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Stephen Fry Draws Comparisons between the Homosexual Experience and Slavery

I was catching up on the Colbert Report this weekend. I like to watch the entire week of the show in one go on Hulu. This Thursday Stephen Fry was Stephen Colbert’s guest. The two have a mutual admiration and affinity for each other, which is always a pleasure to watch. Cable TV is generally a hellscape littered with hatred, righteous indignation and anger, so you can imagine my dismay when the pleasant segment incited nothing but anger and righteous indignation within me.

I am not at all familiar with Stephen Fry. The first I heard of him was a little over a year ago when he announced that he is bi-polar. I had no idea why it was front page news both here and in England, but apparently Stephen Fry is a big freakin’ deal in the arts and entertainment world. During the segment, Colbert asked Fry why he thought it was important for him to speak up about bi-polarism and  mental health. Did he think it was going to help people?

“Well absolutely,” Fry replied. “I’m also a homosexual, so I advocate for that to.”

He carried on to talk about his involvement in a program called It Gets Better, which is an anti-bullying program aimed to protect gay school-aged children, his staunch status as an atheist, and a quip about the ignorance of American Republicans.

I learned more about Stephen Fry in those ten minutes than one could hope to in an afternoon spent surfing the web. As an atheist, he went on to make comparisons between Christianity and fantasy. I have no problem with that. I don’t need Stephen Fry to believe in my God any more than I need to eat a bowl full of fried dough to quench my thirst. In fact, I respect him immensely for being an atheist. Better for him to reject God altogether in order to justify his homosexual lifestyle than to force God into his view of what the Almighty should accept and reject. And though I am of the opinion that Republicans and Democrats are equally unintelligent, the recent antics of Ted Cruz have tipped the scales measuring mental dullness in the Democrats favor… for the moment. I was fine with the entire interview until one pivotal moment.

And that moment was when he had to go and make a comment about slavery.

Now, it is only fair that I remind and inform my (new) readers about my stand on two topics: When it comes to subject of child abuse and comparisons between slavery and one thing or another, I am incapable of conducting “reasonable” discourse. I automatically see red. There is no reason to abuse children, and there is nothing one can (or should) compare to the institution of slavery as it existed in the Americas. In discussing this notion, I once had a friend propose that you “can’t compare one oppression with another”. All oppression is oppression, therefore you can’t say that one person’s suffering is worse than another’s.

That’s a crock of crap.

If someone breaks into your house and steals your wallet, and then breaks into my house and steals my child, can you honestly say that your suffering is on par with mine? How shallow is that? So when Stephen Fry responded to Colbert’s tongue in cheek statement that we are going to have a hard time explaining to future generations about why we “kept the right to vote away from gays” with this statement, I was floored:

“Well, you and I had great-grandparents who happily stirred sugar picked by slaves into their coffee every morning. We don’t like to think of our great-grandparents as evil people… we like to think of them as very nice people. They probably went to church every Sunday… and yet they knowingly stirred their coffee with sugar picked by slaves.”

(Watch it here: http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/429952/october-24-2013/stephen-fry?xrs=share_copy)



FIRST of all, let’s get one thing straight: One’s blackness or Africaness is not forbidden by any of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). Homosexuality, on the other hand,  IS. It just IS. Just like all the other lifestyles that God disapproves of: gluttony, greed, laziness, etc., it is what it is. And if Stephen Fry wants to morally justify his gay lifestyle by rejecting God by refusing to adhere to  either of these religious constructs, that’s certainly his God-given right. But to compare the discomfort he and other gay people feel by comparing his plight to offenses carried out by people – both religious and non, mind you –  is ludicrous and worst of all, insulting. Last I checked, Russia wasn’t a bastion of Christianity.

The architects of slavery were inspired by evil. And though many people – some who even professed to believe in Christ – participated in the buying and selling of Black human flesh, all those who opposed the practice did so because of their belief in an Almighty God. Abolitionists believed that God would judge America harshly because of the brutal and sinful practice of slavery. Only time will tell if their premonitions were right.

Now let’s get to the other matter: the system of slavery and  oppression and how it compares to the homosexual experience. We’ll use Stephen Fry’s example of ‘slaves picking sugar’.

