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strong black love for a child that is “other”

March 22, 2019
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I remember the first time I ever saw a photo of Zion Wade, son of basketball star Dwayne Wade and step-child to Gabrielle Union. In the photo, Zion would be seen posing at the side of Gabrielle Union with a wedge heeled shoe. Zion, no more than 10 or 11 years old would face immediate scrutiny from the internet, questioning the young boys sexuality. Many projecting toxic ideologies of masculinity and questioning of his parents for “allowing” him to be what society has deemed as effeminate in nature.

This past week, in a moment that I can say moved most of us, we got to witness young Zion, who is clearly growing more into himself strut the runway at a fashion show—even giving a spin to the loud cheers of Union and Wade in the audience. Although this moment was met with much praise, there were still many with negative things to say. Unfortunately, homophobia continues to play a harmful role in community, often reserving the notion of “Black boy joy” to centered in a construct against anything that would emasculate Black manhood.

To begin, no one has the right to project an identity on young Zion until Zion is ready to do so for themselves. Secondly, Zion is a child—A Black child born into oppression like any other Black child. The amount of toxicity we as adults place on children who are simply in a state of innate being is a nod and wink that white supremacy is still your guiding principle. The notion of respectability that taught you to hate anything that can’t fit the boxes of heterosexuality and is therefore the emasculation of the Black male image. More parents should be as affirming as D Wade and Gabrielle Union have been with Zion—far too many of us know the existence of what happens when community turns its back on children that are “othered.”

Here is where we need to connect the dots. Children who live their lives unapologetically as Zion are often harmed by the very same folks that are supposed to love us. I think about another young Black gay boy by the name of Giovanni Melton. Giovanni, was also a child who was other and identified at a young age as gay. Yet, his father’s hatred ran so deep that he murdered his Black child—with many reports stating his father uttered the words “I would rather have a dead son than a gay son.” Words mean things, often times dog whistles to acts of violence that will follow after. It is why many continue bringing up Kevin Hart tweets about harming his child if they ever turned out to be gay. Those words become someone’s reality.

Let’s connect some more dots. Black children that are othered by society, even with the love of family can still become adults who are easily disposed of by society. Two dead Black gay men have been found in the home of Ed Buck in the last 20 months. Buck, a white gay man continues to not only be free to continue and prey on Black gay men, but free from overall condemnation from the community he is taking out one by one. The lack of protection for chldrnen, and men who are othered directly correlates to the communal belief in homophobia—something that is not exclusive to Black folk, but a problem we must deal with nonetheless.  

On my side of the fence for those of us who have confirmed our sexual identity, we often say “If you don’t want to have a child that is LGBTQ, then you probably shouldn’t be having a child.” This is a nod to the fact, that as Black folks you need be prepared for any child born, as they are immediately born into oppression. Children can’t only be a blessing if they fit in a box. Nor are children that are deemed “other” the universe’s way to gain retribution because of you being homophobic, ableist, or any other ism, ist, or ic.

As the video continues to trend, people are still more concerned about the protection of societal norms rather than the safety and security of a child who innately gets to be his authentic self. The same people who watched societal norms that once made Black folks, slaves, then 3/5 of white folks, til where we are today navigating systems that continue to oppress. Suffice to say, every “norm” isn’t a good one. Any norm that reduces the totality of a child’s being is one we should be fighting to change. The only thing effeminizing Black men is the unwillingness to protect those who check the box marked as “other.”  

Writer and author, George Johnson is bringing our viral conversations to real life situations.



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