I Still Pick UNC, but…

My dear friend Jonathan (not his real name) began a campaign with our group of friends to stop using the word “Fag” when we were referencing stuff that was actually just precious or twee or feminine, and not actually homosexual. I didn’t actually roll my eyes, because my friend Jonathan is much bigger than me, and he’s also vastly smarter.

Okay, I admit it. Jonathan is his real name.

But I felt a great deal of power using the word “faggot”, it has a depth and a bite to it that the replacement words don’t. The word “nigger” can also be an extremely powerful word, when used as an endearment. I would never use the word in a racial setting, and I would never consider its use a condemnation. For my friends and I, when the word is used, it’s used the way we hear it used by the artists we admire. It’s a term of endearment, as if we were POWs in the same war. To say, “this is my NI-gah right here”, you were announcing a kind of man love.

Unfortunately, we were using the word “faggot” to denote a different kind, a sort of fawning and weak-kneed man-love. And it has been used ad-nauseum to describe the Duke Men’s Basketball team.

There’s almost no situation you can be in where the passion that these kids have for one another and for their school isn’t condemned as equivalent to being the receiver in anal intercourse. There’s a racial component as well – because the Duke players tend to be white or at least *act* white, and because the black community has shown itself to be less-than progressive when it comes to homosexuality, there is a sense that the tough awesome dark-skinned black players on most college teams are expressing pure esprit de coer when they smack each other on the butt or hug each other after a big shot.

But the white, or light-skinned black, or even dark-skinned black but high-test-score-receiving black kids do the same at Duke University, it’s seen as an act of homosexual love, and therefor beneath rooting for. I’ve seen it a hundred times, guys who would march in a parade for gay rights, guys who love their gay friends and family members deeply, will still mock Duke’s players for being “faggots”.

Now, my friend Jonathan wanted us to stop using that word, and I more or less did. But it didn’t really bother me, in the same way that the N word doesn’t bother me in music or in conversation. But I did find that when I used either word, on the rare occasion when I did, it started to feel… awful. Just awful.

Now, I’m in the theater world, so obviously I’m more involved with gay people that I am with urban black culture. Every black person I know is only black in so far as that’s his *casting*, and the world of hip hop, no matter what people might be trying to do, is still in a different universe than musical theater. So, it could be that the gay stuff rubs me passionately the wrong way.

But I’ll say this – Our first black President has come out against gay marriage. And, while I think that my lifetime will contain watershed moments where homosexuality can be accepted as a natural part of our existence, I do think that our race relations are in a better position than our understanding of one another’s sexual preference. And it chills my blood every time the white guys at Duke are accused of homosexuality. Not because it’s *true*, but because the joke is the most emasculating, most de-humanizing taunt the anti-fans can come up with.

The first time I hear Barnaby use language like that, I won’t know if I will be able to handle the shame. His sense of race is already more even-handed than mine, we have friends and kids in our neighborhood of every stripe, and he sees black men and associates them with heroes, not thieves. But he also sees gay men and women every day, and he knows that they are men and women, to be as trusted and admired as the rest of our friends.

Which might not be much, we can hang with a motley bunch.

Anyway, I don’t think I can push him to be as much an anti-fan of Duke as my friends and I are, because the language that surrounds that stuff is pathetic. I’m not linking to anything on this blog, but do a search, particularly an images-search. If this is what hating Duke is, in any other context it would be shameful. And if being a Carolina fan means behaving this way, I don’t want that for my son.