Yesterday, Boston Celtics center Jason Collins came out as gay, making him the first active player in a major sport to do so. Sorry, field hockey. Collins was the center of sports media attention for approximately six hours, at which point he was displaced by Chris Broussard’s announcement that he personally believes homosexuality is a sin. That quickly became the more popular story, possibly because there was a video. Scolds emerged from both ends of the internet to defend or condemn Broussard’s remarks—mostly to condemn, prompting Michelle Malkin to declare herself and Broussard victims of a “tolerance mob.” You know those mobs of angry people who use the threat of persecution to force you to conform to a normative standard of behavior. They’re most commonly associated with tolerance.
If you watch the video above, you can see Broussard argue that true tolerance means letting him call Jason Collins a sinner who “walks in open rebellion to God.” At the time this video was made, we were already into the third-degree story, as Broussard was being called upon to explain remarks he initially made re: Collins to LZ Granderson, an ESPN reporter who is also gay. It took a story about two sports reporters hurting each other’s feelings approximately three hours to replace the story about the NBA’s first openly gay athlete. As Broussard explains, they both turn on the same issue: tolerance. Quote:
Just as I may tolerate someone whose lifestyle I disagree with, [LZ Granderson] can tolerate my beliefs—he disagrees with my beliefs and my lifestyle, but true tolerance and acceptance is being able to handle that as mature adults and not criticize each other and call each other names.
The em dash is where Broussard realizes his argument is not symmetrical. Then he forces that knowledge down deep into his conscience with the claim that Granderson also disagrees with his beliefs/lifestyle. Here the distinction between Granderson, Collins and all other gay people becomes somewhat blurred. Broussard’s implication is that, just as he disagrees with homosexuality and the gay “lifestyle,” gay people also disagree with his religious beliefs and general churchgoing.
That may be true, but so far Jason Collins is not on record saying that Chris Broussard lives in defiance of God. He’s gay, though, so obviously Collins disagrees with Broussard’s “lifestyle” of calling homosexuals sinners who cannot be Christians. The important thing in tolerance is that we not criticize or call names, now that Broussard has said those things about Collins.
Tolerance cuts both ways, you see. Collins and the American media can show tolerance by not criticizing Broussard when he says the first openly gay pro athlete contravenes the desires of the supreme being in the universe. And Broussard can show tolerance by explaining that he only condemns homosexuality because it’s in the Bible.
This false equivalence is a crucial element of modern bigotry. Any reasonable observer will detect a disparity in Collins’s and Broussard’s behaviors. The Celtics center’s announcement was not “I’m gay, and Chris Broussard is wrong for thinking it’s not okay.” Collins’s remarks were about himself. Broussard’s remarks, on the other hand, were about Jason Collins and how he’s a walking affront to Christianity. Only after he has attacked Collins’s homosexuality does he a appeal to tolerance, arguing that if you really believe in it, you should tolerate his intolerance.
Here Broussard enjoys a version of the sociopath’s advantage. He doesn’t believe in tolerance. He heard that an NBA player was gay and immediately took to the airwaves to express his disapproval. He knows that other people’s belief in tolerance presents a problem for him, though, so he exploits it. Broussard’s is the classic sophist argument: there is obviously something wrong with it, but on the micro level, it’s valid. It’s like the claim that affirmative action is an expression of prejudice against white men. That’s true, but only if you ignore all worldly context.
That’s Broussard’s game: he ignores centuries of religiously-motivated homophobia to claim that the real intolerance was yesterday’s resistance to religious homophobia. Nowhere does he acknowledge that Chris Broussards can easily exist in Collins’s world, whereas Jason Collinses are condemned in Broussard’s.
To paraphrase the 2,000 year-old man, tolerance is when I refrain from beating you to death; intolerance is you criticize what I said. It’s sad that Broussard would mark Collins’s historic coming-out by reiterating the claims that kept pro athletes from coming out until yesterday. It’s ironic that he would think so much of tolerance—or so little of it—that he would demand that we extend it to his bigotry.