Pop music icon Boy George had a notable run-in with that wig-snatching enigma known as “Black Twitter” last week after he tweeted how “sad it was that old black people in South Carolina were too homophobic” to ever accept Mayor Pete Bootigieg for President.
The Culture Club crooner Tweeted out his misguided assessment after a New York Times article insinuated the reason Mayor Peter has a sub-zero relationship with black people in South Carolina is that black people are staunchly anti-gay.
Sad to hear that older black voters in South Carolina have issue with @PeteButtigieg living with his husband. People don't chose their race or their sexuality. God is constantly trying to teach us compassion and we won't listen!
— Boy George (@BoyGeorge) November 3, 2019
Well, of course, anyone who has been paying attention knows the real reason Pete Buttigieg is doing so poorly among African Americans is because of his past negligence in addressing the concerns of the minority citizens of South Bend. Many black people there have expressed frustration and concerns with the Mayor, from his inadequate response to matters of police brutality to a devastating urban planning misstep in which Buttigieg is accused of demolishing houses and declaring them abandoned. However, people in the community say otherwise, many providing valid proof of the homes’ ownership and details of their plans to renovate the houses to uplift their own community.
I honestly think this is wildly overstated… not to suggest it’s not a factor at all, but really overstated. Also, most Black queer folks I know don’t support him, not based on sexuality, but his political positions.
— Imani Perry (@imaniperry) November 3, 2019
As I always argue, African Americans are not monolithic. Yes, just as in any ethnic group, you will find homophobic ignorance and rejection; that is not a “black thing,” it is a people thing. Boy George found out the hard way that we as African Americans do not like being scapegoated and especially not by anyone looking to propose a false narrative to cover up the truth of someone else’s shortcomings.
George Tweeted, “Sad to hear that older black voters in South Carolina have issue with
@PeteButtigieg living with his husband. People don’t choose their race or their sexuality. God is constantly trying to teach us compassion, and we won’t listen!
Ok, first, yes, some old southern black folks are homophobes, but Buttigieg knows good and well, this is less about his love of men and far more about what has been perceived as his lack of love for the African American community.
2nd, let me just say as a gay, black man, I can identify and appreciate the similarities between the struggles for black people and gay people. However, for George to conflate the two is also misguided. Sexuality is not visble, whereas race and ethnicity are. A gay person can walk into a room and choose not to disclose his or her homosexuality. Black people don’t have that ability when entering a room. Our skin color is visible involuntarily and remains on constant display – “gay” does not.
White people love Mayor Peter, especially the white gays, that’s fine. However, he still lags behind Sanders and Warren with black voters; in the single digits. He claims to now understand, though, that he needs to earn the black voters’ confidence to get their vote. That assessment alone means he knows his sexuality isn’t really the main issue. The real problem is that he had not put the work in for nearly a decade, but now suddenly needs that very group he ignored to help him secure the presidential nomination.
I always find it surprising when a celeb tweets something incendiary and ignorant like this and then just logs off.@BoyGeorge, you are the one who won't listen, to the hundreds of people who have commented, giving you good reason to delete this nonsense. Very disappointing.
— Amir Talai (@AmirTalai) November 3, 2019
Personally, I am suspicious of a man who has forged no community ties with black citizens throughout most of his time as Mayor, but then suddenly pulls a plan out of nowhere for the blacks called “The Douglas Plan.” Named after civil rights hero, Frederick Douglas, this “plan” just seems embarrassingly contrived and disingenuous, in my opinion. Where was this ‘Douglas Plan’ when the black citizens of South Bend demanded more from their Mayor, and he was damn near absent? Now he’s invoking the sacred name of Freddy D?
Back to Boy George, though. He, like many people, need to do some research first before just spouting off on social media with half-assed facts. He endured quite a robust rebuttal to his now-infamous Tweet. Many were looking to really go for his jugular, citing his white privilege for having the audacity to even be condescending in telling older southern black citizens how or for whom they should vote in the first place.
My favorite response to George, though, was a kinder and brilliant one by an African American woman who reminded him of just how much black radio and black fan support Culture Club received and maintained throughout their career. She clarified that black people bought a lot of his music for decades, went to his concerts, and didn’t care how he presented – which was damn near in full drag and as an openly bisexual man. So how does that fit the “blacks don’t like gays” narrative?
Again, I say yes, there are homophobic black people, both young and old, just like there are homophobic white people. If that is a voting deterrent for them, there is nothing anyone can do to change it. However, what can be done is to earn black people’s trust and prove that you are an ally who understands their plight. Pandering in the 11th hour with a plan named for Frederick Douglas, after nearly 10 years of nothing, might just mean Mayor Pete needs to accept the inevitable: Black people have been paying attention … and maybe they’re just not into you.