South Fulton city councilmember Khalid Kamau tried to show some southern pride during a recent trip to New York City, but some folks in his hometown responded by suggesting he might be a pedophile. More troubling, it was a leader of the Fulton County Democrats – the progressive party of one of the most progressive counties beneath the Mason-Dixon line – who used retro homophobia in her attempt to derail Kamau’s political career.
Kamau attended the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in June and took a picture in front of the historical marker that describes that milestone in LGBTQ history. The moment Damita Chatman, a South Fulton resident and state committee member for Fulton Democrats, saw Kamau’s photo on social media, she wondered if he might be lusting after prepubescent males.
“This has been on my mind every [sic] since I saw it so I must address it!!” Chatman posted to her Facebook page. “The problem I have as a mother, taxpayer, and resident of the city is what the shirt says.”
Kamau’s shirt, which was intended to celebrate Dixie while he was among the Yankees, read in a hoedown font, “I ♥ Southern Boys.”
“I [sic] not calling him this but it sounds like a pedophile to me!!” Chatman wrote in a sentence that suggests she is as reckless with her bigotry as she is her grammar. “Why couldn’t the Councilman put on a shirt saying he loves Southern Men instead of I love Southern Boys!!”
In her post and during a telephone interview a day later, Chatman insisted that her outrage had nothing to do with Kamau being openly gay. Before evoking pedophilia, she made sure folks knew, “Now it’s not towards what the Councilman wants to be or how he feels about his sexuality!”
“No, that was not a bigoted post, OK?” Chatman said at the start of our talk. “It’s not a bigoted post. It’s not a bigoted post. I have gay uncles, I got gay cousins, it wasn’t about gay – I didn’t even use ‘gay’ in the post.”
Any woman of any age could don the shirt Kamau was wearing without anyone assuming she was lusting after middle-schoolers. It is the centuries of lies against homosexual men that prompt Chatman to intuitively link the shirt’s slogan with child molestation.
Chatman and other South Fulton residents claim to be worried that Kamau’s photo might tarnish the city of South Fulton, which was incorporated in 2017. This alleged concern is rank bullshit, as few people have championed the young city as passionately and incessantly as Kamau has on social media and in interviews with progressive outlets.
In South Fulton, where 90 percent of the residents are black, Kamau sees the potential to establish a real-world Wakanda. He’s proposed creating a downtown business district to make the city eligible for federal grants and help Old National Highway attract the same development that Peachtree Street does; he developed a movies-in-the-park series this summer to promote a sense of community and give families free entertainment on Friday nights; in a region devastated by HIV, he is the only municipal elected official to coordinate ongoing, free HIV testing at a public venue.
Yet, Chatman is worried he’s hurt South Fulton’s image. The incident is an unfortunate actualization of one of the biggest fears many people have when they’re considering coming out of the closet: that everything they accomplished up to that point and forever afterward will be overshadowed by their sexual orientation, and the wicked connotations still attached to it.