Gay Race Relations: "Buck"-ing Stereotypes

In spite of the measurable progress on race relations, centuries-old attitudes about race and ethnicity still pervade our interpersonal relations. That has been very evident in some of the candid discussions taking place on America Online.

When a white man described his attraction to--and preference for--"strong masculine bucks," a flurry of responses followed.

"I find your use of 'masculine buck' to be stereotypical, racist drivel," one person wrote. "That comes from 'buck naked.' When slaves were sold, they were often naked so that the buyers could inspect them. Black men were (and in some instances still are) considered to be animals and a buck was commonly used to describe us. The absolute, unmitigated gall that some people have, to come on this board posting totally insensitive, racist, derogatory notes--under the guise of admiring and praising black men--is beyond my comprehension. How [can] people go through life thinking that their stupid actions and statements are merely harmless comments?"

The white writer quickly replied: "I wasn't aware that my usage of 'buck' carried a derogatory effect. I call all masculine guys, regardless of color, 'bucks.' After all, a buck, in my opinion, is ALL MAN."

After more heated exchanges, a few cooler heads weighed in. "I never knew that a simple word such as 'buck' would start so much controversy amongst [us] blacks," someone wrote. "Name calling is not my forte, so I will not resort to it. And I will not get caught up in a division of the black and gay community. Believe me, I get enough of this hostility from non-people of color."

"I'm sorry you're seeing red," another wrote. "And I do believe there [are] more important issues to discuss, like unity of our people. (I hope this word usage was politically correct.) So, who wants cake and ice cream?"

Blacks and whites have no monopoly on racial issues. Consider the responses triggered by the following posting on AOL's Gay Asian bulletin board:

"Discrimination and prejudice are learned. It's fair to say that a reason why Asians (Vietnamese in particular) don't prefer African Americans is that we were raised to discriminate against blacks. Being Vietnamese and discussing this with other Vietnamese friends, I find this to be the case. Yes, it's terrible, but it is part of being raised Vietnamese....I think we should discuss the faults of our cultural upbringing. Although raised this way, I don't believe in it."

A black person asked: "Would you explain why you think Asians are trained to discriminate against blacks? What kind of perceptions exist within Asian communities towards blacks?"

Then came this reply: "I was raised to be prejudiced against

African Americans. Of course, in Chinese, only the Chinese are referred to as 'people.' [People of color and whites] are referred to by rather rude words that do not acknowledge their humanity. You should have seen the reaction from my family when I was dating an African American woman....

But another Asian writer placed all this in a broader context. "Americans perpetuate negative stereotypes of blacks and other minorities....Bottom line, Asians and others perceive blacks negatively because that is what they learn here and in Hollywood exports. Asians not exposed to the caricatures are open and objective."

These discussions, while often revealing the searing pain of prejudice, are also educating people who may have never previously considered these issues. As one person wrote: "I applaud the honesty and embrace of diversity that I've found here. The world really is finding peace and harmony. Thanks!!"

- Robert Bromfield
Student Administrative Services

Community News -- December/January 1994 -- Volume 2, Number 4