20 October 2009

Today in Post-Race History: No Homo

Remember last year when all the white gay people were mad at black people because Prop 8 passed in California?  Well, it wasn't a fluke.  We're still their whipping boys (er, bois?).  Last week, my internet boyfriend AC (again, the only man I'd ever seriously consider marrying), sent me a link of the above video, where Current TV contributor, Bryan Safi learns us about the phrase "No Homo."   Most of the commenters loved this piece and deemed it "genius."  Me?  Not so much.

Now, I get it.  Yes, "No homo" is obnoxious, even for those of us who embrace and critique hip hop's contradictions, its problems.  It's also one of more ironic phrases in recent memory, articulating one's anxiety over homosexuality while simultaneously acknowledging that what one has said and/or done is, well, "gay."  Yes, rappers (still) employing the phrase need to be called out and on some level made fun of--as part of a larger critique, of course.  But I don't appreciate Safi's approach, his (ab)use of black masculinity which, for me, is not only yet another example of the tension between queer black folks and queer white folks, but also an indicator of the ways the latter group often refuses to acknowledge the underlying racism employed to further their cause(s).

First, Safi tells his audience that "hip hop has coined a brand new homophobic phrase" for those uncomfortable gay moments between straight male friends.  Indeed, many of the commenters admit to having never heard the term before. But for anyone not rocking out too hard to Black Eyed Peas and actually paying attention, this phrase is hardly novel nomenclature.  In fact, it's the opposite.   It's beyond stale; it's older than "bling."  So what Safi implicitly suggests by calling the phrase "brand new" and what his audience confesses by saying that they'd never heard the term before is that black music, though omnipresent, is tangential to their lives.  Had Safi bothered to research the topic deeply, he might have discovered the term's history, and that it's something that black people have been discussing for quite some time.  Instead, Safi assumes that because he heard it for the first time as he and his "best homies were beasting" on the dance floor that the slang was fresh, never considering that the adage that just because one sees/hears/thinks something for the first time doesn't mean that it's the first time that it's been seen/heard/thought might be true.  Instead one is left with the impression that hip hop is literally background music on the fringe of Safi's life unless and until he finds it worthy of assisting in an epiphany or articulating a point. 

Second, Safi doesn't bother noting anything different about the cadre of rappers who often employ the term.  Those he mentions, Cam'ron, Lil Wayne, and Kanye all assert masculinities that though homophobic aren't as uncomplicatedly "hard" as their counterparts.   In fact, their utterance of "no homo" despite wearing pink, for example, obscures the fact that there is a history of black men who often decorate--long nails, hair, bright colors, referring to themselves as "pretty"--and describe themselves in terms deemed "feminine," that prevailing notions of masculinity do not traditionally tolerate.   (Hence the subtly "white" term "metrosexual.")  However, because the hip hop sphere is such a homosocial environment, the disclaimer seems necessary.  This isn't a defense of the phrase or a dismissal of the trepidation these men obviously feel regarding their appearance and how that informs others' assumption about their sexual orientation.  However, I do think it's important to note how reductive this piece makes the term; that in order to employ the phrase the way he wants to, Kafi has to both simplify and evacuate the term of some of its history.

Third, Kafi's appropriation of the appointed accoutrement of "urban blackness" is thoroughly played and not funny.  His recycling makes him look like a doofus, and I found it boringly unsophisticated--seriously.  The way in which the "tenets" of blackness got employed and caricatured: the slang, the clothing, the "fist bump" were thoroughly unnecessary.  "Genius" is a term used promiscuously.

Finally--and this is the larger, more important point--what I don't appreciate about the piece, though I agree with its central point, is the way in which homophobia continues to be cast as a problem that black people have.  Clearly, black men have anxieties about sexuality, so much so that they'd create slang to distance themselves from homosexuality.  But what is "bromance" but a euphemistic, more acceptable (read: white) synonym for "no homo"?  Why is Safi not concerned with making fun of that nomenclature?  (I went to a very large Big Ten school.  I have witnessed white men doing very gay things only to blame the alcohol.) 

