by Dr. Boyce Watkins, YourBlackBloggers.net
I’ve spent a week thinking about the Newsweek cover in which President Obama is proclaimed to be “The First Gay President.”
As a proponent of gay marriage, I was admittedly taken aback by seeing a successful black man “turned out” in front of the American public. In fact, I was actually insulted, not because there’s something wrong with being gay, but because Newsweek had the audacity to think that everyone would be happy to be called gay. So, I thought I would send a memo to anyone who somehow feels compelled to consider Barack Obama to be the first gay president of the United States:
The man isn’t gay.
Barack Obama is not, to my knowledge, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, a cross-dresser or anything else that might imply that he wants to sleep with other men. He is married to a woman and has dated women for his entire life. While there is room for empathy in the battle for gay rights in America, the idea of letting an openly gay blogger (Andrew Sullivan) label the president in an inaccurate way is highly problematic.
Yes, I know that some people referred to Bill Clinton as “the first Black President,” but most of us never signed off on such a ridiculous and insulting description – eating ribs and playing the saxophone hardly qualifies anyone to be black. Similar to the Clinton scenario, referring to President Obama as the first gay president is an insult to legitimately gay Americans who’d like to see one of their own in the White House. Take it from us: The substitute is rarely as fulfilling as the real thing, so it’s probably best to be patient.
By taking one of the most powerful and successful black men in history and emasculating him in front of the world, Newsweek editors have succeeded in further fueling the hostilities of those who already believe (perhaps falsely) that the gay community is attempting to project its lifestyle onto those who are not comfortable with it. For every black woman who has seen good, eligible black men sucked up by white women, a gay lifestyle or the prison industrial complex, this headline is an absolute and justifiable outrage. There are ways one can pursue equality and earn respect for his/her lifestyle without forcing others to live with and accept it as their own.
Perhaps some are thinking that gay is the new black, so Obama shouldn’t waste his time being a black man anyway. Being gay is now politically fashionable and will help secure admission into a lot of Ivy League universities and social circles that now see little value in African American people (I’m sure I’ll be called homophobic for even writing this article). Liberals, in their paternalistic disrespect for the African American male, often see us as brutes who need to be tamed, educated or civilized, leading to conflicts between white women and black men in thousands of workplaces across the country.
Even more interesting is the manner by which a black man has to bend and twist himself into something that makes liberal whites comfortable in order for him to be appreciated or respected. For Obama to gain the adoration of liberal white women, the gay community and other groups, he has to become what they would like for him to be: the smiling, happy black man without a problem in the world, who speaks to liberal issues without saying a word about mass incarceration, racial inequality, all the black men dying in his hometown or the depleted and unequal schools in black communities across America. He can talk about gay rights and women’s rights all day long, but if he says one word about the discomfort of other people of color, he is sent straight to the N*gger house.
I’m sorry Newsweek, but President Obama is NOT the first gay president. Similarly, Bill Clinton was never the first black president. Perhaps Bill wanted to be black, but I’ve never heard President Obama say that he wants to be gay. For you to put that label on him unfairly is insulting to us all, and lends credence to those who think that anyone who is uncomfortable with homosexuality is now going to be persecuted. We must all learn to respect boundaries.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Syracuse University Professor and author of the forthcoming book, “The RAPP Sheet: Rising Above Psychological Poison.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.