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Isaiah’s Image Award Pisses Me Off

A slap in my face

by j. brotherlove

I started the evening rejoicing that the NAACP Image Awards were live on Fox (‘cause you know black award shows always air a month later on UPN). But it didn’t take long for them to take the wind out of my sails by awarding Isaiah Washington a fuckin’ “image” award.

Instead of honoring worthy nominees like Dennis Haysbert, Hill Harper, Jesse L. Martin and Michael K. Williams (my favorite), voters chose Isaiah Washington instead? I smell bullshit. I even question Washington’s move to thank “ordinary” folk like gal pal Jasmyne Cannick and his maid.

Most importantly, what sort of message is the NAACP sending by awarding Washington for being a bigot? Or are we really suppose to believe that the award is only reflective of his role on Grey’s Anatomy and not his highly publicized offscreen antics? I believe in the human ability to learn and change. But let’s get real, Washington was forced to change; if he can be truly be considered “changed”. It’s going to take more than a couple of sensitivity classes to impress me.

While the NAACP is busy patting themselves on the back by recognizing Latinos, Washington’s win highlights how this new focus on “diversity” doesn’t extend to gay, lesbian and transgendered folk (Michael K. Williams’ nomination notwithstanding). That’s a problem for me.

Just as the Dixie Chicks’ Grammy sweep and Al Gore’s Oscar wins made political statements, Washington’s win of an NAACP Image Award carries a disturbing subtext that blacks embrace him in spite of (or because of) his beliefs. Dangerous territory if you ask me.

Now to be fair, Logo’s canceled Noah’s Arc was submitted. But according to Vicangelo Bulluck, executive producer of the NAACP Image Awards: “I just don’t know if enough audience has sampled the show.” That may be true. But with charges of the NAACP grossly inflating membership numbers, the civil rights group credibility isn’t exactly stellar. Many progressive blacks question whether the organization is still “relevant to the core concerns driving the daily experience of Black folk”.

But it’s not just the NAACP; I’m expressly disappointed by black organizations who do not acknowledge LGBT people in a meaningful manner. My sexuality is not not a fad or a lifestyle; it is an intrinsic part of me. Until I see better investment in my communities, my support for conventional black organizations will be conflicted.

pub: 03/02/2007 | previous entry | next entry | feedback x 15 | subscribe

Didn’t they award R. Kelly as well? *smh*

The NAACP Image Awards have always been about promoting THEIR image more than anything else. It’s an opportunity for an otherwise marginal organization to get some much needed publicity. No one takes the award seriously.

3. mike

It is shamefull that any organization gives awards based on race.
I would like to see the Oscars for white actors only in 2008

mike, since you’ve missed Diversity 101, I’ll give you a freebie. Minority groups (black, gay, Asian, women, disabled, Latin, etc.) are compelled to hold separate award ceremonies and celebrations for themselves because, without them, they would rarely, if ever, get recognized or celebrated. See my article Gay Bloggies Are Not For All for another example.

It’s ironic you chose the Oscars as your snarky example. The Oscars don’t just have a bad track record with blacks, it’s horrible with pretty much all ethnic minorities. “Oscars for white actors only in 2008” would be largely redundant.

5. Rufus

I guess I’m the odd one out on this topic, IW is a jerk, he made a mistake and had to grovel, beg and plead to keep his gig. If, the NAACP wants to bestow and “award” to him, more power to them. They are going after a certain segment of black America, and black gays are not part of their agenda. Even Noah’s Arc couldn’t get a shout out from any of the gay awards. Black gays are alone in this struggle, we have no one on our sides, the black civil rights groups ignore us, the white ones wish we would go away, so, until we as black gays and lesbians take a stand and organize, we shall forever be out in the wilderness.

Btw, keep up the great work, cool blog.

6. Jason

To be fair, NAACP Chair Julian Bond has been very vocal about supporting the Marriage Equality Movement, and many chapters have been active locally on that issue.

All awards shows have an agenda, this should come as no surpise. If it’s that important to you who should get an Image award or not, become a due-paying NAACP member and you can cast your vote for whoever you like.

I agree that IW’s award was strategic, but as far as i’m concerned all of that Grey’s Anatomy drama needs to be let go so that we can focus on more pressing issues (violence in Jamaica, youth outreach/mentorship, etc.)

7. Cadence

I think this award is all about the trouble that Isaiah faced earlier this year, just like R. Kelly’s special honorary award had more to do with him facing child molestation charges and less to do with his musical contributions.

This really shows why no one should take the image awards seriously. It seems that the name of the event has nothing to do with recognizing and honoring positive images of people of color.

8. Cadence

Mike, here are a couple of people who have recieved Image Awards: Garth Brooks and Steven Bochco. Maybe in the future, you should do your research before commenting.

9. Craig

What a disgrace….i no longer have any faith in an organization that supports homophobia by endorsing an admitted bigot(Isaiah Washington)….

10. Didi

I think the only time that The L Word has received an Image Award nomination was for Pam Grier’s performance as a straight woman. That nom was not about recognizing the only lesbian drama on television, it was about acknowledging Grier and maybe giving some folks a heads up that she’s on a new show now.

NAACP took a huge step backwards with this. They made their choice, now they’ll have to live with it when they get no love from folks like me who can’t make a choice between being black or gay.

11. Big Mike

An award, we’re lucky they didn’t give him more than that. After all, all he did was offend gays. What’s the big deal?

I’d like to kinda flip the script on this. Though I followed IW’s drama somewhat on the periphery, I do understand that since the whole episode transpired, he has - to be it in Rufus’s words - grovel, begged, and apologized for saying what he said. Further more, I think strategically to have a Black Straight man owning up to his homophobia - as unfortunate as the situtation is - definitely stands to serve as an example for other black men to follow.

And as tragic of an “image award” that may be for us, let’s face it, Black Gay men get dogged every day, on Black street corners, in Black stores, in Black communities. It’s about time straight community honored those who dared to own up to their intolerance.

I think this argumment throws asunder a lot of “traditional” LGBT politics and attitudes about organizing against homophobia, but I would argue that we must all display complex adaptative behavior in this movement.

You have an interesting idea about “complex adaptative behavior in this movement”. Care to elaborate on what you mean by that or how that looks?

Awesome article, I couldn’t agree more. I posted some of your opinions in my new post at I’m going to try to leave a trackback but I’m still learning this blog etiquette.

Well I’m confused. I don’t know what’s the problem here. What’s wrong. At first I thought it looked really smart, but I’m not sure any more