Can Kevin Hart Change? Why This Comedian Won’t Apologize for Past Homophobic Slurs

Photo: Wikipedia. Kevin Hart has been under fire for recently-unearthed homophobic tweets.

After weeks of controversy, Kevin Hart gets a defender.

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We’ve lived through this kind of thing before. A public hero makes a misstep, or someone ends up digging through his old tweets and finds a few racist, homophobic ones from 2011, causing a media blitz for the day. Apologies follow, and the actor, comedian, or news anchor is forgiven in due time.

But what happens when someone doesn’t want to apologize?

This Thanksgiving, comedian Kevin Hart fell under fire for refusing to take responsibility for his 1-year-old son’s “Cowboys and Indians”-themed birthday party. Rather than acknowledge the concerns of his fans and cop to accusations of insensitivity, Hart doubled down on his position. Now, he’s doing the same in regard to a string of homophobic tweets from the years between 2009 and 2011. Many of these tweets use the word “fag” repeatedly in a less-than-friendly context. While Hart has defended his actions via a public video upload, it hasn’t stopped him from stepping down from his role as the 2019 Oscars host due to public pressure.

“My team calls me,” Hart said in his video. “’Oh, my God, Kevin, this world is upset about tweets you did years ago,'” he recounted, along with his reply. “Guys. I’m almost 40 years old. If you don’t believe that people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don’t know what to tell you. If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify or explain their past, then do you. I’m the wrong guy, man. I’m in a great place, a great mature place where all I do is spread positivity.”

While many members of the queer community are happy about Hart stepping down as host, the comedian has one very public defender: SNL’s Michael Che, who accused the Academy of using Hart’s past social media statuses as a reason to oust him for political reasons.

The rest of us are left wondering: When is it appropriate to forgive people who actually do apologize, and how do we ever know if it’s heartfelt? While 2009 might seem spiritually far away, it’s still a bit too close for comfort, especially where the use of slurs are concerned. If Hart apologized to get back his Oscars gig, would we see through it? Or would we be desperate to embrace him, however improbable his apology might seem?

For Che, it’s a matter of the media holding Black men up to impossible standards of “squeaky” cleanliness. Che jokes about the dethroning of Bill Cosby, once thought of as the family-friendly comedian of color that America had been waiting for. He also mentions the hypocrisy of the Academy’s plans to honor Mel Gibson, whose famous anti-Semitic rant shocked listeners in a pre-Twitter age.