Damn it, Kevin Hart.
The Philly-bred comedian is a funny little dude — in fact he’s one of my favorites.
But time and time again, Hart has seemingly ignored the fine line between a tweet and a stand-up routine, so he’s managed to put his foot in it over and over again.
Whether we like it or not, tweets — unlike jokes — are declarative statements of our beliefs, our politics, our loves and our distastes. They can be deleted, but thanks to the screen shot they can be reposted and live forever ever.
This is precisely why the internet went nuts on Tuesday when the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences announced Hart would serve as its 2019 host for the Academy Awards. Ten years ago, Hart was in the habit of tweeting homophobic statements that weren’t just mean-spirited, but advocated violence against the LGBTQ community.
“Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my daughters doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay,’ ” read a 2011 tweet that Hart deleted this week.
He was talking about his son, for crying out loud. And there no evidence that he was playing. Homophobia in the black community is real and it’s so not a good look.
After days of contentious back and forth, Hart tweeted and posted on Instagram Thursday night that he wouldn’t take the plum job up, because, he said, he didn’t want to be a distraction at the award’s ceremony.
It’s unfortunate. But Hart did the honorable thing. His tweets were more than an indiscretion, they were proof of a pattern of behavior that takes more than “I’m sorry because I got caught” to make right.
I can only imagine how seeing Hart on the world’s stage dressed in an expensive tux and being touted as a fine man would be excruciatingly hard for members of the LGBTQ community to watch. In the back of their minds, they would surely be looking at Hart side-eyed, much like I would mean-mug a rehabilitated white supremacist on a similar world stage.
Hosting the Academy Awards is a major accomplishment in an entertainer’s life and especially so for a celebrity of color. Hart said as much earlier this week when he called it the "opportunity of a lifetime.” In its 91st year, Hart would have been just the third African American to emcee the night solo, after Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Rock. Back in the 1970s, both Sammy Davis Jr. and Pryor served as cohosts. This is a big deal.
Complicating race matters even more, Hart hasn’t just offended gay people with his acerbic tweets, he hasn’t been very kind to black women either. Back in 2011, Hart stepped into colorism hot water when he tweeted that light-skinned black women usually have better credit than dark-skinned black women. The tweet was resurrected in April of this year and Twitter lit him up again. And earlier this month Hart was taken to task for having a cowboys and Indians themed party that might be construed as innocent on its face, but does nothing to improve racial stereotypes and suggests that Hart’s are antiquated. Sigh.
But how long should we hold someone accountable for the mistakes — or bad tweets — of their past? One thing I can say about Hart is that when he messes up — and Lord, he seems to do it often — he apologizes. And then there is Hart’s community service work: He gives back through urging people of color to run themselves to heart health (I ran in a Kevin Hart-sponsored run once). He’s donated tens of thousands of dollars to the School District of Philadelphia. He’s sent kids from Philadelphia to college.
He’s been open about his shortcomings apologizing for infidelity, bad financial decisions, poor taste in jokes. That’s more than I can say for many people in the public eye. After country singer and Blake Shelton’s homophobic tweets were dug up, he was still allowed to remain People’s Sexiest Man Alive and host of The Voice. Former addict Robert Downey Jr. continues to thrill as Iron Man. Abusive Chris Brown’s career hasn’t missed a beat.
Why are some men never forgiven while others get to go on and become the most powerful men in the world, despite missteps that can be construed as much worse?
Yet I still I keep coming back to what Hart said and I realize that we just can’t give him a pass. Part of the reason is because homophobia is still way too prevalent in the black community. It is excused. It is justified. And it continues to be allowed. That is why he said what he said. And this is why Hart’s tweets shouldn’t be easily washed away with an “I’m sorry.” Forgiveness has to be earned back through selflessness.
Stepping down from the Oscars is just the beginning.