Oversensitivity will not lead to equality

Madonna-N-Word

These days, celebrities are being judged more critically for their actions. But are people being too sensitive? (x)

As we settle into 2014, the fight for equality continues. This battle has been fought in so many ways by so many people. I’m someone who has always been passionate about social change. I’ve always wanted to get closer toward personal freedom and I’ve always chosen what I believe to be the best way to achieve it. However, throughout the beginning of 2014, I’ve had my point of view challenged. Challenged by, what I perceive to be, an unhealthy trend that’s becoming more and more common.

I believe some people in minority groups are becoming overly sensitive. Perhaps it’s always been like this. Maybe it’s just becoming more obvious. Whatever the reason, due to my nature of expressing my views, people have made me think about my own stance on how to gain equality and freedom. A series of current events opened up dialogue on this issue and proved to be a challenging time.

In this challenge, I’ve come to understand that there are two categories of people. Those who follow Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy of full inclusion and harmony, and those who follow the Malcolm X philosophy of fighting back with more anger. At the end of the day, both categories have the same goal in mind, we just have different ways of going after it. And while I try to understand where the Black Panthers are coming from, I’ve come to the conclusion that I inevitably fall into the Martin Luther King Jr. category.

It began last month when Madonna posted a picture of her son Rocco on Instagram. In her caption, she used the n-word in a way that most black rappers have used it. To me, it’s obvious that she wasn’t using it in a mean-spirited way. I knew it would stir up some controversy. I was prepared to defend a woman who has always spoke out against bigotry of any kind.

I responded to someone on Twitter who claimed Madonna wasn’t very smart to use the word. I explained that she didn’t use the word in a racist manner and that it’s always about the intent of the word, not the word itself. The user responded saying that he didn’t believe Madonna is racist, but what she said was. I don’t see how this makes any sense. A straight friend once called herself a “fag hag” in front of me. I wasn’t offended, because I knew she wasn’t using the word in a homophobic manner. I don’t see how this is any different.

Madonna stepped into another controversy when she stepped onto the stage at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. Rumors of Madonna’s performance circulated online prior to the show. Eventually, Madonna’s performance was confirmed. I sat through the three and a half hour-long show awaiting a glimpse of the Queen of Pop.

Madonna came on stage to sing “Open Your Heart” during Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ performance of “Same Love” featuring Mary Lambert. The performance featured 33 weddings of couples both gay and straight, officiated by Queen Latifah. I was smiling from ear-to-ear. The performance was better than I imagined. It was beautiful, moving, and inspiring. It was great to see such a display of same-sex marriages live on national television.

One thing that upset me was seeing the negative reactions online from other gay people about the performance. Some were saying that Macklemore, Madonna, etc. were just trying to get attention for themselves. They said that Mary Lambert’s part was too brief and she should’ve been doing it on her own. They were saying that straight people should stay out of this and let us fight for equality by ourselves.

I don’t understand how equality can be fought and won that way. Excluding groups of people doesn’t lead to equality, it’s just a different form of superiority and exclusion. That’s why I love that they included both gay and straight couples in the performance. It’s okay to not like a song, it’s okay to not like a performance, but I don’t think these people were criticizing the song or the performance. To take such a gesture, stomp on it and toss it aside shows real ignorance. It also shows a lack of gratitude, in my opinion.

As a gay man, I’m grateful for our straight allies. This is what we want. We want acceptance and support so that we can see the decrease of homophobia and transphobia. It’s not considered cool to be so vocal about supporting the LGBT community in the world of hip hop—at least not in mainstream America and especially not if you’re a male! I think what Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have done shows a lot of courage. It was a risk for them, as it was for Madonna in the early 80s when people didn’t want to talk about the gay community or AIDS. She saw many of her friends suffer, as Macklemore saw his Uncle struggle with discrimination.

The performance of “Same Love” at the Grammy Awards resulted in a mini-backlash against heterosexual allies.  A bigger backlash occurred when Piers Morgan recently had Janet Mock on his show. Mock is a transgender rights activist and was promoting her book, “Redefining Realness.” Mock took issue with Morgan’s approach to transgender issues. She felt he was sensationalizing her experiences and wasn’t focusing on the real issues. There were also issues with the questions he asked during the interview itself.

I do not believe Piers Morgan is transphobic. I believe what he suffers from is ignorance. Claiming Mock was “formerly a man” instead of recognizing that she has always been female, just born in the wrong body, isn’t enough evidence to convince me of Morgan’s alleged transphobia. I believe Mock could’ve handled the situation differently by educating Morgan and explaining what he got wrong. Instead, she immediately reacted with anger via Twitter and didn’t give him a straight answer when invited back on his show. I stand by my belief that Morgan was well-intended, just in need of more education. Unfortunately, he was not given the information needed, putting progress for transgender people on hold.

Another interview that made headlines took place when Jerry Seinfeld was recently asked why he had primarily white men in his web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Seinfeld responded saying that what he focuses on is whether or not a comedian is funny, not race or gender. Kyle Chayka of Gawker.com took Seinfeld’s words out of context by saying Seinfeld feels any comedian who isn’t black isn’t funny. This could not be further from the truth. Seinfeld has a long history of supporting black comedians, including Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor. All he said was that race should be irrelevant. The oversensitivity to Seinfeld’s answer really blew me away.

Unfortunately, that sort of oversensitivity is becoming more and more common. I respect the fact that everyone involved in the fight for equality wants the same thing, but I don’t think oversensitivity will get us anywhere. We need to let go of our own insecurities and try to understand where someone else is coming from. We can’t just expect them to get it right away when they don’t know what it’s like to be black or transgender. We can’t jump to conclusions about people when we don’t know the whole story. All this oversensitivity falls under the category of passing judgement and that is the very thing we are trying to decrease.

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