Queen Latifah knew exactly what she was doing when she had her character on VH1’s “Single Ladies” say that “being gay is the new black.” It is a preposterous and reckless statement for her to utter and not a genuine one at that either.

What’s interesting is that Latifah, aka Dana Owens, has been steadfast in her absolute refusal to broach the topic of her sexuality or even entertain questions regarding her orientation, which is her God-given right. But through “Single Ladies,” of which she is the executive producer, Queen Latifah somehow summons the gumption to let us know where she’s really at, but it is done in such a haphazard way and makes a mockery of the trials and travails that have sledge-hammered African Americans for centuries.

Even if Latifah meant that being gay is the ‘new black,’ as in the new hot thing out, then that is also an asinine statement to make, particularly when you consider the issues that still plague homosexuals in a homophobic nation, especially in the African American community.

The entire episode in question was meticulously scripted to let Latifah crack the closet door open and assess the cultural temperature in a timid kind of way. Latifah appears for the first time on the show as television reporter Sharon Love. The show reaches its climax when Love admits to having slept with her best female friend in college [Stacey Dash’s character, Val]. When the admission is accidentally aired, Latifah’s character Love believes that her career would go to ruins. Just the opposite, it turns out. On the show, Love gets a whole lot of, well, love from the fictional public and media.

That prompts Latifah’s character to proclaim blissfully and boastfully, “It turns out being gay is fabulous. My Twitter is all atwitter. I have six new Facebook fan pages. And for every sponsor that’s fallen out, I’ve gotten two more. Who knew? Being gay is the new black.”

That was not an accident. You mean to tell me that for her first appearance on her own show and out of all the topics she could have broached, she picked this one? Too convenient.

If this was her way of tip-toeing out the closet, it was shameful and cowardly. Instead of coming correct the way that CNN’s Don Lemon did and that comediennes Wanda Sykes and Ellen DeGeneres have, Latifah wants to sneak through the employee entrance. This does nothing to give courage to those who are still struggling with self-identity and acceptance. Furthermore, the comparison does not work at all.

Gays, particularly Caucasian ones, do not have their economic upward mobility hindered by being homosexuals. There is no such thing as driving while gay. They don’t “accidentally” get shot 40 times by law enforcement officers, as so many black men have. They don’t get accosted in front of their family and friends for being gay. They can buy homes in the most upscale, coveted suburbs without being red-lined, nor do they witness the depreciation of property values because they moved into a pristine cul-de-sac. They don’t get offered subprime loans when they are qualified for better rates.

With the gay magazine, the Advocate, and paparazzi providing strong circumstantial evidence that Latifah and personal trainer Jeanette Jenkins are in a homosexual relationship, including the fact that their names are both on the deeds to their Hollywood Hills, Calif., home, Latifah’s sexual orientation is a foregone conclusion by now. Very few people, if any, believe that she likes men at this point. So, either she needs to come out and declare with pride and strength, or she needs to leave the subject alone altogether. She should not use a “Real Housewives of Atlanta”-type format to make political proclamations, especially when she has carefully evaded the political arena throughout her transcendent, award-winning career.

African American leaders have spent decades advocating for gay rights and the eradication of intimidating tactics and violence against gays. I’m not so sure that the love shown has been reciprocated. As usual, other ethnic groups and demographics have benefited substantially from the blueprint that African American civil rights movements have provided. However, the benefactors seem to keep forgetting to leave any fruit after others did the hard work of shaking the tree.

terry shropshire

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