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A White Gay's Guide on Dealing with the Black Community for DummiesWhy Are You So Paranoid?
The following op-ed is Chapter 10 in Jasmyne Cannick's online series, A White Gay's Guide on Dealing with the Black Community For Dummies. The complete series can be read online at www.jasmynecannick.com.
Last week, Live Nation, which operates the House of Blues, and international promoter Goldenvoice--AEG Worldwide canceled all their Buju Banton concerts after receiving complaints from gay rights activists who didn't want Banton to perform because of his history of homophobic lyrics.
"AEG Live and Goldenvoice have cancelled three Buju Banton shows at venues in Philadelphia (Sept. 12), San Francisco (Oct. 10) and Los Angeles (Oct. 14.)" spokesperson Marcee Rondan said in a statement. "Ticket refunds are available at point of purchase."
I have mixed feelings about the cancellation of the shows.
On the one hand, in the past I have led protests against reggae artists with a history of homophobic lyrics performing in the States, and in the future, I may again. But while I was aware of the Los Angeles Buju Banton concert, it was unclear whether or not Buju Banton was going to be performing any of the songs in question, and for me that's a critical part of the equation.
On the other hand, I say this because at some point, the gay community has to give people a chance to show that they have changed, i.e. the protests worked. While the gay community wants to be accepted and understood in their fight for change, they at times are very unwilling to accept change in others, even after they initiated said change.
Case in point, it's no secret to Buju Banton and other reggae artists that certain lyrics just aren't going to be tolerated here in America. In other words, if they want to get booked in America, they don't have sing about loving gays or even personally like gay people, but they cannot sing about killing them. Furthermore, given the amount of performances that have been cancelled in the past because of their homophobic lyrics coupled with today's economy, I find it hard to believe that Buju Banton would risk performing any song that might endanger his engagement with Live Nation and the check that goes with it.
So before lobbying for the cancellation of Buju Banton's shows, the gay community should have explored whether or not he was going to even be performing the songs in question. Because if he wasn't going to be performing any of the songs that are considered homophobic, then job well done. He got the message.
Let me break this down for you. There are things that I would never say and do today that in past I wouldn't have thought twice about and that's because I have grown as a person. A perfect example of that are my views on immigration. In the past, I shared the common belief held by man African-Americans living here in Los Angeles that immigration reform was necessary to save Black neighborhoods and jobs. When it came to immigration, like so many others in California, I only focused on Mexico. I don't feel that way today thanks to my friends who are not only Latino, but African, West Indian, and Asian and who were not born here in America. I also credit my trip to Sierra Leone with Isaiah Washington and experiencing life in a third world country. I came back a changed person. Add to that, I just don't believe that Black people have the right to tell anyone where they can or cannot live given the fact that the only reason we're here is because we were taken from Africa and brought here. Everyone deserves the right to seek out a better life for their family and given the atrocities that America has committed throughout the world that played a direct role in the underdevelopment of not only Africa but Mexico and other countries as well, today, I can't go for that. While I may not be in the majority in terms of how I look at immigration now when compared to the Black community as a whole, nevertheless, I changed, which in my opinion is a good thing.
Now, I could marry a Latino person tomorrow, and still there would be those chosen few who will always say that I am racist. Is it right? No, but it's no different than continuously persecuting reggae artists like Buju Banton without giving them an opportunity to prove that they've changed. The difference with me is that I genuinely could care less about whether or not the "chosen few" think I am racist. It doesn't affect my relationships, hustle, or cash flow because I know the truth and the people I care about know exactly where I stand today.
So whose to say that Buju Banton and other reggae artists haven't seen the light where it concerns their open hatred of gays? And if they haven't seen the light, I guarantee you that they understand dollars and common sense.
And let me be clear, I'm not saying that Buju Banton has to publicly declare his love for the gay community, frankly I could care less if he likes me or not. But if he's gotten the message that he cannot get up on a stage and sing "Boom bye bye inna batty bwoy head," then that's all gays can ask for. The gay community cannot force people to like them any more than they can legislate approval of gay marriage. If the goal of the protests against certain reggae artists is to bring about a change in what they say and do publicly as it relates to gays in their music, how are we to ever know if that change has been realized and the campaign successful if we keep canceling their shows?
Also factor in today's political climate surrounding gay marriage and the seemingly antagonistic relationship between white gays and the Black community, and I just have to ask, is it really in their best interests to continue to go after reggae artists unprovoked? I would think that the white gay community has burned enough bridges and done enough damage as it relates to Black people that they'd tread lightly given the fact they still need to garner support for their number one issue of gay marriage with Black voters.
According to media reports, Lorri L. Jean, chief executive officer for the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center wrote AEG and Goldenvoice chief executive officer Randy Phillips and president Paul Tollett to say that she was both surprised and upset they would promote a singer whose lyrics endorse the murder of gays and lesbians, especially after promoters cancelled a planned concert at the House of Blues in 2006 for similar reasons.
"When we learned he was scheduled for concerts again there was outrage," Center spokesperson Thomas Soule said.
Riddle me this.
I am curious to know if Lorri L. Jean, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, and the like are "surprised and upset" with celebrated American Black rappers who call women "bitches" and "hos" and men "niggas." Because I can tell you as a Black lesbian I am still a woman and for my brotha men who are Black and gay, those words are just as demeaning and hurtful as "batty boy and batty girl." Add to that, concerts at the House of Blues and other popular venues featuring rappers who freely call women "bitches" and "hos" and men "niggas" occur more often and are more widely attended than the reggae concerts recently cancelled. And why didn't the gay community leverage their power all these years that their own Shirley Q. Liquor paraded around the country performing in blackface in one gay venue after another? If I recall, the protest againt Shirley Q. Liquor was led by Black people with very little support from the gay community who continued to hire him to perform at prides and clubs. Oh but when it comes to Black reggae artists, shows are cancelled and it's a done deal. No questions asked.
The bottom line is that if given the opportunity to prove change, these same reggae artists get up on stage and continue to sing the songs that call for murder and violence against gays, they deserve to have their shows cancelled and I'll be happy to lead the charge. But the gay community needs to be more strategic with their protests against reggae artists and has a responsibility to at the very least given all of the protests and media focus over the past several years, allow the artists in question to show that they have gotten the message before going for the jugular. This rings especially true considering the fact that gays are going want the same opportunity in the near future afforded to them by the African-American community to prove that they've changed after the recent atrocities they committed against Blacks in the name of gay marriage.