Unspoken: More to consider

The controversy surrounding Kevin Hart, The Oscars goes beyond right vs. wrong

Kevin Hart faces controversy as tweets from 2010 resurface after he is announced as the host of The Oscars 2019. (Gregory Pace/Zuma Press/TNS PHOTO)
Kevin Hart faces controversy as tweets from 2010 resurface after he is announced as the host of The Oscars 2019. (Gregory Pace/Zuma Press/TNS PHOTO)
Demi Lawrence

Demi Lawrence is a sophomore journalism news major and writes "Unspoken" for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Demi at dnlawrence@bsu.edu.

I came into this controversial topic with the intent to back up my uneducated opinion of forgiveness. 

I have learned that people can change if they wish to. We are not the same people we were six months ago, or even six days ago. We should be willing to offer forgiveness, a token of amnesty for past mistakes when someone truthfully apologizes.

“Truthfully apologizes” are the keywords here. To me, an apology is “I am sorry,” not “I am sorry if I offended you.”

I stand here as an LGBT+ woman and I say this: I do not know how I feel about Kevin Hart, past and present. I am torn between forgiveness for past mistakes and holding those accountable for their actions so that I do not condone homophobia.

I am so torn in fact that I made a “To forgive” and “Not to forgive” list.

To forgive: He apologized twice. 

Kevin Hart was announced as the host of The Oscars 2019 Dec. 4. Not a day later, his homophobic tweets from 2010 surfaced once again, containing multiple slurs and saying how he would hurt his son if he ever found him playing with a doll house.

Again, as an LGBT+ woman, I thought “OK, he said some pretty nasty stuff. This offends me. But this more than eight years ago and he apologized, so I think it’s OK.”

What I realized though is that he never actually apologized before Dec. 6.

All Hart had done before being announced Oscar host was address the fact that he no longer makes jokes about the gay community. 

While he stated in an interview with Mens Health in 2013 that he doesn’t make gay jokes anymore because it’s “not on his agenda,” he went on to say in an interview with Playboy in 2014 “Whatever you say, any joke you make about the gay community, it’s going to be misconstrued. It’s not worth it.”

I have a major issue with this statement. It’s going to be misconstrued because homophobic jokes are homophobic and offensive. Of course they are going to be misconstrued because they were never funny in the first place. 

So how about you just don’t make homophobic jokes. Problem solved.

To not forgive: He was offensive on multiple occasions. 

The tweets are one thing, but a bit in his 2010 “Seriously Funny” comedy special is what did it for me.

“I got a lot of fears as a parent… One of my biggest fears as a parent is my son growing up and being gay. That’s a fear. Keep in mind I am not homophobic. I have nothing against gay people, be happy, do what you want to do. Me being a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will. Now, with that being said, I don’t know if I handle my son’s first gay moment correctly. Like every kid has a gay moment okay, every kid. Now when that happens you gotta nip it in the bud. You gotta stop it right then. ‘Hey, stop! That’s gay!’”

Not only did he tweet gay slurs and various other homophobic things, he used homophobia as a puppet for his so-called “comedy.”

His tweets were and are dangerous because the things he said he’d do to his son if he was gay are the realities of many gay youth today. According to a study done by the Williams Institute in 2012, 40 percent of the youth homeless population identified as LGBT+. Parents beating or even killing their kids for coming out as gay or even just showing “gay” qualities are news stories that I am no longer shocked to read.

With these, I am reminded of my struggle of coming out, of how at first my family did not accept me. I was never treated with physical violence, but I was silenced, manipulated and abused verbally, mentally and emotionally. 

These memories are rampantly familiar in my head though they were several years ago, and I weep for the LGBT+ youth who have fallen victim to so much more. 

So for Hart to joke about “nipping gay behavior in the bud” with his son’s first “gay moment” hits just a little too close to home for me and all youth victims of homophobic violence.

To forgive: “Times have changed.”

I am also unsure how I feel about this phrase. 

It ought to have never been funny in 2010, but homophobia back then was not something that was seen as offensive as it is today.

I have realized, though, that “ought to” is not a scale in which we can measure offensiveness. Yeah, it should have been seen as awful, but it wasn’t. And we cannot change past culture.

To not forgive: He did not apologize until he was thrown into the limelight of the Oscars.

I firmly believe Kevin Hart would not have ever apologized had this firestorm not been started. 

This was an apology without assigned blame to another group or individual but himself. But his words on “Ellen” were strangely different in tone.

From his interview with Ellen DeGeneres about the topic, I felt as if he was victimizing himself. 

“Now the headlines are starting to change. The headlines are ‘Kevin Hart Refuses to Apologize for Homophobic Tweets from the Past.’ The word ‘Again’ was left out. Everybody took those headlines and started to run with it, so now, the slander on my name is all homophobia. Now I’m a little upset. I’m a little upset because I know who I am. I know that I don’t have a homophobic bone in my body. I know that I’ve addressed it. I know that I’ve apologized.”

So if Hart knew that these things are incorrect, then why did the words “I’m sorry” never come out of his mouth? Why did he only “address” it and just mention how he doesn’t joke like that anymore? 

Avoiding is not apologizing. 

And had Hart never become the host of the Oscars, and had people never dug up past tweets, then I believe Hart would never have apologized for his actions. 

He didn’t want to, he was forced to.

My list goes on and on.

To forgive: Everyone makes mistakes.

To not forgive: I am LGBT+.

I am at a standstill. I am stuck on right vs. wrong because I do not approve of digging up offensive tweets from eight years ago. But I also do not believe Hart is truly sorry.

At the end of this all, one question still ricochets around my head like a hacky sack: When is forgiveness truly deserved? Does time determine forgiveness? Celebrity status? Truthful apologies? Where is the line drawn to where we can say “Yes, you messed up, but that was then and you have changed?”

I do not know where to draw that line.

All of this goes past Hart, though. It goes past The Oscars/DeGeneres controversy and even the idea of forgiveness. 

At the end of the day, none of us will agree on absolutely everything. 

People grow up differently and experience things differently. We all perceive our own lives in unique ways that no one else would understand unless they were us. 

So who are we to be the voice for the world if we can only know ourselves and our life experiences? Sure, DeGeneres holds great power in not only Hollywood but in the LGBT+ community. But she does not have the power to speak for everyone. 

She sat with Hart, perceived his actions and regret for his past, and made the decision to support and forgive him. That was her choice. So who are we to attack her for formulating an educated opinion?

Who are we to attack anyone for having an opinion formed from their own life experiences? Who are we to say “You shouldn’t be offended by Hart’s past,” or “You should be more upset at Hart for his blatant homophobia?”

If we as a society cannot reach a civil discourse to say “You know what, we disagree and that’s okay,” then I am unsure if we will ever grow. 

We must be open to new ideas and allow ourselves to listen rather than shoving our self-entitled “truth” down others throats. Everyone exists uniquely, and there is always more to consider.

Cultures change. Opinions change. People change. I don’t think Kevin Hart has changed, but only he knows that. And I, like everyone else, must be willing to have ears to listen and minds to learn. 


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