Note: the slurs in this video are not censored to enable a frank discussion.
These teens were shown a video of a recent homophobic reaction on a public street by Jonah Hill, the actor, and another video showing his apology on a late night talk show where he was a guest. It is worth watching to the end because it takes a while for some of these teens to get close to the crux of the problem in both the slur and the apology.
The teens were especially struck by Hill’s apology that noted his long-standing support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, and his regret that he was provoked by paparazzi that had been dogging him all day. Hill said, at that moment, he wanted to say the “most terrible thing he could think of” but he didn’t mean it in a homophobic way. A total disconnect relieving him of any actual responsibility for what he said.
Most of these teens come very close to concluding that homophobic slurs are never okay outside your small circle of friends who would know it was in jest. Some decided on the spot to stop using these slurs in consideration of anyone who might be listening and be hurt by them.
That’s a noble first step but we have to dig deeper. This is not just a homophobic slur — it’s actual homophobia.
What all of these public displays of homophobia reveal is a very real central belief buried in the consciousness of the person speaking them, that calling out someone as gay or a f**got or a c**k-sucker is the worse thing you could say. You may be a straight person like Hill or Alec Baldwin, and may even have done some stuff to advance the rights of LGBT persons, but when you want to shout back in anger you draw on your true character, who you really are as a person.
A better apology is that you found you needed counseling and education to find out why you, yourself, view being gay so negatively, and that you will work hard in the future to help yourself and others understand that gay is actually good, certainly as good as choosing to be a heterosexual.
These celebrities, whose social contract assumes public displays of their good, bad, and ugly expressions, shouldn’t get off the hook with faux apologies focused on what a good LGBT supporter they have been. They were caught showing something deep inside them that triggered the reaction in the first place, and as painful as that is, it’s not something that should be swept under the rug.