Do you know how sugar was processed 300 years ago, Mr Fry? ‘Course you do, but here’s a reminder. After slave traders unloaded their weary human cargo in the Caribbean, the captives were immediately transferred to ‘seasoning camps’, which were essentially centers of torture. The sole purpose of a seasoning camp was to break the spirit of a slave. They were whipped, bound, dehumanized, sexually assaulted and given only enough sustenance to allow them to cling to life. It is estimated that only 2 out of 10 people survived the seasoning process. After their will to retaliate or resist in any manner was stripped, they were then sent to sugar cane plantations, where back breaking work of cutting cane was carried out from sun up to sun down in, humid, scorching, mosquito infested environs. After the cane was cut, it was then sent to kilns for processing into molasses, rum and refined sugar. The heat from these kilns was so hot that it often burned young children – some as young as 8 – alive. And then it was packed into tidy sacks, shipped back to England, formed into cubes and then Great-Grampa Fry stirred it into his coffee.

Compare the ‘sugar picking’ experience to the worst day lived by England’s most openly gay monarchs and entertainers, the hushed whispers of disapproval and suspicious side glances they’ve had to endure, and I fail to see how the two stack up to each other. I’m sorry, I just DON’T.

Contrary to the opinion of some, I am always happy to admit when I’m wrong if proven so, and do welcome opposing views. I asked one of my “uncles” about how he feels about comparisons drawn between gay rights and civil rights for Blacks in the national debate. My Uncle Bill* is well into his 70’s and has lived in every major ‘gay city’ in America over the span of his life – San Fran, New York, Atlanta – you name it, he’s called it home. He also had to live through Jim Crow, the Civil Rights era and the Regan administration, so he knows a thing or two about being Black and gay in America and the implications of both.

He vehemently disagrees with the very idea that comparisons would ever be drawn.

“I always tell the White boys not to do that,” he said in a soft, but stern voice. “When I was denied service at a restaurant, it was never because I was gay. It was because I was Black. When I was told to sit on the back of the bus, it wasn’t because I was gay… it was because I was BLACK.”

He went on to explain that unlike his gay white friends, he never had the option to hide his Blackness. It was the first thing people saw when he walked into a room. No one ever had to know who he was sleeping with unless he told them.

“But I’ve never had to inform anyone I was Black.”

StefryI have the strongest conviction that people must stop drawing parallels between their real (and sometimes perceived) injustices and slavery. Although privileged White gay men in particular are recently the most guilty of repeating this offense, they are certainly not alone. Ben Carson, whom I have deep respect for, just last month called Obamacare “the worst thing since slavery”… which is a ludicrous statement at best. You can opt out of Obamacare by paying a $2000 penalty to the government if you don’t want healthcare… There was no opting out of slavery.

Let’s just be clear: the Trans-Atlantic slave trade was the worst thing since slavery; not Obamacare, and certainly not any bullying on school campuses.

Here’s an idea: Why not compare these misfortunes to the Holocaust, or the bombing of Nagasaki, or the Japanese internment camps in America? Or is Black suffering nothing but a tool to be whipped out and used to justify one political or social stance or another? It would appear so; and it’s disgusting.

I blame Jesse Jackson.



This article has 9 comments

  1. Ekuba

    @ Malaka: Don’t kill me wai but I see both sides of this issue. I always say that you’ll never be able to understand a pain which is not your own. White people, like Mr. Fry, will never understand the pain of slavery/ jim crow/ colonization etc. Their hearts will not sink like yours & mine when stories are recounted of slaves being brutalized. This is why they will forever continue to talk flippantly about their ancestors stirring slaves’ sugar into their tea, and when they finish, they will laugh heartily & it will all be forgotten. Not so for you and me.

    Similarly, straight people will never comprehend the pain that I & other LGBTs encounter daily. If you’re a straight American, the weekly news of LGBTs being assaulted/murdered will fail to register. If you’re a straight African, the frequent stories of African lesbians being assaulted & subjected to corrective rape, including the one of a 19 year old girl who was raped to death with a toilet brush, will fail to register. If you were a straight member of my class in the Uni, you would not have attempted suicide like I did, after my professor said that LGBTs should be executed & the whole class applauded. . If you’re straight, you will never know the indignity of being mocked daily & called disgusting & that you can change if you just stop being lazy.

    • Malaka

      Ekuba paa! How can I ever be angry with you let alone kill you?
      I have to disagree with you on some level. To say that a straight person can identify with the plight of a lesbian person is a gross misnomer. We are all human beings aren’t we? For instance when the 16 year old transgender teen in Jamaica was murdered a few months ago my heart broke for his family! After all this is still somebody’s son (who identified as a girl).The way they murdered that teen was so brutal that one could not help but feel discuss. Not for the teen’s lifestyle before the mob mentality of those that did that the killing.
      And your classmates are idiots! No one group deserves to be eradicated it for any reason. None of us has a heaven or a hell to send anybody else too. We are supposed to be modern human beings capable of using reasoning first and violence as a last resort.

