Of course, this is very much an American thing. During my travels to Europe and Africa, I have always been surprised - and, frankly, unsettled at first - by the amount of nonsexual touching that exists among men. I'll never forget how I instinctively recoiled during my first trip to Morocco when a kind tour guide attempted to hold my hand as we tried to navigate the streets of Casablanca. Although I came to understand that he wasn't gay, I was still unprepared, incapable even, of accepting the cultural pleasantry. Sadly, I wasn't mature enough to recognize male affection outside of a homophobic gaze.
That same homophobia is driving the conversations about the Barbosa/Evans video. Not surprisingly, the most common conversation about the video has been around the sexuality of Barbosa and Evans, and how the NBA should respond if it turns out that the two are gay. While there's absolutely no reason to believe that's the case, if it turned out that they are, this wouldn't be as earth-shattering to people inside the league as they would like us to believe.
Although John Amechi is the only NBA player to come out of the closet - and he did so only after retiring - even the greenest beat writer would tell you that he was far from alone.
From my own experiences as a writer and close observer of the NBA, I could name at least five gay NBA players in the league, none of whom would be a surprise to most players. Unfortunately, the world of pro sports, which is motivated exclusively by profit, does not create comfortable space for the highly unprofitable gay athlete to exist in full public view.
Also, NBA locker rooms, like everywhere else, remain largely hostile to gay athletes. This is why gay athletes never come out of the closet while they're still playing. It's why former Mets catcher Mike Piazza and former Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart, who were both on the receiving end of countless rumors throughout their careers, used to hold annual press conferences announcing that they still weren't gay.
Of course, anyone with the slightest bit of common sense would recognize the absurdity of believing that there aren't gay athletes. After all, there are gay people in every profession. Why would sports be any exception?
The truth is that some of your favorite gangster rappers, defensive lineman and Hollywood leading men have been gay.
This shouldn't take away from your appreciation for them. Instead, it should expand our notions of what constitutes manhood.
Unfortunately, this kind of reimagining is difficult, given our society's deeply entrenched beliefs about masculinity. From a very early age, we create a very rigid script for how males can navigate the world. We paint our sons' rooms blue, refuse to let them play with dolls (unless we put guns in their hands and call them "action figures") and discourage them from crying, all in an attempt to prepare them for their lives as "real men."
In truth, we produce a species of humans who too often see violence, coldness, misogyny and hypersexuality as the only models of existence.
We can only guess how many more poets, painters, or peacemakers the world could produce if men weren't constantly forced to adhere to the unwritten but very clear rules of masculinity.
Also, by policing the boundaries of masculinity, society denies men the tools to deal with their feelings in a healthy way. As a result, far too many men are unable to develop strong friendships, positively resolve conflicts or effectively deal with any emotion other than anger.
Imagine how liberating it would be for men if they could utter phrases like "You hurt my feelings" or "You made me feel bad about myself" without compromising their masculine authority. Consider how much more fulfilling romantic relationships could be if men could offer affection or express longing without feeling like something precious was at stake.
And this isn't just about creating mushy "Dr. Phil" moments. It's also about building a safer society. I can think of dozens of arguments, fistfights and shootings that could have been prevented if the people involved could have communicated differently, and didn't feel like their manhood was on the line if they backed down.
In all likelihood, Reggie Evans and Leandro Barbosa probably weren't thinking about any of this stuff. It's far more likely that the 10-second clip was taken out of context or that they were in the middle of performing some sort of inside joke. Still, the fact that one harmless gesture could conjure so much talk and speculation is very telling.
And it tells far more about us than it does about them.
Daily News editor-at-large Marc Lamont Hill is an associate professor of education at Columbia University and host of "Our World With Black Enterprise," which airs at 6 a.m. Sundays on TV-One. Contact him at MLH@marclamonthill.com.