Letter to the editor

Mark Johnson

Two weeks ago, there was an article published about “cancel culture”: how one mistake can ruin the life of anyone in the spotlight. Kevin Hart was the principal name mentioned, and the article referenced how he stepped down from hosting the Oscars due to homophobic tweets and “jokes” he has made in the past. The reaction to “cancel culture” described in the article is a glimpse into the dangers of trivializing improvement for marginalized groups.

In 2010, during a Seriously Funny comedy special, Kevin Hart said:

“One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay. That’s a fear. Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic, I have nothing against gay people, be happy. Do what you want to do. But me, being a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will.”

A year later, Hart tweeted that if his son ever began playing with his daughter’s doll house, Hart would “break it over his head” and say “stop that’s gay.”

To many of us, this is just a funny joke. Living in a predominantly white, affluent, and heterosexual suburb, we hear jokes which poke fun at sexuality, race, language, gender, and religion, and we laugh. I do too, sometimes. My friends have been the butts of these jokes for years, and the jokes have never slowed down. Yet, nothing is done. We are complacent in our belief that these jokes are harmless, when in reality, the danger lurks beneath the surface.

Beyond Kevin Hart’s jokes and tweets lies a deep web of institutionalized homophobia. Many people—like Hart—are raised to believe that they have “nothing against gay people,” and that their jokes are in no way attacking the LGBT community. But they are. Kids watching comedy series begin to believe that they, too, should snuff out anything “gay” as soon as possible. Every retweet that Hart’s post received was another link added to the chain of discrimination that we see far too often.

After Hart’s comments and tweets resurfaced, the Oscars asked him to apologize, or else they would need to find a replacement. Hart responded through an Instagram video saying, “I chose to pass on the apology. We feed on Internet trolls and we reward them. I’m not going to do it, man. I’m going to be me. I’m going to stand my ground.”

Kevin Hart’s discriminating comments obviously do not stand alone. But by accepting those comments as a mistake—and viewing prejudice as “standing your ground”—we fail to prevent future jokes from popping up again. This is why we cannot clump actual progress in society with the idea of a social media “culture.” When we generalize every discriminatory action as a mistake, we trivialize a society which has only just begun to resist homophobia and discrimination. We fail to help marginalized groups overcome adversity and institutionalized prejudice.

By Kevin Hart stepping down from hosting the Oscars, mainstream society has finally said this: enough is enough. We can no longer tolerate commentary which pushes minorities even farther down the gutter.

— Mark Johnson ‘19