Late Thursday night, three days after being named the host of the 2019 Academy Awards, Kevin Hart announced that he was stepping down from the position after initially declining to apologize for resurfaced homophobic tweets.
His response didn’t surprise me, and it likely didn’t surprise any Black LGBTQ person who has had a Netflix subscription in the past decade. We grew up in families and attended schools and likely work in places surrounded by black men who have the same opinions as Hart. And like Hart, they express their disapproval through “jokes” at the expense of LGBTQ people, sometimes more overt in their violence – like this tweet from 2011 saying that he’d break a dollhouse over his son’s head if he caught him playing with dolls.
Similar to a lot of cis-hetero black men, Hart first doubled down when confronted with his tweets. In response to the outcry, Hart posted a video on Instagram Thursday night, saying that the world was becoming “beyond crazy” and that he wasn’t going to let the “craziness” frustrate or anger him because he worked hard to be where he is in his life right now.
“My team calls me, ‘Oh, my God, Kevin, this world is upset about tweets you did years ago,’ Guys, I’m almost 40 years old. If you don’t believe that people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don’t know what to tell you. If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify or explain their past, then do you. I’m the wrong guy, man,” Hart said. “I’m in a great place, a great mature place, where all I do is spread positivity.”
In a second video, he announced that he’s been asked by The Academy to “apologize for tweets of old” to keep his host position, but that he ultimately declined.
As expected, Black LGBTQ Twitter had a few things to say in response:
Yes, Eniko, you’re certainly damned if you DON’T tweet faggot a bunch of times and threaten violence if your son were gay pic.twitter.com/QYHU1srP8c
— Ira (@ira) December 7, 2018
people who respond to initiatives to hold homophobia accountable are never logical or concise in their comments. They are often ignorant, violent, bigoted, gaslighting & insensitive, just like the violence they protect. All of it is reflective. Kevin is not intentional or pure.
— IAM (@IndyaMoore) December 7, 2018
BYE BITCH! ✌🏿 https://t.co/fp1HZkRBAp
— The Big Bag Wolf (@KidFury) December 7, 2018
It’s not uncommon for cis-hetero black men to not apologize for their homophobia. Black male comedians have long been homophobic and have always had other black comedians come to defend their bigotry.
There are also places in black culture that breed the resentment: particularly the barbershop, which is historically a place where black men have congregated and have had spirited debates about everything. It’s considered a cultural rite of passage for young black boys to be brought there for their first haircuts and to be around older role models who look like them and can give them wisdom.
It’s also where homophobic conversations are so prevalent that the rhetoric is normalized and passed down to younger black boys for them to continue the cycle.
So this isn’t just Hart, unfortunately. This has roots. And I’m a lesbian who has kept a clean, shaved head for the past four years, so I’m regularly in the barber’s chair listening in on these conversations.
I listen in at family events when my male cousins talk about who does (and doesn’t) get into their fraternity. I listen at work when a casually homophobic comment is made about anything pop-culture related. I see when local Twitter accounts (and more) become nostalgic for the Twitter era of 2009-2012 when anti-gay bigotry was expressed freely and without consequence. When – if ever – anything is questioned or said to be homophobic, it’s shrugged off. They were just “jokes,” and cis-hetero black men like Hart would rather lose the job opportunity of a lifetime than express regret for their homophobia.
Unfortunately, black people supported comedy specials that used gay people as the punchline, including the acts of Eddie Murphy, Bernie Mac, Martin Lawrence, and more of the Kings of Comedy; Hart was likely influenced by them and incorporated their style into his act. Maybe he believed it, and maybe he was simply being performative, but the effect is still the same.
I don’t know if Hart has had a change in perspective during all of this. His career exploded into the mainstream after the original tweets and with that fame came increased scrutiny of his past. I’m sure he’s learned how easy it is for people to dig up his unsavory actions, but besides that, his constant emphasis that the tweets are so old that they shouldn’t matter anymore makes it difficult to believe that he’s anything but obstinate.
In all of this, of course, Hart and his fans find him to be the victim and the people who demand respect and a sincere apology for his past comments about LGBTQ people are “internet trolls.”
None of what’s been going on with Hart regarding his actions or lack of accountability has been surprising to black queers. Another day, another deflection and dismissal of the lived experiences of the LGBTQ community.
Image via Getty