Marriage Equality and Humanist Evolution

Jigga speaks:

Applauding the president for endorsing same-sex marriage last week, the rapper said, "I think it's the right thing to do ... whether it costs him votes or not." 

"I've always thought it as something that was still, um, holding the country back," Jay-Z explained. "What people do in their own homes is their business and you can choose to love whoever you love. That's their business. It's no different than discriminating against blacks. It's discrimination plain and simple."
It's always wild seeing rappers come out against homophobia. I've got more than my share of songs I can't really enjoy like I once did. 

But it's good to see, and I can't even say I live outside of it. I can remember coming out of Baltimore and viewing every interaction with someone who was gay with a kind of smug derision. It's the closest I've come to a kind of deep, unstated pride in ignorance -- not so much a violent hostility, but a meanness based almost entirely on not understanding. And frankly not even believing there was anything worth understanding.

When I write with some curiosity about the racist mind, this is really place I'm pulling from. I know how easy it is to believe that people have nothing to contribute, and to hold that belief not out of evidence of their lives, but out of ignorance of them. Still it's one thing for people to tell you why that's wrong -- and that's important. But it's only philosophy. For the facts, I needed real world contact with actual people. I could not simply be told that "diversity is good." I had to see it.

It was a really nice day in New York yesterday. I took my wife and son out for brunch, then roamed a bit with Kenyatta. We ended up in West Village and I was suddenly struck by how thankful I was to gay America. There is probably a more agile way to say that. But the fact is this. You can't really do my job, and live where I have lived, and live how I lived and not deal with the LGBT world. I would go so far as to say that if you are a writer with aspiration, homophobia is bad for business.

But less cynically, if you are a curious person homophobia is bad for business. I was lucky. I got schooled on that as a young man. And, as always -- in the spirit of selfishness -- it was not good for LGBT world that that happened. It was good for me. Smug derision is a kind of stupidity. And people who know better are embarrassed for you, because you are not wise enough to be embarrassed for yourself. The city saved me from that. And I'm happy.

The funny thing is I'm pretty sure even in my other life I would have supported marriage equality. Whatever, my ignorance -- "an offense against God" didn't factor in. And the notion that consenting adults could live as they willed would have disturbed me. But that isn't actual enlightenment. Surely there are racists who voted for Obama.
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus


Photos of New York City, in Motion

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book


The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"


This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.


What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in National

From This Author

Just In