Forgiveness Is A Privilege: On Ellen and Kevin Hart

Many moons ago, when I was a wee teenager who thought herself to be a straight girl — LO to the highest of L’s — my father and a couple of my aunts were watching a movie where the main character came out as gay (In and Out for those who are curious). I bring this up because one of my aunts decided it would be cute to ask my dad what he’d do if he found out I was a lesbian.

I should preface this by saying I didn’t have a boyfriend, and in hindsight, I think they were starting to worry because, gasp, what if?

My father, in all of his I love my little girl so much glory, vehemently said, “She ain’t gay.” He wouldn’t even entertain the thought, the edge in his voice loud and clear. Eventually, I got a boyfriend, and my folks never toyed with the idea again.

I say all this because Kevin Hart’s recently unearthed tweets brought back a memory that’s been buried for about 20 years. His tweets may have been a long time ago, but seeing him threaten to hit his son over the head with a dollhouse over a what if? scenario reminded me of how one comment my dad made scared the shit out of me when I realized, years later, that I was, plot twist, a lesbian, then bi (because someone FINALLY introduced me to the word).

This is something Black queer youth deal with constantly, these offhanded comments treated as jokes or “what ifs?” just to see how angry someone would get if they found out their kid was queer. It’s a conversation that needs to take place in the community, and not on, oh I dunno, a talk show hosted by a white lady who’ll just let the offender prattle on without challenging him at all?

Sigh.

Ellen stands with Kevin Hart and I’m… supposed to be thankful, I guess? Realize that Hart has changed since making that tweet? Point out how curious it is that said tweet was unearthed after he achieved one of the highest goals on his vision board, as he so eloquently put it? Naw. You can miss me with all of that. I’m not that teenage girl sitting with her family as they bust a gut over, “What if she’s gay, HAHAHAHA! Oh, that’d be a HOOT! Her dad would be SO PISSED.”

Far too often, we forget one simple truth about forgiveness: it’s a privilege, and it has to be earned. So to all the Kevin Harts and their Ellen accomplices, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • “I’m sorry” is not enough

“I apologized ten years ago,” Hart says ad nauseum, as Ellen nods and mmhms her way through this one-sided interview. You know that hard pill to swallow meme that went around in 2018? Here’s another one: When you say something that hurts someone, you may have to apologize more than once–especially if you do the wrong on a platform that reaches millions and can be resurrected like a fallen RPG character in a video game. Just one Phoenix Down and, poof!, the tweet is back.

“I’m sorry” rolls off the tongue real nice, real smooth, when your reputation is on the line. What are you doing to actually prove the meaning behind those words? This is why the apology can’t stop, won’t stop, at a mere sorry. This was Hart’s chance to show the development he speaks of, how he’s become “cultured” — his words, not mine. Instead, we get several minutes of him making claims that he’s a different person while conversing with America’s favorite white lesbian gal pal.

This ain’t it, Kevin. She’s not who you should be talking to. Then again, she had no business wasting the airtime on a topic she had no interest in diving into, instead choosing to let her friend attempt to save face because she, quote, knows him. Y’all, pleeeeease hold your friends accountable, because here’s what her casual acceptance actually translates to: the countless Black queer voices that have spoken about this issue mean nothing to her. She’d rather offer airtime to the one who hurt us because friendship is magic. Where’s our invite, Ellen? Where’s your hashtag to support Black queer kids who are used as my child better not be gay fodder? Where’s the dialogue? Furthermore, if we are to believe that his grand gesture of growth is him stepping down so the award show isn’t “clouded” by his presence, then her pushing to have him host the Oscars negates E V E R Y T H I N G!

  • What will (inevitably) happen with Black queer folks

As far as I can tell I’m not psychic, but I have a hunch of how this will play out and I can guaran-damn-tee that other Black queer folks know what I’m about to say. So raise your glass if you’re expecting to be told one of the following: 1) you’re too sensitive, 2) be the bigger person, 3) a combo platter of both with a side of the saltiest of fries. Forgiveness and marginalization go hand in hand as we’re always told to accept whatever copy/pasted apology we get because…  something something “They didn’t mean it” yadda yadda “They’re learning.” In the case of Kevin Hart, we’ve gotten flack from the Black community, and now we’re about to get it from the white queer community.

It’s fine. And by “fine” I mean not fine at all stop doing this to us! Because there’s two categories we fall into when it comes to this: There’s the I’m used to this group, the ones who saw those tweets and knew that the likes of D.L Hughley would come out of the woodwork to stand with Kevin Hart, who knew that Ellen would stick her loafers in at some point. And then there’s the oh…. group, usually younger than my 35-year-old self, who will feel the full weight of what it means to be treated as the other in their own communities. They’ll be afraid to voice their feelings, might even agree with Ellen with a taped together smile so folks don’t set their sights on them. They’ll stay silent when their loved ones speak on the situation and call the community a bunch of snowflakes or whatever precipitation insult we’re using these days, unaware that the ones who aren’t joining the conversation could very well be part of said community.  

This is why I say that forgiveness is a privilege. It’s priceless, and something to be earned. In the case of my father? I’ve forgiven him. But he had to earn it. Because when I did come out we fought, and he was angry, just like he hinted at in that what if? scenario my aunt posed. It was messy. We yelled. We screamed. We cried. But I did not accept the first apology, or the second, or even the third. There were a lot of conversations, a slow rebuilding of trust, and despite the opinions of folks outside the situation (my aunts) I got to decide when I was finally ready to make peace.

And even now, after all of that, it still hits me every now and then, like when I see tweets and think of the Black queer kid who sees them, too. So on the flipside, it’s also a privilege in regards to who can forgive who.

Ellen can forgive Hart because she’s not part of the affected party. She’s not a Black queer person who’s been surrounded by the stale-ass notion that queerness, somehow, degrades blackness, to the point that threatening to hit a boy with a dollhouse is not just seen as a joke — it’s seen as a necessity. She doesn’t know what it’s like to be a black, teenage girl whose family jokes about her being queer, kinda worries she might be because she doesn’t have a boyfriend, sighs in relief when she gets one, which sends her into a tizzy in college because, oh shit, she likes girls.

This wasn’t your place, Ellen. You don’t speak for me and I don’t have to forgive anyone. Him or you.


Briana Lawrence

Briana Lawrence is a freelance writer and self-published author who's trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it's through her multiple book series’, or the pieces she writes for various websites. When she's not writing about diversity, she's speaking about it at different geek-centric conventions across the country, as she's a black, queer, nerd girl at heart. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.

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