Rickey Smiley’s contribution to the recent outpouring of stupidity from famous Black men on sexuality and gender is not the most brutish example, but considering the massive platform he has, it may be the most damaging. In a now-deleted tweet originally posted on Monday, the radio and television personality shared a meme that argued the U.S. vilifies Black boys and men for certain characteristics, such as having locs and wearing hoodies, but celebrates those same Black men and boys when they don attire deemed “feminine.” The meme concluded: “#SocialEngineering.”
Very few things remind me that a game show host is president of the United States better than the constant reminder that so many people think a meme is the best way to weigh in on nuanced, complex issues like depictions of Black men in mass media. No matter how absurd that sounds on paper, (and even worse aloud, FYI) y’all do it anyway. Not to sound like a Gulf Coast elitist, but I am fascinated by some of you daffy-ass people who share memes that would make most third-grade English teachers curse in disgust.
Alas, I regret to inform Rickey Smiley that simply putting on a dress does not make you America’s new best friend. He ought to know: I’ve seen him try it.
Smiley’s meme — the first half, anyway — was referring to DeAndre Arnold, a Texas teenager who gained national attention when his high school demanded that he cut off his locs in order to walk at graduation. Smiley’s rage on that count is perfectly justifiable; enough stories like Arnold’s have surfaced in recent years to remind us that some people and institutions remain strangely invested in how Black folks wear their hair.
However, directing his anger at queer and trans folk is just the latest example of how some Black men react to racism not by calling out White bigotry, but instead perpetuating that bigotry — by vilifying and victimizing the most vulnerable. As I wrote in response to Smiley’s tweet at the time, it’s that very reaction that has led to so many Black trans women being murdered and so many queer Black boys dying of suicide.
Alas, I regret to inform Smiley that simply putting on a dress does not make you America’s new best friend. He ought to know that: I’ve seen him try it. Irony is dead, but hypocrisy sure knows how to show up and show out, don’t it?
To our collective detriment, Smiley’s not alone in this poorly conceived line of thinking. Weeks before his Twitter fingers moved faster than his brain, Pastor Troy emerged from the dust of 2002 to whine about Lil Nas X and the neon pink, custom Versace lewk he wore to the Grammy Awards.