      I absolutely personally can sympathize with violence towards the LG BT community. Three of my very best friends are lesbians and I would never want any harm to come to them. Wrong is wrong. Never the less I feel like Stephen Fry’s comments were inappropriate and should never be used as a justification to score political points.

      And finally, please do not ever bring harm to yourself. I’ve never met you but I love you!

  2. Allison

    I feel your pain here. I feel it deep in my soul that the trotting out of slavery and/or civil rights struggles as they “relate” to slavery is a giant cop out. I never formalized those feelings into words, but your uncle’s are right on point and it hurts my heart when people act like lawyers during a case calling out codes and precedents to prove their cases. And it kills me how easily these roll off tongues. I think it’s stupid that in 2013, people need to “come out”. Who cares? Why is this newsworthy? I can’t come out as black and be lauded for my “bravery.” I feel for you that the government is stupid for denying you the right to marry the love of your life, but never IN YOUR WHOLE LIFETIME will your “struggle” even amount to the bastard half cousin thrice removed to the INSTITUTION of slavery. Nobody is selling you away from your family or brutalizing/dehumanizing/breaking you. Get down off your Trojan horse, Mr. Fry, and stop making light of something you know absolutely nothing about.

  3. sebaspace

    On this one I accede to Correta Scott King: “I have worked too long and hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concern. If Fry feels the suffering of gay men is comparable to that of slaves, unless you have been both, I don’t see how you can contradict him with authority.

    • Malaka

      With all due respect to Mrs. King, she’s never been either, has she? I honestly don’t see the relevance in citing her in this instance. I therefore will defer to my own judgement as a basis for contradiction, thank you.

  4. grantmx

    @Sebaspace – Not only is Coretta King’s statement self contradictory (in that if her morality was indeed subjective, or “her moral concern” she wouldn’t have spent her whole life pushing that, in reality, an objective moral concern on a whole nation) Fry’s statement is also self contradictory in the same notion. Has he indeed been an African slave? Not only is his religion fundamentally contradictory but his equating himself as a Rich White Gay British Male to a Black American experience. It’s simply laughable.

  5. Ekuba

    @ Malaka: I came back to read through the comments & saw your kind words. Thank you so much for the encouragement. You actually inspired me to blog on adventures about my journey healing from suicidal thoughts.

    I wanted to clarify that I agree with you one hundred percent that as awful as the pain/discrimination that LGBTs face daily is, you cannot compare it to the horror that our enslaved ancestors went through. This does not mean that LGBTs do not face real discrimination daily or that they are just being ‘sensitive’ about the suffering they go through & so should shut up. It however means that their suffering will never amount to what the slaves went through. All pain is not the same. Period. Those who claim that all pain is the same should tell me whether if they were given a choice between either becoming an 18th century black slave .or a modern day poor white American, they wouldn’t quickly choose the latter option, no matter how unpleasant it is!

    On that note, I’d encourage everyone who dares to trivialize the pain that slaves went through to read just one slave account I found here http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/jacobs/jacobs.html If after reading about slave children being beaten, slaves being starved & raped on a daily basis & being sold with horses, they still insist on their position, then I can safely conclude that they’re truly biased & don’t even see the suffering of black people as relevant. A lot of white people will sympathize with the sufferings of any disadvantaged group of people, except when they’re black. Perhaps, that’s the reason why the UK, for example, has officially apologized for the inhumane treatment meted out to Alan Turing ( a gay British scientist in the ’50s who committed suicide after he was was persecuted for being gay & as his punishment was forced to take hormones which caused him to become impotent & develop breasts) but to date, the UK has refused to apologize to any African country it colonized or to the descendants of the millions of slaves the UK carted away to the Caribbeans.

  6. Nana Darkoa (@nas009)

    Just to say being gay is not a lifestyle but an orientation…a sexual orientation to be precise.

    • Marshall

      She is right. Its is an orientation, just like and Pedophilia is now classified as one too according to American Psychiatric Association (APA) as of of the 2013 DSM-5 report. http://www.dsm5.org/Pages/Default.aspx

      And by the way, APA’s decision has given rise to numerous pedophilia-advocacy groups, the chief of them being B4U-ACT, a non-profit grassroots organization based in Maryland. Created in 2003 primarily as a means for “minor-attracted persons” to be open about their sexual preferences in a supportive atmosphere, B4U-ACT is now widening the scope of their organization.

      But who can judge legit Man-Boy love…


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