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The F Word

I would admittedly never pass up an opportunity to say something bad about Kobe Bryant, and his usage of the word “faggot,” which was caught on camera during a Tuesday night basketball game gave me a good opportunity.   It was a heated moment for Bryant who had received a foul call and speaking about a referee said “Fucking faggot.”  On a somewhat related note, Nick DiPaolo once said, “Any white guy who claims to have never said nigger is either lying or never bet $1000 on an NBA game.”  So passion and poor words are not a novel connection in sports or comedy.  In response to the incident Bryant said:

“What I said last night should not be taken literally.  My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period.  The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone.” 

 
 
 
 

He did not mean to offend, but that shouldn't be a good enough apology.

 

 Like many a rapper and athlete before him, the common defense was, “I did not mean gay people or to offend gay people.”  But how is that any different than using the word nigger to describe someone’s conduct or appearance or using Jew as a verb to describe someone’s thrifty actions and then claiming that you were not trying to disparage those particular groups of people.  The word faggot is a word of hate.  Even if it is not used to describe a gay person, it is used as an insult because the connotation it carries is that you are less of a person because of what the word references.  Just because we have been comfortable with a particular piece of hate speech does not mean it should be allowed in regular conversation under some sort of grandfathered-in homophobia.  Even Chris Rock, my favorite comedian of all-time, failed on his last HBO special, in my opinion, to make a joke validating the usage of the word faggot.
 
But in our society, there is not the widespread guilt and shame over the word “faggot” as there is with “nigger.”  Therefore, defenses of the F word are what I imagine a defense of the N word would sound like in 1880 or 1960. 
My stance on gay rights in this country is simple and has two basic parts.  I don’t believe any institution should be required to accept or acknowledge or conduct gay marriage, except for the government.  In my opinion, the government has no place in marriage.  If I ever get married I want it to be in a Catholic Church and that is where the value for it will be for me, not from a state certificate or tax forms.  BUT if the government feels that certain rights and privileges should be accorded to married people then it is completely absurd to exclude people from that.
Secondly, people may have the Constitutional right to say hurtful, ignorant and insulting things, but we should not tolerate it.  Our society’s general acceptance of the usage of the words “gay” or “fag” and “faggot” is deplorable.  Glee and Modern Family may have people “loving” gays (the same way music and sports have America “loving” black people), but we are still too lenient when it comes to condemning this hate speech.  In fifty years I may have views that make seem like some sort of closed-minded bigot, but fairness from the government and from fellow human beings doesn’t seem to be too much of a leap, except that it still is.  I think the NBA was right to fine Kobe because it was an embarrassing thing to have been observed.  And to those that may say, “Hey, lots of people say hurtful things and don’t get ostracized for it”  that is the price you pay for getting $20 million a year to play a game for your job.
I remember nine years ago getting into a pretty heated discussion with friends of mine.  We were watching a movie and one of my friends called someone a “fag” (for doing something like eating a certain type of sandwich or something mundane like that (and it was not a penis sandwich).  I then made a pretty strong point (thanks in part to Williams College – where I entered as someone who would occasionally use the word “fag” or “gay” to describe things, but left finding those words detestable.) that the word was hateful and I did not want to hear it.  The two responses from my friends were to ask “what the fuck had I learned up at Williams?” and “Was I gay?”  I would never make the claim to be mature, but hopefully at this point my friends have caught up to me at least on this point.  You needn’t be gay or a bleeding-heart liberal to defend decency towards gays.
Kobe would have done better to issue the following statement: “I apologize for the hurtful slur I used.  There is no place in decent society for that word or the sentiments it evokes.  I did not mean to offfend anyone, but I know that even the mere utterance is hateful, even if not said with any literal intention.”
Besides, with the amount of jewelery, fashion-obsession and dougie dancing in the NBA, Kobe may have offended deeply more of his peers than he realizes.

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