You may remember Colin Quinn from his stint on Saturday Night Live, where he became a regular with such character as “Lenny the Lion” and “Joe Blow.” He even took over “The Weekend Update” for a time. After leaving SNL, Quinn became the host of the short-lived Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn. Today, he spends a lot of time on the road performing stand-up comedy. Quinn recently joined the ranks of celebrities who really need to learn that Twitter is not the forum for them to express their bigoted pointed of view.
With this kind of logic, Jim Crow would still be the law of the land, and women would not be allowed to vote. The fact of the matter is that the law often runs behind the social push for change. More importantly, societies that don’t progress and change become stagnant and die. Two sets of laws for citizens is not now, or ever will be equality. As it is, the U.S. is already behind because Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, and Sweden all allow same sex marriage. The United Kingdom, Brazil, New Zealand, Uruguay, and France all allow civil unions between same sex couples. It’s nice to know that Quinn is against the closet, but his position is hardly unbiased.
Saying I don’t believe in forcing people to hide and then finishing by advocating inequality in the law is homophobic. What Quinn does not realize is that one need not be spewing homophobic slurs, or participating in a gay bashing to be a homophobe. All one need do is suggest that there are limits to equality to be understood as a homophobe.
One would think that after showing his inner bigot to the world that Quinn would step back from Twitter for awhile, but apparently, Quinn was only sorry that he didn’t take the time to put people of colour in their place.
The moment someone says, “I’m not a racist but,” even a slightly aware listener is cognizant that the next thing said will be racist — and Quinn, most certainly, does not disappoint. He begins with the fear that the U.S. is becoming a minority-majority country (an oxymoron if I have ever heard one) and then escalates to infer that the U.S belongs to white men. Gee, I wonder who all those indigenous people, who had functioning societies and were occupying land before the first European even stepped foot on the continent, thought they were? I suppose they were just keeping the U.S. safe until white men could come along, commit genocide, colonize the people, and steal the land. To think, white men didn’t even have to pay babysitting fees. This sounds like a good deal to me.
Then of course there is the little matter of slavery. You know, the time period where African-Americans were considered on the same level of animals. Yes, that magical time in history when the forced labour of African-Americans built the U.S. up from a backward ragtag group of rebels, to a country that had to be taken seriously. Quite simply, the U.S. would not be where it is without the labour of African-Americans.
Quinn is not the first comedian to openly say something homophobic or racist; the difference in this case is that he didn’t attempt to couch it in comedy the way that so many comedians do. Quinn wasn’t standing on a stage like Tracy Morgan joking about killing his son if he acts gay, or hunting for a new Black best friend like Chelsea Handler recently did, but he works in an industry that finds this kind of speech to be unproblematic. To follow Lisa Lampanelli on Twitter for instance, is to get an education in how to be offensive and pass it off as comedy. If Quinn had made these statements as part of a routine, there would be plenty of people lining up to suggest that African-Americans, and gays and lesbians are being too sensitive and cannot take a joke.
When we give a pass to bigotry by accepting the excuse that said statements are comedic, it is hardly shocking that a comedian pushes the envelope even further to make clearly problematic statements on Twitter. It is naive to believe that when comedians claim to be joking as they spew their bigotry on stage that there isn’t an element of self belief in these statements. They have to be aware that they are promoting the oppression and hatred of historically marginalized people. They simply don’t care. I don’t agree with a single word Quinn tweeted, but I suppose he deserves some recognition for owning his bigotry and not attempting to suggest that his choice of career justifies his statements.