Rob Smith at HuffPo reports
that ignorant talk about men on the "DL" being the main vector of HIV infection in the black community has reared its ugly head again, this time on "The View":
During a discussion regarding the FDA ban on blood donation by gay men, and a controversial article comparing the ban to statistics on HIV/AIDS in the black community, Sherri "flat-earth" Shepherd, who is somewhat sadly one of the few prominent voices of black women in the media, "educated" her fellow panelists on the reason for HIV rates in the black community, stating that "DL Black Men" are to blame for the skyrocketing HIV rates. Never one to shy away from a gay issue that he's not qualified to speak about (see his cable appearances after 2008's erroneously reported "black voters passed Proposition 8" fiasco), comedian D.L. Hughley eagerly backed up her statements.
Please, don't mind that this isn't entirely true. Don't mind that the incarceration rates among African-American males combined with poverty levels and the lack of proper access to condoms in prison create a dangerous cocktail that leads to issues with HIV/AIDS infection among black women and blacks in general. No, don't think about that, just blame it on those evil, sneaky black gay men who apparently live to infect poor, defenseless black women, presumably twirling their mustaches dastardly in the process. In fact, perhaps it's easier to compartmentalize it in that way, since robbing black women of their sexual agency and demonizing the sexuality of black men regardless of their orientation has been one of the primary outcomes of the down low conversation.
The situation on The View was made doubly infuriating and uncomfortable because, like most conversations involving black gay sexuality, there was a complete absence of any black gay voices. The only gay voice on the panel was Advocate On-Air host Thomas Roberts, who briefly mentioned his struggles with coming out at 27 and having dated women before, but when pressed about his sexual activities before he came out, assured the panelists and the audience at home that he remained faithful to his girlfriends, and, hey, he's "not a black man on the Down Low." His words, folks, not mine. Since apparently only black men are on the down-low, we should probably come up with some other term for whatever it was that Ted Haggard, Jim McGreevey, and all of the other upstanding married white men caught with their pants down and a comely young fellow not too far away were doing. Any suggestions?
The three-and-a-half minutes on The View were the source of enough misinformation and stereotyping to damage the conversation regarding blacks, gays, sexuality, and HIV/AIDS for a while to come. ... Here's a thought for the producers and anyone else who chooses to engage in the conversation: How about including the voices of black gays for once? Who knows, perhaps we may even have a little more insight into the pressures of coming out in the black community and the factors that lead men into this kind of behavior.
I couldn't agree more. The "down low" is simply another term for the closet. That's it! Black men have no monopoly. What would be funny if its consequences weren't so terrible is that the hysterical, demonizing response to the "DL" talk in recent years only reinforced the closet, thus making the problem worse. Hey, folks: if you don't want gay men to pose as straight and use women as beards, try overcoming your anti-gay intolerance, which does NOT make the gay go away it just drives it underground. Someone needs to tell Mr. Hughley in particular to get an effing clue already. He strikes me as someone who's been hit on by guys and didn't know how to handle it. Well, boo hoo! Ask your "sistahs" how they like it. If you can dish it out, you can bloody well take it. At the very least, stop spreading misinformation.
(Photo of Rob Smith. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/robsmithonline)
Update: GLAAD's action alert is here. As they say, "Call on “The View” hosts to issue an on air apology and correct Sherri Shepherd and D.L. Hughley’s misrepresentation of African American gay & bisexual men."