The fact that Tracy Morgan’s stand-up act has degenerated into puerile observations of oral sex (getting turned on listening to women choking on his cock) and fagbashing (claiming if his son were gay, he’d better step up and talk like a man or Morgan himself would stab him to death) isn’t so shocking to me as it might be to others; most of what passes for comedy these days is shock value, laughter from discomfort instead of thought-through commentary and clever perspective.  If Morgan wants to present himself as a comedian worthy of the gutter, that’s his business, as it is the business of others to not spend another dime watching him on stage or in the movies.  He’s just a sign of the times, ranting against gays last week just as Michael Richards just couldn’t stop himself from repeatedly shouting the word Nigger a few years ago.  It is what it is, the nasty blister that keeps the unspoken ugliness of the American id under control suddenly popping for all to see. 

What irks me in this is the liberal (and I am liberal, which means I can be honest about a tendency in my own ranks) desire to equate hate speech against gays with other forms of hate speech, mostly that against minorities, especially African-Americans.  While most liberals find nothing funny about Morgan’s rant inNashvillelast week, some make the attempt to link what he said to racial slurs, trying to make the point that all hate speech is equal and heinous and thus identical in every way. 

Here’s what addictinginfo.org had to say on the subject: 

Recently, Tracy Morgan, star of Thirty Rock and SNL veteran, went on a homophobic rant. If Morgan had been a White man talking about African Americans, his career would be over, but mocking Gays and Lesbians is acceptable to many in our society. (Tex Shelters, 6/11/2011) 

I agree with the liberal tenet that hate speech is not free speech, as designated and protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.  Hate speech, especially that which incites violence, deserves to be recognized as pernicious and sociopathic, and there is no place in a civilized society for it.  We can discuss whether or not Morgan’s rant constitutes hate speech, if it was something he truly believed, or if his mouth suddenly ran amok and out of control (he has since apologized for his remarks, realizing he went too far).  What I don’t agree in this aspect is the desire to pigeonhole something as hate speech, call it out, toss it in the generic hate speech trash can, and forget about it, lumping it in with all the other forms, where gaybashing, misogyny, anti-Semitism, race baiting, and all the other insults heaped on those based on gender, religion, skin color, or sexual orientation, are collected and mashed together. 

In many cases, African-Americans are appalled by the comparison that discrimination against gays is equitable with the discrimination blacks have faced throughout American history, and in many cases still facing today.  Making such comparisons dummies down both the gay and the African-American communities, patronizes both experiences, and carves their histories up for ulterior motives.  To compare the murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man brutally killed in Wyoming some years ago, with the murder of Emmitt Till, a black teenager brutally killed in Mississippi in the 1950’s, is apt only if you’re going to talk about how ignorance and hatred led to both murders; you have to go further than that if you’re going to talk about hate speech and hate crime, and when you do that, you realize what led to Shepard’s death (a couple of drunks picking him up at a bar and then killing him) is not the same as what led to Till’s murder (whistling at a white woman, a serious violation in the Jim Crow South, led his murderers to hunt him down, beat him nearly to death, and then weight him down and drown him in the river). 

Hate speech and hate crime deserve further analysis than “That’s hate speech and it’s bad, and there’s no point in talking more about it.” 

Hate speech directed at one faction of society is not interchangeable with it being directed at another faction.  Hate speech targeting gays is not the same as hate speech targeting blacks, or women, or Jews, or Muslims.  Unfortunately, it all gets lumped together, and it’s left there. 

As a result, bloggers use hypothetics.  If Morgan were a white comic, talking like that about blacks, his career would be in tatters, that’s the point in the above-mentioned article.  If Morgan were, say, a conservative comic, talking like that about Muslims, odds are he’d be embraced by Michael Savage, who has a long history of broad-brushing all Muslims as complicit murderers who want to do nothing but kill as many Americans as they can.  What if Morgan were a spokesman for the beef industry, talking like that about vegetarians, would every tree hugger seek to stone him to death?  Yes, that’s a bad analogy, but in truth, so is comparing Morgan’s fagbashing with racial slurs, because they’re apples and oranges. 

Morgan has shown contrition concerning his rant, and whether NBC orHollywoodseek to distance themselves from him is their business.  Others can get themselves twisted up in their vitriol over this.  Me, it’s just a sign of the times, another comedian losing his mind and ripping open an American scab.  I take it for what it is and don’t seek to make it into something it isn’t.  Morgan’s conduct, while reprehensible, should be taken in its own context.  It may be considered hate speech, spewing violent rhetoric against homosexuals, but the conversation should stay on that track, about how gays are still perceived and talked about in an America that alleges to have grown up in the last fifty years, an America that tolerates Gay Pride rallies and went through Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  That’s a worthy discussion to have, how our society can claim to be tolerant and open-minded on one hand, yet in many dark corners still equates AIDS with homosexual deviance and the television stereotype is of flamboyance, obsession of image, and reckless promiscuity. 

But let’s keep it in perspective.  Morgan is not a white comic, and his dialogue was not directed at blacks.  The path the collective African-American community has taken to reach 2011 is very different than that of the gay community, hence the insults and violence heaped upon them come from different places.  Morgan, at least to me, is not a hatemonger; he merely fell into the American trapping, the belief that homosexuals are the only minority in this country not protected by political correctness, so it’s still acceptable to make fun of faggots.  We can define the act as hate speech if we wish, and we can consider whether or not that’s what Morgan truly believes in his heart of hearts, but the conversation must remain within that context.  We show the whole episode much more respect when we talk about it on its own merits and not make shoddy comparisons in order to make it look even more heinous.  Morgan should not be let off the hook so easily, hopefully there will be some consequences for his actions, but that’s up to his employers to decide, and that’s up to those who pay to see his stand-up act to decide. 

His remarks, however, should be seen in their own light, in and of themselves, and not bastardized to fit bad logic, hypothetical comparisons, and political agendas.  It dummies down the whole broad discussion of hate speech, and it’s undignified for both the gays he insulted and the blacks the bloggers poorly attempted to compare this to. 

I do find it a little funny and ironic, a grown man with a girl’s name having the temerity to get on stage and lash out against gays.  Here is a man who once played a caricature of a prison homosexual, blowing kisses at Adam Sandler in the remake of The Longest Yard; it makes me wonder if THAT was a hint into the real Tracy Morgan, and his rant in Nashville last week was just fagbashing for the sake of appearing butch, self-loathing run amok, that sort of thing.  I don’t know about any of that, it’s all speculation, but what I do know is, for as excessive as his rant was, it’s even more excessive to try to compare it to similar remarks directed at African-Americans.  It’s all hate speech, but it deserves more than slapping the label on it and moving on.