Estranged Among Strangers

CNN anchor Don Lemon speaks about the difficulties of coming out

CNN anchor Don Lemon on coming out:

Even beyond whatever effect his revelation might have on his television career, Mr. Lemon said he recognized this step carried special risk for him as a black man.

 "It's quite different for an African-American male," he said. "It's about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You're taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine. In the black community they think you can pray the gay away." He said he believed the negative reaction to male homosexuality had to do with the history of discrimination that still affects many black Americans, as well as the attitudes of some black women. 

"You're afraid that black women will say the same things they do about how black men should be dating black women." He added, "I guess this makes me a double minority now."

I've generally pretty skeptical of the assertion that the black community is more homophobic than other communities. But this struck me, in the same way that Bernard Hopkins' latest McNabb "analysis" struck me.

I had a lucky childhood. Whatever West Baltimore's problems, I was generally a well-liked kid and, from what I can tell, was no more alienated than the average. My sense was always that if you respected people--and I mean that in the broadest sense, beyond the street notion--they generally respected you6. Sure I played D&D and read comic books. Still while I was not a natural speaker, I was pretty good at picking up the language of my neighborhood.

More than that, I wasn't gay, or accused of being gay. No one told me I "talked white." No one told me "acted white." For me, the black community was a separate world and, as I learned later, a shield,  But what if, even in that world, you are sometimes rendered a stranger This first hit me with the Grant Hill/Jalen Rose "beef." And then again last week with McNabb who has repeatedly been accused of being white. (Is this a Philly thing?) And here again thinking over these comments from Lemon.

Cultural theories, as least as they are generally deployed, don't really have much explanatory power for me. But as memoir, as individual pain, I can see the thing.