This week we’re crushing on the brilliant mind behind our fave online reads, Son of Baldwin’s Robert Jones, Jr. (pictured below). On the R tomorrow he discusses his life, including his life of the mind.
To quote his favorite author Toni Morrison, he’s a friend of the R’s mind, which is why we’re seriously crushing him up this week. Here’s the rest of the interview, including his thought on CNN commentator Roland Martin returning to that network after being suspended for his homophobic tweets.
Looking at your FB page threads, I absolutely love the conversations going on there—heck, I’ve jumped in a couple of times myself! :-D What do you think still needs to be addressed in those threads, like something you thought the community there would get but somehow missed?
If Son of Baldwin can be considered any kind of success, if there’s any blessing in it existing, it’s because of the community that contributes to it. There are brilliant, brilliant minds participating in that space every day of the week: El Hatch, Jukebox Jones, Mike Mosley, Bones Patterson, Frances Uku, Ben Fisher, AE Pierre-Louis, Rebecca Theodore-Vachon, Karen Parker, Tiff J., David Wester, and so many others who I feel horrible for not mentioning. I’m in awe of their intelligence and perspectives and I learn so much from them.
Is there a publication—online or print—where you wish you could get your words out? Why that/those publication(s)?
I haven’t looked around much for publishing political thought because I have been so focused on my novel. I’d love to something similar to what Ta-nehisi Coates does at the Atlantic, only from a black queer perspective.
I saw you had a Twitter run-in with CNN’s now-unsuspended Roland Martin. What are your own thoughts about his now being able to going back to work on that network?
I’m both excited and frightened that you’ve asked me this question. I have such complex feelings about the Roland Martin situation. On the one hand (and Martin would deny this, as would his supporters) he is a certified homophobe. He, like a great deal of other folk, believes that his religion gives him special permission to not only pass judgment on homosexuals (especially if they’re black males) and call homophobia by some other, inaccurate name, but attempt to eradicate it through prayer and “spiritual healing.” I can’t imagine a single thing LESS spiritually healing than forcing people to deny/hide their sexual orientation or to shame the consensual love or sexual attraction two or more adults feel toward one another.
Martin, I think, deserves whatever sanctions come as a result of his bigotry. CNN suspended him and he’s returned. That’s fine with me. Just don’t expect me to support him or watch any media he’s involved in. I know how bigotry works. I know that it creeps out and infects everything you say and do, even when you think you’ve hidden it from view. I’m not in the business of knowingly exposing myself to disease, not even when the disease is in my own tribe, as it were. And I know, clearly, irrefutably, that bigotry is a disease—even when you think you’re spreading it on behalf of Allah, Yahweh, or Jehovah.
Some people believe that because of the way black men have been emasculated in American society, or any place that Europe has colonized, we should understand and be sympathetic toward black men who express homophobia as “emasculation panic.” That’s a problematic proposition in my view. Because why stop there? By that logic, shouldn’t we then be sympathetic towards poor white folks who are racist because they’ve been denied many aspects of white privilege? Should we understand the anti-Latino views of white women simply because white woman suffer exclusion from the larger society as a result of misogyny and sexism?? The Sympathy for My Oppressed Oppressor point of view is so reductive as to be rendered ineffective or meaningless. And it ignores, so acutely, any and all intersectionality.
On the other hand, I find it very problematic that GLAAD is especially vocal when black celebrities are homophobic, but mainly silent when white queers are racist. Where was GLAAD when Dan Savage blamed black people for the passage of Proposition 8 in California? Where were they when Andrew Sullivan said the Bell Curve is accurate science and needs to be heeded so that we can stop giving supposedly intellectually inferior black people positions that rightly belong to white people? Doesn’t GLAAD know that some queer people are black? Isn’t the NAACP expected to understand that some black people are queer? If the NAACP is expected to speak out against homophobia in the black community, shouldn’t we expect GLAAD to speak out against racism in the gay community? Why don’t they then? GLAAD will generally call out homophobic celebrities, regardless of race. But it always seems to me to be particularly prominent and loud and determined and organized when the celebrities are black. Liberal racism is sometimes worse than conservative racism because, while they seldom admit it publicly, at least conservatives know they’re racist. Liberals can’t even imagine themselves as being racists even when it’s blatant.
There’s also this weird notion floating around. We imagine that black people, queer people, women, or any oppressed group of people should, somehow, be MORE moral than their oppressors. That’s where the “Magical Negro” comes from. Whether Mammy and Uncle Tom, Hoke Colburn, or Abilene Clark and Minny Jackson, they are all figments of someone’s limited imagination—and the color, gender, and sexuality of the imaginer is irrelevant.
So for minorities and women, not only is there the burden of the oppression itself, but there’s the additional expectation of being stuck taking the moral high ground even when someone is standing on your throat. But if history is any indication, all oppression does is teach oppressed people how to oppress others. And this, ultimately, is the human conundrum: How do we free ourselves without imprisoning others? And we’ll never solve that question as long as the oppressed are operating as temporarily embarrassed oppressors. The answer is, of course, love. But we have no idea what that means. And I think we’re too immature, ignorant, selfish, or afraid to try to figure out what it means. Everybody wants to be Christian, but nobody wants to be Jesus.
Okay. I’m done being serious. Can I squee now?
You want to squee? Please! I should be squeeing! Thank you for even talking to me. I’m so under the radar that I didn’t even imagine most were listening.