The reluctance by Safi and others to recognize the implicit claims they make about race in their work, their refusal to understand the ways in which race and sexual orientation intersect do nothing but exacerbate the aforementioned tension between GLBTQ, etc. white folks and GLBTQ, etc. PoC.  That Safi doesn't see that the gay best friend looks a lot like the best black friend, or that gayngels and magical Negroes have similar powers indicates an overall disinterest in the ways in which blackness is deployed in popular culture, unless it can be used as a prop, a scapegoat to make a point about the homophobia white men experience when all they want to do is two-step in the club.  Black people should only provide the music.  Who cares if "no homo" is easy to rhyme?


studpoet said...

Interesting take on this video. I thought it was hilarious. I still think it's hilarious. But I also enjoyed your take on the matter. btw can you do a sista a favor and change your black background with white writing to a little less straining on the eyes...jus sayin.

summer of sam said...

@studpoet: thanks for reading. i got you.

AC said...

aaaaand IIIIIII will always love yoouuuuuuu!

forreal. this shit was tight.

HELLA homo!

Designer Labels

$40 million slaves (3) 2010 (1) 4-letter words (1) 80s (1) 8th grade (1) 90s (4) a different world (1) africa (1) aladdin (1) american values (4) amy winehouse (1) anderson cooper (1) anniversary (3) antoine dodson (1) apple (1) arizona (1) athletes (1) awkward black girl (1) barack obama (13) barbara walters (1) basketball (6) beer (1) bet (1) BET Awards (2) beyonce (4) bill clinton (1) bill duke (1) bill withers (1) birthdays (1) black beauty (1) black girls (4) black kids (4) black like me (1) black love is dead (2) black masculinity (1) black people (13) black respectability (1) blacks (1) black thought (1) black women (7) blame it on the alcohol (1) blaphemy (1) blind side (1) blizzard (1) blogging (1) Bobby Brown (1) bob marley (1) books (4) brandy (1) bryan safi (1) bryant gumbel (1) burger kind (1) cam'ron (1) capitalism (2) census 2010 (1) cereal (1) chappelle's show (1) charles barkley (1) chaz bono (1) chicago (3) chick-fil-a (2) chris broussard (1) chris brown (1) christmas (3) cinema (2) class (1) college (1) college basketball (1) coming out (1) commencement (2) commercials (2) common (3) current tv (1) d'angelo (2) dad (1) daddy (1) dark girls (1) dave chappelle (1) david stern (1) dead prez (1) death penalty (2) dee rees (1) democracy (1) dibs (1) diddy (1) dilla (1) dirty laundry (1) disaster (1) disney (1) dissertation (4) diva (1) don't ask don't tell (1) donell jones (1) drew brees (1) dwele (2) ebony (1) eddie long (1) education (1) election (1) enwhitlement (1) erica jong (1) erykah badu (3) esperanza spaulding (1) espn (2) et. al. (1) etc. (1) facebook (1) faggot (1) family (1) family stand (1) fantasy football (1) federal holidays (1) feminism (1) film (2) football (7) for colored girls (1) forgiveness (2) fox news (1) free agency 2010 (1) freedom (2) gabby sidibe (3) game (1) gang starr (1) gay hip hop (1) gender (1) geraldo rivera (1) ghetto heaven (1) gifts (1) god (1) going green (2) golf (1) grace jones (1) graduate school (1) graduation (2) grandma (1) grant hill (2) grocery shopping (1) guns (1) guru (1) haiti (4) hall of fame (1) halloween (1) harlem (1) harper lee (1) harry reid (1) hateration (1) henry louis gates (1) high school (1) hip hop (3) holding history (1) hoodies (1) hood pass (1) huck finn (2) hurricane katrina (1) immigration (3) instant vintage (2) internet (1) introductions (1) ipad (1) ipod (1) isiah thomas (1) jail (2) jalen rose (2) janelle monae (1) janet