11-Year-Old Hangs Himself after Enduring Daily Anti-Gay Bullying
LINK = http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/2400.html
While many have rightfully recognized the tragedy of his unnecessary death, few still have addressed the root of it: homophobia that permeates our faiths and our societies. Kids do not learn anti-gay rhetoric in a vacuum...they learn it from their families, peers, media, and culture...and hip hop is as guilty as the dominant culture that birthed it.
In my classes, I show Byron Hurt's video: Beyond Beats and Rhymes which I highly recommend all view. Here is an excerpt:
Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymeshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjxjZe3RhIo
I have known for a long time how serious our society's pathology is because it plays out in sexual violence and hate crimes. Our community's issues with masculinity also play out in silence and uncomfortable conversations with black men about deep feelings, or in hip hop culture's hyper masculine and homophobic lyrics and imagery. While not unique to hip hop, hip hop is more often than not, a part of the problem, not a part of the solution.
Like I wrote in the blog last year about Prop 8, the homophobia in our community is not all about religion, or sexuality for that matter...it is also rooted in deep issues with masculinity that stem from a history of oppression, and Hurt's documentary does a decent job of deconstructing many of those issues.
As a self-identified follower of Christ, I am always willing to debate faith and homosexuality with any that want. I understand their convictions but disagree with their interpretations. While I know I will not change minds that are rooted in strong beliefs and convictions, I challenge both their knowledge of history (and the Bible in particular), and their hypocrisy, which Jesus spoke clearly about on many occasions. In using the Bible to condemn homosexuality with fervor, but ignore, or even take part in any number of "sins" (to all my fornicators, adulterers, divorcees, as well as cheeseburger and shrimp eaters), they lose validity. As well, if a literal reading of the Bible is done (despite its missing chapters...and possibly manipulated ones?..thanks to power and politics of past empires including the Catholic Church), then the issue of most concern is poverty, which is referenced thousands of times in the Bible, not a handful like homosexuality.
We know the Bible was used to justify the enslavement of Africans and the conquering of indigenous peoples to save them from their "savage" natures. It has been manipulated throughout history, and continues to be...
But a recent conversation with a student taught me the extent that some (not all) of certain religious convictions will go to defend their homophobia (which I am convinced is really a mask for masculinity issues). When I posed this question to my class: which would you prefer: 1) a child grow up loved in a nurturing and safe home with gay parents or 2) a child grow up abused in a violent and unsafe home with heterosexual parents, most students chose the first option, despite their religious convictions...but one student chose the second choice, feeling that it was better for the child to be abused than having loving parents that were gay.
Many in the class were shocked. I was too and I do not shock easily. But what did this really mean? What scared him so much about other people's sexuality that his faith in his own salvation did not transcend that fear?
I don't think it was about his faith or any honest belief that homosexuality would destroy the world. I think it was his own fears, burdens and pain. Alive...but not able to truly live...being here in the world...but feeling gone.
Around the boys I play my part rough
Keep myself tough enough
Never to cry
Never to die
How did I get so far gone
Where do I belong
And where in the world did I ever go wrong
If I took the time to replace
What my mind erased
I still feel as if I'm here but I'm gone
Lauryn Hill and Curtis Mayfield - Here But I'm Gone
If we as a people do not reconcile with these burdens, they will continue to destroy us. We hide behind a number of masks: addictions, scapegoats, bravado, and hate. In hip hop, youth culture finds its voice. Hip hop has the power to be a voice that heals our youth or continues to foster hurts. The choice is ours. But we first have to begin the dialogue. Here are two videos an emcee named Melange Lavonne offers to do just that:
Gay Bash By Mélange Lavonne
I've Got You By Mélange Lavonne
Man Up Hip Hop...it's time to heal and embrace the man in huMANity. Peace.