Jason Collins came out as gay in a well-presented column released in Sports Illustrated today. This blogger’s initial reaction was “so what?” Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area makes one take what is an earth-shaking revelation to others, with a “Right on,” and “That’s cool,” reaction.
But what went through my mind and spurred this take I’m about to express, is how it seems that, in small ways straight black men are under attack, and it’s that dynamic that will make it easier for America to accept Jason Collins. He’s one more black man no one has to worry will be seen with a non-black, or white, wife.
You have to understand that over my life, I’ve seen black straight men who dated outside the black color side of the spectrum as questioned by blacks, whites, or just plain not even represented in popular culture. And while interracial dating and marriage is, thankfully, at an all-time high, black-white marriage rates are still, according to a 2011 study, far behind the rate of intermarriage between whites and other races.
So there is a problem, and it comes out in little ways that are in our face, yet ignored most of the time. Most black men don’t write about these episodes, so I thought I’d come with a kind of first of my own.
The first time I was personally aware of America’s straight-black-male hostility was during the O.J. Simpson trial, when O.J.’s terrible behavior toward his now-late wife Nicole Brown Simpson, who was white, led to “O.J” calls on a few occasions when I would be out with a woman friend or girl friend who was white.
The second time was while I was working for the City Of Oakland and forming the bid to bring the 2005 Super Bowl to Oakland (we lost to Jacksonville). In 2000, someone purchased a subscription to a soft-porn African American female model magazine called “Honey” and had it sent to my mailbox at the City of Oakland. I’d not seen it because I seldom checked my City of Oakland mail, allowing it to pile up. When I was told that my mailbox was overflowing, I went down to get the pile, and discovered “Honey.” I know I’d not ordered the subscription, so I tracked down the publisher’s number, and called them. The person on the other end of the line informed me that the credit card was in the name of a person who used their City Of Oakland card – but they would not tell me who it was.
That was a clear clue that someone, with the City of Oakland, didn’t like that I had a white girlfriend. What’s interesting is my personal life wasn’t something I talked about with many people. But, Oakland’s a small town, so all it takes is a few outings with a nice looking woman for chins to start wagging. There ya go.
The third time was, and to a lesser extent still is, the tendency of white couples to make sure the man is sitting between me and the woman whenever they happen to approach a bar to sit, and I’m there first. For years I’ve observed white couples stop, hesitate, and then the guy takes a seat next to me, with the woman a chair away. To check myself, I’ve noticed what couples do if the guy happens to be white – not the same. The woman sits next to the white guy who’s alone.
I could go on and on providing example after example of what I call a fear of straight-black men. The major problem is us straight-black-guys don’t spend time writing about the stupid crap we have thrown at us on a weekly basis.
And if it’s not that, now it’s television. It’s quite fine for movie and TV producers, the vast majority of which are white and male, to present black female, white male relationships that have nothing to do with the storyline. Movies like The Bodyguard and TV shows like Scandal come to mind. But there’s only one TV show I can think of where there’s a black male – white female marriage, and that’s Community.
Movies? Can’t think of one with the exception of Obsession, the 2011 movie starring Idirs Alba as a black office exec being pursued by his hot, white female assistant, played by Ali Larter, and very much to the anger of Beyonce. Thankfully Obsession had nothing to do with race – it was never an issue made in the movie. But even with that, it’s impossible not to watch Obsession and not ask why Alba’s character didn’t actually get it on with Larter’s Lisa.
But Obssession is not the norm. And while there’s clear evidence pop-culture is embracing black men with white or non-black women, there’s still an abundance of images of straight-black-males that still present us as ‘the other. ‘
Into all of this comes Jason Collins, who’s black, a basketball player, and gay. Everyone applauds him, but some for good reasons, and others secretly not so good. Collins reminds me of how some white women would have a black guy as a friend, but never go beyond that – that’s happened to me, which is particularly vexing when you’re interested in the woman. In my view, the answer to such a situation has been to move on because, well, she’s not for me, or as I reminded a friend once “I’m not gay.”
It’s easy for a woman like that to root for Jason Collins because he presents no threat. It’s easy for white men not to care because Jason Collins presents no threat. He’s not Tiger Woods, who has the hottest female skier on the planet as his girlfriend: Lindsey Vonn. Want proof that Tiger and Lindsay caused a racial stir when they announced they were a pair? Just search their Facebook pages for the racist comments left on them – if they weren’t taken down.
By contrast, Jason Collins’ may hear or see of a comment or tweet that questions his decision, and he has, but nothing on the level of what Tiger and Lindsay have endured. And that’s good, and bad. Good because we should not care what Jason Collins’ sexuality is; bad because we should not care that Tiger Woods is black and Lindsay Vonn is white.