Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fight the (White, Straight, Married) Man!

Did you know that one out of every three gay American teens attempts suicide? That's...I don't even know of an adjective to adequately describe that statistic. It's not just a statistic, it's a tragedy and an outrage, and I'm glad someone has stepped up to bat for a unified civil rights movement.

After Prop 8, there was a lot of crossfire between gays and blacks. Many in the LGBT movement were angry that black voters had largely chosen to vote for a gay marriage ban, citing the hypocrisy in demanding civil liberty for some but not all American minorities. Many black voters, on the other hand, claimed that the struggles of the gay rights and black rights movements were distinct, and supporting one should not necessarily entail supporting the other.

Ms. Ruby-Sachs is right. In fact, I'm going to use a block quote! That's how right she is.

For those members of the LGBT community who think the Black civil rights movement is over, it is your obligation to work harder to resolve the deep racial inequality in this country. For those members of the Black community who are not assisting with the fight for equal rights for same-sex couples, you are not betraying your race, you are betraying your commitment to equality -- the same kind of commitment you ask for in others -- that requires legal parity for all Americans.

I hate hearing shit like, "Well we can't undo slavery or the way we treated blacks in the early twentieth century, and now they have a president!" White people are always the ones who say this; you never hear a black person going, "Well, that slavery shit happened a while ago, let's just move on." Because, well, we obviously have to move on, but the fact is that blacks aren't equal to whites in this country, and that's largely due to the Western pyschology that there is Us (white males) and then the Other, a thought process that has existed for centuries but was not articulated until European settlers needed an excuse to colonize Asia and Africa. But Others don't have to live a half-world away; in America, black people are Others, women are Others, and gays are Others, and the reason why we are one of the most conservative nations in the West, why it took eight years of a completely failed presidency and a meltdown of our economig system to send a Democrat to the White House, why gay rights and black rights and women's rights are still being debated at all, is because when we Americans took it upon ourselves to be policemen of the world, we also developed a hypersensitivity to human difference. This has its upside; America was, once upon a time, seen as something as a global savior, and our past humanitarian efforts (in addition to, like, bailing out every Western European country in the World Wars) did make the world a better place. We were the ideal, the American, the perfect, and the world was filled with Others that needed help. Unfortunately, we weren't astute enough to stop there, and so we built up our ivory tower even further and cast suspicious eyes on everyone--Americans included--who didn't fit into the apple-pie-with-two-kids-and-a-dog mold that is modern Americana.

And as much as we have liberalized and progressed and had drilled into us from an early age that everyone is special and super and important, we've never fully shaken off that notion of un-American Otherness. We the people were brainwashed a long time ago to think this way, and we still feel the ramifications of that Us-versus-Them mentality. Blacks do not fit into the American mold, because they are black and not white. Gay men will never find wives, nor lesbian women husbands, so they do not fit into that mold either. Women are women and not men, and America is still a masculine country that mistrusts women and fears losing its own aplha-male power.

I'm not saying that every white married man in this country is a horrible person who needs to be forced into accepting others. What I am saying is that the battle for civil rights--and belive me, it is and will continue to be a battle--is everyone's. While we may be arguing for different specificities--for example, gay people still have yet to attain marriage or adoption rights, whereas blacks and women have these things, while the latter two groups have their own struggles to overcome--we are arguing against the same psychological obstacles to full national equality. It is domestic xenophobia, the Others at home, and until that notion of the barbaric Other--that the Other is somehow worse than the person who identified the Other as such--is destroyed, American minorities* will never achieve full equality. I will be able to get married but still get jeered on the street; Jessica will receive a salary equal to her male coworkers, but have to face their lecherous harrassment every day; blacks will still be beaten by white supremacists, and the national consciousness will ignore the act. And one in three confused, effeminate little boys in junior high will try to kill themselves because their classmates are ignorant and scared of the little Others roaming their hallways.

So consider us a corporation. We are made of different elements fighting for different rights, but at the end of the day, we are all fighting under the same umbrella, that we want--and deserve--to be just like you.

*Yes, I'm counting women as a minority here. They may not be a numerical minority, but in terms of their status in society with regards to equal rights and treatment, there are still imbalances against their favor and they as a group must, for the purposes of this discussion, therefore be considered as a minority when compared to men.


Anonymous said...

"American minorities* will never achieve full equality"

God, I hope this is not true. A self-defeating statement like this only perpetuates the disempowerment of these groups of people.

Aldenilson said...

Hi Josh,

Amazing article. I am speechless. I'll read it again, and calmly I'll send comment it. Very good

Jess and Josh said...

Jason: I hope it's not true either. But I think we have to shift the national consciousness before we can talk about achieving full equality for American minorities. The statement you quoted was conditional, and I'm sorry if you took it to be completely self-defeating.

And thank you Aldenilson, I'm glad you enjoyed it.


Anonymous said...

It was late and I just now noticed the other part of the sentence, I totally misread it. Good post.

Nina said...

Glad to see your Postcolonialism class definitely rubbed off on you, mister, heh. I felt the same way after 8 weeks of an intergroup dialogue about the history of race in America (i.e. the country was founded upon "equality" and yet was built by slaves). We should have a serious talk when I come back to the city tomorrow :)