What’s the point of having a prominent director that is equally gay and Black in an industry less than welcoming to either group if he’s going to vomit the very stereotypes we’re telling the mainstream to stop hurling at the masses?
That question was my immediate response to remarks made by Lee Daniels (pictured) in a recent interview with Larry King. While promoting his last film, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” the Academy Award-nominated director lamented about those poor gay Black men on the down low giving those even sadder women the AIDS virus because they’re too afraid of Pastor whoever making both them and their mamas cry over fears of eternal damnation over the wrong kind of erection.
Daniels sat down with King to discuss how his personal experiences as a same-sex loving Negro influenced his depiction of the civil rights issues chronicled in the highly buzzed film. In response, Lee grabbed a shovel, tossed a bunch of dirt in the faces of Black people, and proceeded to leap in to the hole — where he should probably stay for the foreseeable future.
Watch the Lee Daniels’ interview here:
Here’s what Lee Daniels had to say about the state of gay rights and what it’s like to be a double minority:
I think that the reason we have AIDS…I did a movie called ‘Precious,’ and when I was doing the research for ‘Precious,’ I walked in to the gay men’s health crisis center in New York City and I expected to see studying [of] AIDS and HIV, I expected to see a room full of gay men, but there are nothing but women that are there – Black women with kids. I thought I had walked in to the welfare office – but they service Black women with AIDS, why?
Because Black men can’t come out. Why? Because you simply can’t do it. Your family says it, your church says it, your teachers say it, your parents say it, your friends say it, your work says it. And so you’re living on this DL thing and you’re infecting Black women.
I feel like I just died and landed in personal hell, which gives teases of J.L. King’s interview with Oprah Winfrey from nearly a decade ago.
The same can be said of that stupid quip about thinking he was in a welfare office because he saw so many Black mothers with their children. That’s a throwback to the Reagan racism of yore, but it’s a crock that’s been debunked time and time again for quite some time now.
The same can be said about gay Black men in denial giving Black women AIDS in droves.
In 2009, Dr. Kevin Fenton of the Centers for Disease Control explained to NPR’s Michele Martin that the issue of rising HIV/AIDS infection rates among Black women is a complicated matter that research has proven cannot solely be attributed to purported “down low brothers.” It was an informative conversation given Dr. Fenton had fantastic little things like facts to back up his analysis.
Part of the discussion went as follows:
MARTIN: So, is it fair to say that it is just simply not true that the majority of new infections among Black women occur because of having sex with men who have sex with men.
Dr. FENTON: Yes, that would be true. It is crucially important to bear in mind that there are a range of risk factors which face Black women in the United States today. And, you know, the reality is that bisexual black men account for a very, very small proportion of the overall black male population in the United States. Our research suggests that about two percent of black men will report being bisexually active.
And, therefore, you need to look at the risk factors which are far more prevalent in the community – having multiple sexual partners with unprotected sex with heterosexual partners, injecting drugs. Those are going to be factors which are far more prevalent in the population and are driving risks.
As for this idea that Black and Latino communities are so much more homophobic than other racial and ethnic groups, again, why won’t people read something before speaking with authority?
Like every other group in this country, it took some time for marriage equality to be widely embraced. While the likes of Dan Savage tried to place the blame of California’s Proposition 8 passage on Black people, his ilk never bothered to reach out on the issue. For instance, Blacks played an integral role in making marriage equality law in states like Maryland.
As the Washington Post reported last fall:
Last Tuesday’s election was a watershed moment for the gay marriage movement. Voters in three states voted to legalize it — something no state had done before — and a fourth state voted against a proposed ban. And if the movement catches on in other states, African Americans and Latinos will be a big reason why. In fact, exit polls now show a majority of both groups now favor gay marriage.
I respect Lee Daniels and used to be grateful for what his fame meant to a community that remains largely ignored in media and entertainment. Yet, again, if you use your platform to reinforce fallacies and other forms of foolishness, how helpful are you really? Maybe his bleak outlook on Black gay men and Black women is nothing more than a reflection of his brand of filmmaking, which is often critiqued as “pathology porn.” Fair enough, but save that fiction for your work behind the camera.
I’m reminded every single day that there’s a need for newer voices and nuisance thought with respect to Black sexuality, but it always hurts more when another person of color serves as such a reminder.