Today, I was reminded of something I heard my parents and older relatives say when I was growing up. They'd remark that they actually preferred the hard line segregation and open racism of the pre-Civil Rights South to the quiet, subtle, subversive racism of the North. "At least down there, you know how people feel about you," they'd say. "You KNOW they don't like you. In the North, folks might smile at you and seem to be nice, but in their heart of hearts still hate your guts."
So in some ways I'm greatful to Tim Hardaway for his recent "I hate gays" comment. At least he's being honest and we know exactly where he stands. As long as everyone who feels the way Hardaway does keeps it hidden, there will never be any opportunities for dialog, learning, or possibilities for change. (To it's credit, the NBA has removed Hardaway from any future league-related events.)
As a gay person, I also know that Hardaway's not alone -- there are a lot of people who feel the same way he does, for whatever reason. As John Amaechi said, responding to Hardaway, "These are the comments that create the atmosphere that allow some of the tragic incidents of homophobia that we've seen. This is what makes the lives of gay and lesbian young people in schools miserable. It's what stops gay and lesbian people in the workplace from coming out as well as the fact they can be fined in 33 states for being gay."
Hardaway's comment gives people an idea of some of the things many of us have to go through every day, and why it is so difficult for people to 'come out' (I also think people who hold such strong views have some internal issues to deal with as well...but maybe that's just me....). And it's a rebuke to at least one sports commentator I read who said John Amaechi's revelation was 'no big deal' -- and an example of why he waited until he retired to be open about his personal life. Actually, I'm more surprised at the people expressing surprise over his comment -- but then we are in an age when people are supposed to 'come correct' when in front of the cameras.
And at least Hardaway wasn't threatening Amaechi's life, as apparently some have done via e-mail.
I'm sure at some point we'll hear that Tim has gone into 'gay-hab' like "Grey's Anatomy" star Isiah Washington. But to me, it would be better and possibly more helpful for him (and all of us) if some of the former teammates of the man who said, "I wouldn't want him on my team...if he was on my team, I would, you know, really distance myself from him because, uh, I don't think that's right. And you know I don't think he should be in the locker room while we're in the locker room," would quietly come to him and say, "Hey, brothaman...guess what?"