chose him as the host of their 2019 Oscar awards show. Initially, Hart claimed to have apologized previously and disavowed the bit and tweets but after pressure mounted he’s launched an apology tour that began with an appearance on daytime tv show Ellen.

It’s important to recognize that Hart believes his social media presence so valuable that he attempted to negotiate additional money from Sony Pictures to promote his movies through his social media channels. The release of hacked emails of Sony executives in 2014 provided a behind the scenes take on the negotiations. So Hart believes he has the ability to contribute to the way his social media followers think that he felt he should be paid to talk about movies in which he was starring. But that influence has the potential to extend to a host of issues beyond whether to go see a movie including the value of the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Who Is Harmed

In February 2016, Martin Blackwell, a Black man in Atlanta, set a pot of water to boil, carried the pot of boiling water into the living room of his girlfriend’s apartment, and poured it on his girlfriend’s son, Anthony Gooden, and his boyfriend, Marquez Tolbert as they slept, according to the AP. The Washington Post reported:

“I woke up to the most unimaginable pain in my entire life,” Tolbert said, sobbing frequently during his testimony, according to the AP. “I’m wondering why I’m in so much pain. I’m wondering why I’m wet. I don’t understand what’s going on.”

Then Blackwell allegedly yanked him off the mattress and yelled, “Get out of my house with all that gay,” Tolbert recalled to WSBTV.

“They were stuck together like two hot dogs … so I poured a little hot water on them and helped them out,” he said to police, according to the incident report. “… They’ll be alright. It was just a little hot water.”

Anthony Gooden
Marquez Tolbert

Hart’s comments in stand-up and on social media reflect and contribute to perspectives in Black communities. Perspectives that have dangerous consequences for Black people specifically and almost exclusively. Because of white supremacy, Hart as a Black man does not have a significant role or presence the worlds people racialized as white inhabit beyond his role as comedic figure like a buffoon or zip coon. For Black folks, Hart is a member of our families and communities. We connect with his humanity beyond his comedic persona, even though he has not been able to do the same for all of us. Many of us have emotionally invested in his professional achievements and financial rewards within an industry dominated by people racialized as white.

It’s why both Hart and his mostly Black audiences in 2009 and 2010 and Blackwell in 2016 could share the same cisheteropatriarchal ideology. It’s why Black people are most harmed and most at risk from Hart’s past, present, and future expressions of that ideology.

Who Leads the Charge

Although Black people are most harmed and most at risk, people racialized as white have been at the forefront of calling out Hart and the Academy as well as forgiving Hart. Why? Cause white supremacy. On its website, the Blast reported,

Rich Ferraro, Chief Communications Officer for GLAAD, tells The Blast, “GLAAD reached out to ABC, The Academy and Kevin Hart’s management to discuss his rhetoric and record as well as opportunities for positive LGBTQ inclusion on the Oscars stage. They have not yet responded.”

GLAAD, Ellen DeGeneres, Benjamin Lee, and a host of other people racialized as white exercise their white privilege, supremacy, and entitlement in choosing to engage Hart and the Academy on this issue without seeking the leadership of Black people, particularly Black people who are rooted in the Black community and have been working to address cisheteropatriarchy in our communities from a Black perspective. And it’s not the first time.

Remember Tracy Morgan’s 2011 bit in a comedy club in Nashville? The Atlantic/Wire reported an eyewitness account:

He said if his son that was gay he better come home and talk to him like a man and not [he mimicked a gay, high pitched voice] or he would pull out a knife and stab that little N (one word I refuse to use) to death…

He…  informed us that the gays needed to quit being pussies and not be whining about something as insignificant as bullying. He mentioned that gay was something kids learn from the media and programming, and that bullied kids should just bust some ass and beat those other little fuckers that bully them, not whine about it… Tracy then said he didn’t fucking care if he pissed off some gays, because if they can take a fucking dick up their ass… they can take a fucking joke.

