‘Everybody ain’t a faggot.’
Last summer, my friends and I were assaulted by a group of apparently straight Black men outside of a club.
I remember us laughing, leaving the club in a giddy delirium and heading to the car, when, suddenly, I saw my friend in front of me stagger forward. Shortly after I turned to my left to see a hulking figure lunge his arm back. It wasn’t until I felt his fist smash into the side of my neck that everything clicked.
We were in a fight. They were fighting us.
Never being one to fight, I quickly surged forward, watching my back as I pleaded with as much bass in my voice as I could muster. “Ay man! We not on that!”
My response was predicated by the assumption that the assault was my fault. I believed that one of my friends must have mistakenly hit on or provoked our attackers. That later turned out not to be the case, and of course, even if it were, a violent response would still not have been justified.
As with many traumas, the subsequent events were a blur. I remember walking briskly from the attacker. Still trying to verbalize de-escalation tactics, and the last, peculiar thing one of the attackers said to me,
“Everybody ain’t a faggot.”
We tried to call the police. They were skeptical and dismissive at first, because once they confirmed that all the combatants were Black men they assumed it was a gang fight. They finally relented when we asserted that it was a hate crime.
“Oh…,” the police office said. He promptly tried to take some action. But we know, by now, that the police are of no assistance to any Black man, gay or straight.
‘What are straight Black men so afraid of?’
It is stratospherically telling that the attacker felt the need to express his belief that “everybody isn’t a ‘faggot.’” It exposes his same-sex anxieties, and the anxieties that many Black straight men use to terrorize same gender loving men. If anyone knows that Black gay men are a minority, it is Black gay men themselves, who from every angle have been constantly reminded of our marginal status since birth. Ironically, even though we were attacked, it is very clear that this “straight” man felt threatened by us. We did absolutely nothing to him. Merely our presence was enough to evoke violence. This situation draws tragic parallels to a white woman clutching her purse in the presence of a Black man, except it is the straight man who is holding desperately onto something, the likes of which he cannot even name.
The presence of Black gay men provoke anxieties for straight Black men. So I was not surprised by the recent attack of a Black gay couple in Atlanta. When a “straight” Black man, threw boiling hot water on them as they slept. I have no words for such a heinous act. I only feel a familiar sadness, knowing that gay men are often victims of violence from straight Black men. The attacker, who won’t be charged with a hate crime due to Georgia law, told the men to get out of his house “with all that gay.” The mere sight of seeing two men holding each other on a couch was enough to evoke violent hatred.
What does the battle look like then, for Black gay men, when our straight Black brothers would attempt to kill us by the mere sight of us? And those who do not attack us physically instead opt to commit hate crimes in their hearts. Admonishing us through jeers and taunts, or using our sexual orientation to taunt each other. Why are Black gay men the targets of violence and fear for straight Black men? What are they so afraid of?
‘A war against themselves.’
Studies have linked homophobia to same sex attraction. Revealing, as many of us might have guessed, that those who are the most homophobic tend to be experiencing same sex attraction themselves. Violent straight Black men then, are in effect lashing out against themselves, using Black gay men as punching bags for their own psycho sexual issues. And while the pain straight Black men feel at the thought of being attracted to another man is not their own fault, they must be responsible for their own healing.
After the assault, I remember thinking about the irony of fighting for someone who would kill me. Someone whose identity is wrapped up and in mine, and with whom I share the struggle against white supremacy. This man is someone who is loved by another, someone’s son or brother, and I forced myself to realize that there are structural and institutional mechanisms that would compel him to violence. But I still couldn’t shake my own resentment, asking myself, what did I do to him?
The question is mute. It has no simple answers, nor do I need to find the answers for him. But it is incumbent upon straight Black men to start reconciling their own same-sex desires, attractions, and intimacy. They have to stop fearing love from another man, whether that love is sexual or otherwise. Every hate crime a straight Black man commits is really a puncturing of his own heart. And straight Black men will be a dying breed until they learn to throw off the shackles of patriarchy and misogyny.
Until then, they need to keep Black gay men out of the war they are waging against themselves.
Aaron is a writer, activist, educator, graduate of the University of Chicago, and co-editor of the Newer Negroes blog. His work has been featured in Colorlines, Mused Magazine Online, the Feminist Wire, TruthOut.com, the Advocate, and the Black Youth Project. He currently is a member of the Black Youth Project 100 and teaches elementary school on the South Side of Chicago.
He is an only child, from Detroit, Michigan, loves RPGs and literature, is constantly envisioning a better world for black queer folks, and retains a deep and abiding love for his mother.
Follow him on twitter: @Talley_Marked