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In “Black Macho Revisited: Reflections of a Snap! Queen” (1991), the Black filmmaker, activist, and author Marlon Riggs (1957–1994) issued a critique of homophobia in African American culture, and racism among white gay men. At the time, portrayals of Black gay men were increasingly found in mainstream media, but often as gross stereotypes, played by straight Black men. “I am a Negro Faggot, if I believe what movies, TV, and rap music say of me,” Riggs wrote, appropriating two slurs.

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Negro Faggotry is the rage! Black Gay Men are not. For in the cinematic and television images of and from Black America as well as the words of music and dialogue which now abound and seem to address my life as a Black Gay Man, I am struck repeatedly by the determined, unreasoning, often irrational desire to discredit my claim to Blackness and hence to Black Manhood.

Best known for his poetic, autobiographical documentary Tongues Untied, Riggs often explored how racism, sexism, and homophobia historically shaped stereotypes of Black gay men. In “Black Macho,” too, he analyzed how this happens when the iconic snap! of Black gay communities is appropriated:

Instead of a symbol of communal expression and, at times, cultural defiance, the Snap! becomes part of a simplistically reductive Negro Faggot identity: It functions as a mere signpost of effeminate, cute, comic homosexuality. Thus robbed of its full political and cultural dimension, the Snap!, in this appropriation, descends to stereotype.

“Black Macho” ends with a vow: “Notice is served. Our silence has ended. SNAP!”

Read the essay in full at the link below.


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Black American Literature Forum, Vol. 25, No. 2, Black Film Issue (Summer, 1991), pp. 389-394
African American Review (St. Louis University)