jackson (1) jazmine sullivan (1) jennifer hudson (1) john howard griffin (1) john mayer (1) jokes (2) just jokes (1) kanye west (2) kelly dodson (1) kfc (1) kia (1) kim wayans (1) kinky reggae (1) kitty kelley (1) kobe (1) kobe bryant (1) kreayshawn (1) krs-one (1) kwanzaa (1) lamya (1) language (1) late night with jimmy fallon (1) latin america (1) laurence fishburne (1) lauryn hill (6) lebron james (6) lena horne (1) lenny kravitz (1) lesbians of color (1) levar burton (1) lgbt (1) life after death (2) lists (1) little dragon (1) live blogging (1) logan square (1) long live the message (1) lupe fiasco (1) macon d. (1) magic johnson (1) maia campbell (1) making the band (1) man men (1) march madness (1) mariah carey (1) mark twain (1) marriage (1) martin lawrence (1) martin luther the king (3) mary j. blige (1) masculinity (1) mayor (1) me (1) mexicans (1) michael jackson (9) michael jordan (1) michael vick (1) michelle obama (1) Mike Tyson (1) military (1) MLK Day (1) mo'nique (1) mom (1) monday (1) money (3) montana fishburne (1) morality (1) movies (7) muhsinah (1) multiracial (1) muppets (1) music (19) my block (1) my former life (4) my personal issues (14) mystic brew (1) n (1) nannie (5) national coming out day (1) nba (2) negroes (7) new orleans (1) nfl (1) nigger (1) nihilism (2) nike (1) nina simone (1) nobel peace prize (1) not voting (1) occupy wall street (2) octavia spencer (1) oprah winfrey (4) osama bin laden (2) oscar (2) oscar grant (1) painting (1) pariah (1) pat robertson (2) paula patton (1) paul beatty (1) paul laurence dunbar (1) peyton manning (1) phaedra parks (2) phd (1) pictures (1) playboy (1) plays (1) poetry (2) police (2) politics (10) polkadotted stripes (5) pop life (56) porn (1) post cereal (1) postmodernism (1) post-race (18) post-soul (1) precious (5) prop 8 (1) push (1) qpoc (1) queen latifah (4) queer as folk (6) quoteable (1) racialicious (1) racism (14) randomness (1) reading is fundamental (2) repeal (1) resolutions (1) retirement (1) rhoa (1) richard daley (1) Rick James (1) rick perry (1) rihanna (1) robots (1) robyn crawford (1) rolling in the whip (1) rumors (6) running (1) run on (1) sade (1) sammy sosa (1) samples (1) sandra bullock (3) sapphire (1) school (1) sesame street (1) sexuality (9) Shingai Shoniwa (1) shows (1) slang (1) slavery (2) slum village (1) slurs (1) snoop dogg (1) sotomayor (1) soulja boy (1) sports (8) starbucks (1) stuff white people do (1) super bowl (2) survival (1) Teena Marie (1) tell him (1) terence trent d'arby (1) the 70s (1) the 80s (2) the banal. (1) the blind side (1) the civil rights movement (1) the clipse (1) the color purple (1) the cosby show (1) the dougie (1) the everyday (1) the fab five (3) the foreign exchange (1) the golden girls (1) the gregory brothers (1) the help (2) the hunger games (2) the lion king (1) the lovers and friends show (1) the new year (1) the NOISEttes (1) the nutcracker (1) the princess and the frog (1) the puppets (1) the roots (1) the smurfs (1) the view (1) the white boy shuffle (1) this is it (1) tiger woods (4) to kill a mockingbird (1) toure (1) toussaint l'ouverture (1) trader joe's (2) trayvon martin (2) trouble the water (1) troy davis (1) tv (1) twelve (1) twitter (1) tyler perry (5) usc (1) valentine's day (1) viola davis (1) voodoo (1) voting (1) Wayne Brady (1) web series (1) white house correspondents dinner (1) white house press corps (1) white men (1) white people (1) white saviors (1) white women (1) white women rappers (1) whitney houston (4) whoopi goldberg (1) will.i.am (1) william rhoden (1) william wordsworth (1) willow smith (2) wishing well (1) women (1) world cup (1) writing (1) wyclef (1) zo (1)