Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler
Vanity Fair

Who is Ryan Coogler? And who is Michael B. Jordan?

Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan are the young director-actor duo most famous for creating the harrowing and amazing (and amazingly shut out for Oscar consideration) Fruitvale Station. They also worked together on Creed—a critically acclaimed movie with a black director, a black star and a black love interest for the black star.  

Oh, so they received Oscar love for that, then, right?

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No. But one of the white supporting actors did.

Wow. How did that happen?

Because the Oscars are whiter than Wal-Mart potato salad.

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Damn. That sucks.

It does. But on the bright side, Jordan has been so successful as a movie actor that I’m no longer compelled to scream “Where’s Wallace???” at the screen every time I see him.

Why are they in the news this week?

Vanity Fair recently published a feature with the two men, who, along with being colleagues and collaborators, are apparently close friends.

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However, the feature was accompanied by a photo shoot. And the image that circulated around the Internet shows a solemn Jordan clutching the top of the head of the equally solemn Coogler.

OK … well, what’s the problem with that?

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There is no problem with it. It shows two men who obviously share some affection for each other … sharing some affection for each other. Some people, however, did think there was a problem. That problem being that the picture effeminizes Jordan and Coogler. And is an example of the mass media emasculation of the black male. And is a sign of the gay agenda. And is even why the Warriors lost to the Lakers last week.

Wait, what? All of that from that picture? Did you neglect to mention something about it? What could possibly have made those people draw that conclusion from that?

Great question! And in order to answer that question, I’ll need to share a story: A couple years ago, because of some miscommunication with my insurance, I drove with expired registration stickers for two weeks. Which might not seem like a big deal. But I’m a black man. With a Dodge Charger. (Why a Charger? Because I enjoy being a stereotype at times. It keeps my breath fresh.) In Pittsburgh, which might be the only major American city whiter than the Oscars. Basically, I already had, like, a thousand bull’s-eyes on my back, and I didn’t need another excuse for the police to follow me and pull me over. But I chanced it for two weeks, and I fortunately made it out unstopped.

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I did, however, have a bit of anxiety whenever I’d get behind the wheel. In Pennsylvania, registration stickers are supposed to be on your license plate, so I’d incessantly check my rearview mirrors to make sure there was no chance of a police officer getting behind me. Which, considering the situation, is understandable.

Another thing happened, though. I was so on edge about my registration situation that I started noticing other people’s registration situations. I had never paid attention to the stickers people had on their plates before, but I was so insecure about my own—so hyperconscious about what I was doing and not doing—that what other people were doing and not doing officially became a “thing that mattered to me.”

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And your point is? I’m starting to doze off here.

My point is that, for these people, this obsession with seeing and detecting “gayness” and the “gay agenda” at every turn and in every corner stems from a rigid and, by proxy, insecure definition for and understanding of what it means to be a straight black male. Anything that seems to exist outside of some arbitrarily determined idea of “what straight men do” becomes suspect. That can be anything from “drinking with a straw” and “knowing how to spell” to “listening to Adele” and “taking a picture with your boy for a national magazine.” Which are all, apparently, part of the conspiracy to make more black men gay.

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Seriously, there are going to be people who’ll read this and say that I must be gay because I’m “writing in defense of gayness.”

Are there any other problems with this way of thinking?

Of course! Along with being reductive, regressive and limiting—Who doesn’t like using straws??? How else will you drink a milkshake???—this gay hysteria implies that being a gay man is a negative thing. And not just a bad thing, but the worst thing a black man can be.

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So you’re saying that being a gay man is a good thing?

No. What I’m saying is that it’s just a thing. Like being left-handed. Or having brown eyes. Or brushing your teeth with beet-flavored fluoride. There’s no inherently positive or negative value associated with sexuality. You just are something. Or you just are something else. That’s it.

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I see. So, what happens next?

Coogler and Jordan will continue to do amazing work and be close friends. And the gay-agenda constables will continue to add things like “using olive oil on salads instead of ranch” and “being named Brandon” to the list of “things straight black men can’t do if they want to be considered straight black men.”

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Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrothas.com. He is also a contributing editor at Ebony.com. He lives in Pittsburgh and he really likes pancakes. You can reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com.