Hate can take many shapes.
Though hate crimes legislation only applies to acts that are actual crimes, bias-motivated incidents happen all the time and go unreported, their committers suffering no penalty. A noose hanging from a tree. A young man being called a “fag.” A priest who spreads intolerance. A musician who advocates for violence.
Hate is all around us, and we have to be careful to not just fight the prejudice that results in actions punishable by law. Some of the most harmful forms of hate are the ones that the arms of the law can never reach.
Hate as quantified by the law and the government is not necessarily the same as the hate we see in our everyday lives. But the hate in our ears, on our televisions and in our churches is just as harmful and just as toxic to our causes and our well-being.
Take, for example, the battle against Jamaican reggae singer Buju Banton over the past month or so. Banton is most well known as the artist who wrote and popularized the song “Boom Bye Bye” – essentially an anti-gay anthem that advocates for the killing and maiming of gays and lesbians.
Released in 1992, the song is still causing a fury of gay activists to rally against Banton’s performances in the U.S. Just in the past week, his show at Detroit’s Majestic Theater was cancelled and then rescheduled at the Ann Arbor venue the Blind Pig.
While some are advocating for free speech in the case of Banton’s show, others – Between The Lines included – are shouting that hate and violent speech against the LGBT community should never be tolerated.
While it’s true that “Boom Bye Bye” is just one song out of hundreds that Banton has recorded, it stands as a poster of the general attitude in Jamaica, where LGBT people have no rights and no mode of justice for crimes committed against them. It was even sung in celebration after a gay rights activist was killed in the country.
It doesn’t matter if Banton plays the song at his Blind Pig performance (as of press time, the concert had not yet happened). It doesn’t matter that most of his songs are not about hating or killing LGBT people. What matters is what Banton and singers like him stand for, and it’s definitely not our rights.
Just as the LGBT community works to stop messages of intolerance in the pulpit, we need to stop them on America’s stages.
“Boom Bye Bye” is more than just a song – it’s a message to anti-gay advocates in support of what they do. It’s one more person with a large audience preaching hatred of our community.
All hate crimes begin with hate ideas. We can’t wait for a homophobic fan of Banton’s music to pour acid on and shoot at gays, as the song suggests, before it’s enough to make us do something about it. We can’t wait for hate speech to become a hate crime before we act.
Hate can take many shapes.