A few days ago, actor and comedic black hole Tracy Morgan publicly said that if his son turned out gay, he'd stab him to death. The producers of 30 Rock, as well as co-workers Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin have all condemned his words, and Morgan did issue an apology of sorts (saying that he went "too far" and that he didn't condone violence. I have a few thoughts on the matter, which I'll share after the Read More link.
1: There's no way he was really joking
For one, his comments did echo a previous bit on homosexuality, according to the New York Daily News. For two, some of the less violent but still homophobic rhetoric (such as saying homosexuality is a choice and a result of media brainwashing, and bullied gay kids should quit whining) seemed to be told in a non-joking manner-as if he was sermonizing in the middle of his act, as some comedians are wont to do. And finally, in his act he said he didn't "fucking care if [he] piss[ed] off some gays, because if they can take a fucking dick up their ass... they can take a fucking joke". A bit of a different tone than his apology, to say the least.
2: Empathy is a rare commodity
There are several examples of minorities that can legitimately claim to be oppressed oppressing other minorities, and we can add this to that list. Between Morgan's rant, Isaiah Washington's bullshit on the set of Grey's Anatomy, Steve Harvey's hate speech against atheists, and the voting demographics for California's proposition 8, one could probably say this is a case of some minorities falling into especially hateful religious sects. There are plenty of those, no doubt, but and that is the probable cause of much of this bigotry, but there is something else at play here.
Being able to hate on someone is an excellent way to feel better about oneself, if one lacks empathy. It's also an easy shortcut to empowerment. In the semi-autobiographical play Master Harold And The Boys, which was adapted into a low budget movie starring talently-impaired actor Matthew Broderick and 2 unknown but infinitely more watchable black South African actors. It's about 2 "boys" in South Africa who serve the wealthy white Master Harold, who actually is a boy but viewed as more of an adult than these guys. The black male characters, constantly abused by their white oppressors, in turn abuse their women. Why? Because it gives them more power. I don't know if this is part of the reason Morgan is a hatemonger, but I wouldn't rule it out, as plenty of black actors in the western world have complained about unreasonable racism on the part of producers and directors.
3: The general response is good news
I'm just one year shy of 30, and I can remember a time when the only controversial part of Morgan's rant would have been the part about killing his son. Now, Morgan is a trending topic on twitter and the blogosphere (which is a real word, to my surprise) is brimming with condemnation. And it isn't just gay folk and liberals! And of course, every celebrity has come out against Morgan's tirade. Even Chris Rock, who initially supported him on the grounds of freedom of speech, withdrew his support when he saw what he actually said.
4: We still have a long way to go, though
Duh. The one celebrity (if you can call him that) who is publicly supporting Morgan's outburst is Roland S. Martin of CNN, though if the Mel Gibson, the guys from Fox News and some Republican elected officials weighed in, we'd see some more support for this asshole. Even on twitter and such, this guy has supporters. I had a lengthy (by twitter standards) discussion with user @Authentic_Piff who constantly uses the word "fag" and "faggot" and tweeted a blue streak about how much he loved Tracy Morgan because of the homophobic remarks. Try to tell me that other homophobes aren't out there saying the same garbage. We're making progress but we have a long way to go.
5: Free expression should be limited
It's not that people's feelings will be hurt, it's that resentment for different groups can cause real damage to them. Gay bashing, gay bullying, and outright discrimination are all rampant phenomenon throughout the USA and to a lesser degree, the rest of the western world. The same goes for other groups like transgendered people (remember that assault of a transwoman in a McDonalds a few weeks back?) atheists, immigrants (legal or otherwise) women, and hell, pretty-much any ethnic group that isn't the majority in that specific area. Hateful messages can cause violence. I'm not saying all hateful speech will cause violence, but rhetoric like what Morgan said definitely seemed like it intended to stir up hate within audience members, which could lead to violence. Should there not be a penalty for this?
All I really know is that I'm glad that it was a comedian I already didn't like. If this was Chris Rock or Jim Gaffigan, I would really be pissed right off.