CoverGirl Model's Africa Tweet Sparks Debate About Racism in the Gay Community

February 17th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

James Charles made headlines when he became CoverGirl's first male model in 2016, but now his controversial comments about Africa have sparked a debate in the gay community about racism. 

The 17-year-old tweeted about his upcoming school trip to Africa, and questioned whether he would get Ebola upon his arrival. There was an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in 2014 that received significant media attention, but the deadly disease is actually rare, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He's since deleted the Feb. 2 tweet, but Twitter users had already captured screen shots of the tweet and backlash from critics against the racially-insensitive comments soon followed. 

After initially giving angry explanations for his comments, Charles tweeted an apology on Feb. 16, where he went on to write that he recognizes his privilege as a white male before calling the continent of Africa a country. 

Charles' tone-deaf words eventually started a conversation about discrimination in the gay community, with the Facebook blog "Love Life of An Asian Guy" posting that white gay men can still make racist comments, despite belonging to a marginalized group. 

"We keep telling you that these white kids aren't alright, but NOOOOOOO!!" read the post. "You think white LGBTQ kids struggle like POC so they 'can't be racist.'"

The blog "Thoughts of a Vocal Gay Black Guy" called out Charles and other white gay men who have taken political stances that can often times harm minorities in the gay community. The post referenced white gay men like Milo Yiannopoulos, an extreme right-wing conservative author and political pundit, and journalist Chadwick Moore who recently became a conservative after interviewing Yiannopoulos. 

"Didn't I just get through telling y'all why I don't trust these gay white boys?," reads the post. "Just moments ago, we were talking about Milo Yiannopoulos' disrespect towards gay black men, and Chadwick Moore being so fragile that he decided being a conservative was the best route, after he gave Milo a platform at a magazine that gives very few QTPOC a forum to speak." 


In a 2015 U.K. survey from FS Magazine, 80 percent of black gay men and 79 percent of Asian gay men said they had experienced racism on the "the scene." 

Columnist Owen Jones wrote about racism in the black community for The Guardian in November, calling it a "serious problem within the LGBT community." Jones went on to write that the gay dating world ignores minorities. 

"'How can I be a bigot when I am myself a member of an oppressed minority?' is a prevailing attitude among some white LGBT people," he wrote. "But another far more pernicious reason is that the LGBT world revolves around white gay men to the exclusion of others."

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