Dwayne Jenkins (Brothers United), Phil Mical Thomas (Brothers United), Marisa Richmond, PH.D. (Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition), Wes Aull (Tennessee Equality Project), Tracy Morgan, Tracy Morgan’s fiancée, Kevin Rogers, Patrick Katie Cleek, Cynthia Wagner (couple who was at the comedy show), Herndon Graddick (GLAAD), Images courtesy of RhinoPic.com (Walter) courtesy of GLAAD

Another Black comedian, whose primary audience are Black people and who gained a privileged position in the entertainment industry, Morgan was brought to heel by an LGBT movement dominated by wyppipo in the interest of wyppipo who are LGBT. To show he had been sufficiently chastened Morgan met with local leaders and GLAAD. Notice in the picture, the Black folks on one side of him and his fiancee and wyppipo on the other side. He also went to the Ali Forney Center, an organization run by people racialized as white to serve LGBT youth, to meet with LGBT youth of color.

These organizations are bastions of white supremacy in which Black employees experience racialized workplace trauma and structural violence and the pain of Black LGBT people are pimped to bring in funding and maintain relevance. They have no credibility in the Black community yet, because of white supremacy, they feel empowered and entitled to take a lead in challenging cisheteropatriarchal Black folks.

If you didn’t know any better, you would think that there are no Black folks who work on ending cisheteropatriarchy in our communities or that organizations like GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, Truth Wins Out, or Ali Forney have no idea who those Black folks are. But that’s just not the reality. There are a number of Black people and organizations that are rooted in Black community and committed to Black people better positioned to speak to our people about issues that affect our people e.g,, the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC). The organization’s website indicates

Since 2003, NBJC has provided leadership at the intersection of national civil rights groups and LGBTQ/SGL organizations, advocating for the unique challenges and needs of the African American LGBTQ/SGL community that are often relegated to the sidelines.

If you’re any of these organizations run by wyppipo, how do you not contact an organization like NBJC to seek their leadership in engaging a high profile Black person? You don’t because settler-colonialism, imperialism, white supremacism, and capitalism tell you that you don’t have to do so.

Who Wins, Loses

At the end of the day, LGBT people racialized as white win these battles. The organizations that they run fundraise more from these incidents and are therefore able to pay their salaries and hire more wyppiop. They don’t give up any power. They don’t reorganize their boards of directors to be more ethnically diverse. They don’t step down from their positions so that Black people can be hired. They don’t hire executive directors and organizational leaders who are Black and committed to the liberation of Black people.

The lives of folks like Anthony Gooden, Marquez Tolbert, and their families aren’t any better by the actions of these groups of wyppiop because they have no deep relationship with us and they don’t care to either. Their goals for an inclusive society are focused on regaining the spoils of white supremacy they loss as a result of cisheteropatriarchy. They utilize white privilege in engaging Black people in the same ways that their cishet counterparts do. That shows you where their allegiances lie.

Black and Brown trans women are the most at risk for cisheteropatriachal violence in the United States. According to HRC,

In 2017, advocates tracked at least 29 deaths of transgender people in the United States due to fatal violence, the most ever recorded…. While the details of these cases differ, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities, barriers that make them vulnerable…. Sadly, 2018 has already seen at least 26 transgender people fatally shot or killed by other violent means.

These women and their families are not any better because wyppipo in LGBT organizations that have little to nothing to do with the Black community have challenged Hart on his cisheteropatriarchy. In fact, quite possibly it’s just the opposite. Their spearheading the challenge of Hart, Morgan, and other prominent Black folks flames divisions in our communities between cishet Black folks with unexamined cisheteropatriarchal prejudices and LGBTQIASGL Black folks who live, work, love, fuck, play, go to school, and commune with Sprit in Black communities. It is us who bear the burden and live with the tensions because we’re living in our families and communities while they go back home to their segregated communities.

Moving Forward

Moving forward, we got this. Black folks should talk to Black folks about cisheteropatriarchy. If you’re racialized as white and running an LGBT organization and you want to address cisheteropatriarchy among Black people, support the work of Black folks doing that work, take direction from them as to how you can be supportive and what racially just role you can play.

If you’re Black and you witness wyppipo swarming to challenge a Black person on their cisheteropatriarchy, before jumping on the bandwagon, do an investigation on the record on racial justice and equity of the wyppipo in the swarm and consider the degree to which they are taking leadership from Black people. This will help you avoid unintentionally rewarding anti-Blackness, white privilege, and the whitewashing of sexual and gender justice work.

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