Thursday, January 05, 2012

The benefits of "in your face"?

Yes, that is an extraneous s there.
Well that was pretty blatant, no?
This story about a t-shirt for Alabama fans to wear to New Orleans when the Tide take on LSU later this week has been sent around various circles I find myself in, engendering resignation and disgust and disappointment.
My initial response--what this post was going to be all about before I read "below the fold"--not that I know where the fold is on blog posts (which is where this story was broken)--was about the relief that blatant homophobia can bring.
Paradoxical, I realize. But in my experience of studying discrimination in sport, I have encountered many obstacles in the way of proving such discrimination when it occurs on a more subtle level. Accusations of overanalysis, over sensitivity, over feminism, etc. are frequently levelled at critics of policies and events that have discriminatory effects. Back-tracking and non-apologies along with blatant denial and less-than-rigorous investigations are the norm.
But "Hey Homeauxs" followed by a statement of violence is pretty blatant.
It reveals the homophobia that persists in our culture at large and, in particular, in sports.  It is a teachable moment that most people can understand. I shall use it myself next semester.

There was more to this story. The many who wrote the initial blog post, Kevin Farrell, about the t-shirt found more information about the University's involvement (there was none--they condemned the t-shirt) and the person who was largely responsible for it. And then the blogger published the responsible party's name and contact information. To his credit, the man has apologized profusely and said he did not mean the statement to indicate violence against gay people, rather that is a line in reference to the Alabama fight song. Farrell believes this man but also said that the guy did not understand why homeauxs (sic) was offensive. Let me explain: even when you dress it up in faux French fashion, it is still a derogatory term for gay people when it is used in this (and most) context.
The t-shirt is not being printed. The business owner has asked that his name be removed from Farrell's post because of all the negative attention he is getting from it and because he is genuinely sorry. But Farrell was right in his rationale to keep the information up. If he had not intervened--no one would have. Those t-shirts would have shown up in New Orleans worn by UA fans and students and I would have been writing this blog post from Australia next week, when I have better things to do!
Yes, it's unfortunate that a so-called nice guy is being allegedly punished for his mistake. But it's the 21st century and I hope that the social contract is starting to require accountability for the privilege of ignorance. This is not a legal issue and thus we cannot just look at intent, because there are bigger issues. Good people can act in discriminatory ways and remain ignorant to them. Just like good people can be the victims of such ignorance and discrimination.

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