Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tim Hardaway´s Problem with Gay People

A lot has been made out of Former NBA Heat Point Guard Tim Hardaway stating in a radio interview that he "hated gay people" and that "they shouldn´t be [allowed] in America". I´m sure most everyone has heard this story by now. And his attitude is really no different from what you would expect from across the basketball community (and I´d argue large parts of the Christian community). The NBA responded by banning him from the All-Star game and making a very strong statement against his beliefs.

Now that the crisis is dying down, Hardaway has given an interview with ESPNs Scoop Jackson. The two men grew up together in Chicago and have a life-long friendship, so the sharpness of Jackson´s questions are muted at best (some would call them softballs).

I was reading this interview because I was curious what Hardaway´s defense would be. Turns out, his only real answer is that he should have not told the truth how he really feels. (He claims he doesn´t hate anyone in one of the most random and lame ass cops out of all time, equating his statements to saying you "hate" a certain restaurant.)

At any rate, I wanted to comment on this for two reasons.

First, is the absolute absurdity of this question posed by Scoop Jackson:

"[Your son] is 14 now. How do you handle it if he comes home from school or, better yet, you get a call from a hospital that says that he's been beaten by a group of gay kids in reaction to what you said about them?"

Apparently there are gangs of marauding gay kids running around beating up the straight ones. Funny, I thought hate crimes actually worked the other way.

Second is the distinct similarity between the behavior of a black, homophobic athlete toward gays in the 2000s and a white racist toward blacks in the 1950s. Here´s what Timmy says:

"When we was growing up Scoop, if we saw gay people or whatever, we ran across the street. We got away from them. Our parents, our friends, our families knew that that wasn't right. We didn't want to be around that and they definitely didn't want us kids around it. And it's not that they hated gay people, they just felt they it wasn't right. Let them do what they want to do. And that was my experience when I was growing up. Not acknowledging them....I just don't condone [being gay]."

Isn´t this the exact same thing as racial profiling? Didn´t white racists use to do the same thing back in the 1950´s? Didn´t the good Doctor Reverend Martin Luther King Junior´s words mean anything? Anything at all?

In fact, it goes far beyond any "similarity" and cuts to the heart of discrimination. The process of discrimination is essentially two-fold. First, you dehumanize. Then you justify.

The dehumanization process is quite simple. You see the "other" as wrong, indecent, evil, etc. Whatever does the trick. Genocidal regimes dehumanize best. They take racism/sexism to a whole new level and, over a period of time, see the "other" as inhuman, as animal. Discrimination doesn´t go as far, but the idea is to conceive of the "other" as less human than you.

Dehumanizing can be as simple as "not acknowledging" as Dr. Hardaway practices or could even be "crossing the street". Other, more overt measures have been used. "Blacks not allowed." "Sit on the back of the bus." "Whites only." Etc. You get the idea.

The second step is to justify. Some people have used "science" to argue that blacks aren´t as intelligent, for example, or that gay is a choice. Others say that their "-ism" isn´t harmful and that the discriminated group is just complaining. Others say "stick with your own kind, don´t come to white neighborhoods, why do you have to insist on making this a problem...". Others carry the justification process farther and say, "it´s against nature or God" or more personally, "those [discriminated against groups] are denying me of my fair opportunity in this world."

Whatever the flavor of the month, the point remains the same. The justification process is one that inflicts greater discriminatory harm while assuaging any personal feelings of guilt or remorse.

The current wave of heterosexism (homophobia) that is particularly dominant in the black community is exactly the same in function and effect as overt anti-black racism. But hey, don´t take my word for it. Just read the words of Coretta Scott King:

"Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood."

Or, Dr. King´s most profound of messages:

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

So thanks Tim Hardaway, for reminding us all that we have a lot of work left to do.


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