LeBron James needs to come back and get his HBO barbershop show, 'The Shop' back under control. The talk show is supposed to be a safe space for Black men to discuss issues, but things went left on an episode where rising star Lil Nas X, who recently came out as gay, faced gaslighting when he tried to explain why he was hesitant to come out before it was safer for him as a mega star.
Marketing executive Paul Rivera brought up Lil Nas X's whirlwind year, which included him coming out as gay, in conversation, by saying, "And with all that early success, you felt it was important to make an announcement recently?" Rivera asked in a way that sounds strangely accusatory. Kevin Hart then took that opportunity to jump in before Lil Nas X could even respond, by yelling, "He said he was gay! So what?"
Lil Nas X then began to explain himself. "It's like knowing, growing up, I'm growing up to hate this shit," he says.
"Hate what? Hate what?" Hart interjects.
"Homosexuality. Gay people." Lil Nas X responds.
"Why?" Hart asks.
"Come on now," Lil Nas X said. "If you really from the hood, you know."
The video has set Twitter ablaze because of the lack of awareness the men in the video showed, particularly Hart, whose, "So what [if you're gay]?" and "Why [would you grow up to hate gay people]?" incredulous interjections were hard to swallow from a man who literally had to step down from hosting the 2019 Oscars because of his past "jokes" about how he would beat his son if his son turned out to be gay.
If you recall, Hart was roasted by Twitter once his past jokes revolving around his internalized homophobia came back to the front of public consciousness around the time Hart was announced as the host of the 2019 Oscars. "Yo if my son comes home & try's 2 play with my daughters doll house I'm going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice 'stop that's gay,'" he tweeted. As The Hollywood Reporter wrote in 2018, this isn't the only tweet Hart made. "In another from 2010, Hart says someone's profile pic looks 'like a gay bill board for AIDS,'" wrote the site. "In another written in 2009, he called someone a fat faced f--.'"
So why would Hart play dumb about why Lil Nas X would grow up hating homosexuality and gay people? The impact of Hart's disingenuous questions at best was to put Lil Nas X on the defensive against these grown men who ought to know better. At worst, it was gaslighting Lil Nas X about the prevalence of homophobia in his own experience and in the hood at large. Sure, barbershop conversations, especially about homophobia, are important to have, but Lil Nas X should have never been made to have this conversation with these men who not only don't have the range but have, like Hart, been hostile to gay people in the past with violent "jokes".
Hart's knee-jerk "So what?" response might be him trying to convey to the audience that he has, indeed, evolved in his thinking. But to say "So what?" when Hart's growth isn't truly evident, it also . Instead of seeming enlightened, Hart's statement played in stark relief against the Hart we saw just a few months ago, the Hart who refused to acknowledge the pain many Black boys feel growing up in a world that won't acknowledge their true identities.
Because he doesn't acknowledge or even seem to understand that level of pain, it's plausible to see why Hart used his supposedly enlightened response of "So what?" as a way to silence and deny Lil Nas X of his moment to speak of his experience. Hart's vehement response just showed discomfort with talking about and acknowledging homosexuality, especially in a star as bright and popping as Lil Nas X. The impact of his statements was to silence any mention of homosexuality while lead people to believe that he's truly evolved on sexuality from his past comments where he's cared very much about Black men being gay.
Thankfully, Lil Nas X did not allow these distractions to keep him from sharing his experience, and even put Hart on the spot to own up to the fact that yes, homophobia is a constant in the Black masculine arena with that "If you really from the hood, you know." It's almost inescapable when you're growing up, and if Lil Nas X knew about it as he was coming of age in the 2000s, you'd better believe Hart knew about it when he came up in the 1970s and 1980s, and he certainly was made aware of it when he was dragged for homophobia in 2018. For Hart to feign ignorance at that fact now is ludicrous; he's literally too old to act like he was born yesterday.
Even though the room was full of old men, Lil Nas X turned out to be the most mature one, being both vulnerable and forceful, confident and defiant. He stood his ground in who he was, and no one was going to make him feel as if he was less than. But he shouldn't have had to do that. He deserved to talk about his experiences in a safe place with people who have not had a history of homophobia.