When Tracy Morgan walked onto the stage of the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on June 3, he was known as the erratic-behaving but lovable comic and television star of NBC’s “30Rock.” Still recovering from kidney surgery and known to have had a tragic early life, Morgan had fans who were largely sympathetic to him. But by the time the curtain fell at the end of last week, perceptions of the comedian had changed, forever altered by the tone and meaning of that night’s monologue.
Following the concert, Kevin Rogers,a gay man in attendance at the Ryman, posted a Facebook note, “Why I No Longer ‘Like’ Tracy Morgan – A Must Read.” Rogers wrote that Morgan had said, “Gay is a choice, and the reason he knows this is exactly because ‘God don’t make no mistakes’ (referring to God not making someone gay cause that would be a mistake).”
He was particularly offended by Morgan’s statement that “gay was something kids learn from the media and programming.” If he had a gay son who spoke in a high-pitched voice, Morgan said, “he would pull out a knife and stab” him to death.
Morgan has since issued an apology and taken other steps, though the timing suggests this was done to stem the tide of protests coming from groups like the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
Meanwhile, Fox NFL analyst and former New York Giant defensive end Michael Strahan and his fiancée, Nicole Murphy, released a video for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group that organized the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign.
Stahan told the New York Times that he wants his gay friends “to have all the same rights I have, and all the opportunities I have to be in a relationship, a great relationship, with the person that they’re in love with.”
When asked about the low participation by African Americans in the campaign Strahan said, “If it makes someone who is African-American feel more comfortable and want to join and get behind it, that’s great.”
In the video Strahan says, “I always played the game tough but fair, and I feel it’s unfair to stop committed couples from getting married…. We believe everyone should have the right to get married.”
Morgan’s low-blow, onstage antics hardly seem fair and if the old adage, “There is truth in joking” is correct, one could surmise that Morgan is not a sympathetic to gay rights.
Too many African Americans seem to share his perspective. Studies and polls looking at racial and ethnic views on gay marriage have found that blacks have the highest disapproval rating for gay marriage.
An October 2010 Pew Poll showed whites were evenly divided on the issue, but nearly 60 percent of blacks opposed same-sex marriage. Though these numbers among African-Americans are trending downward, as they are for the general population, they are moving at a much slower pace than for other groups.
Ultimately, it will be Strahan who will proven to have been on the right side of history, but it is difficult to say how long it will take black people to get there.