The Roots of Black Homophobia
Black folks are no more or less homophobic than the rest of the country, notwithstanding boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s bigoted rants. But like every other ethnic group, we're a complex lot. Parsing our biases takes nuance and understanding.
Quite accustomed to the ongoing presence of sexual hypocrisy and seeing it exposed in front of them or in media, a significant number of black men in particular do not think of homosexuality as a misunderstood, "alternate" preference. Here is where enormous differences in social experience leave their emotional and psychological marks -- as well as their misreadings.
Black men who come from communities where far too many young males begin entering the penal system in their teens see things much differently from men of any color who do not. Those reared in communities where it is not at all common for young males to be incarcerated have only recently become aware of what actually can happen behind bars. Without The Shawshank Redemption or HBO's Oz, others with no penal experience and no backlog of gossip about the sexual horrors imposed behind bars might still be fully clueless.
On the other hand, lower-class black people who have been exposed to the penal system are fairly sure that they have all the clues. In most cases, they're not privy to statistics illustrating that sexual predators are usually heterosexual, not homosexual. But they know people whom the penal system did not protect from sexual assault. And more often than not, those experiences inform their prejudices.
Contrary to paranoid superstition, black men who were sexually molested in institutions very rarely become homosexuals. Even so, many are thought to have been "turned out" by the raw and brutal experience, almost as if rape has magical properties that can transform someone who isn't sexually attracted to men into one who is.
That is how it tends to go among all people. Intensely negative and unforgettable experience -- personal, witnessed, or heard about and believed -- is thought to be a threatening norm.