Along with millions of other people throughout the world, I celebrated joyfully and loudly Tuesday night and throughout Wednesday, offering prayers of great thanks, grinning foolishly, grateful for the hope that rushed through our television into our hearts as we watched Barack Obama give his acceptance speech. His election was and still is a great event about which we should rejoice for a good long time.
However, Tuesday, November 4, 2008 is a day that is now in the past, a historical marker. While it will live forever as the day that Americans crossed the color line as we elected our first Black, African-American President, we can never forget that it was a decision made by many based upon greed, not entirely upon the man’s overall message. As 401Ks shriveled across the nation, so did the need for the racist (overt or covert) idea of a white face in the White House. For many, it was a decision based upon the fear of poverty, impending or already in place. For others still, it was a day of reckoning and awakening to the current crisis of our world at large. Pocketbooks are hurting and it causes people to care. Sad but true.
Still, the shame of racism lives with us. As I watched the local news Wednesday night, I heard a woman state that many in her small town in Missouri did not vote for Obama because he is black. I know it is safe to assume that many counties in my beloved State of Texas and in many other parts of the country did not vote for Obama for the very same reason. It is important that we understand this. While we rejoice in the victory we must also confront that bigotry that still exists, not silently but blatantly.
I used to work with a guy who proudly proclaimed that he was not a racist; rather, he declared, he was a bigot – he hated everyone. I think he was telling the truth. But the case of the matter is this – it is not racism that is our only problem. It is that bigotry. It is a bigotry based in hate and fed with fear.
On Tuesday, shameful votes were cast, even by some who voted for Obama. It is a day when the largest state in the nation declared a ban against same gender marriage even though California’s Supreme Court had said that denying gay and lesbian couples the right to marry was unconstitutional. It was a definitive stance for “separate but equal”. What had been a decision ruled by law became a farce fueled by the evil twins, Hate and Fear.
Two other states, Arizona and Florida, also passed new laws that deny marriage to gay and lesbian couples. The people of Arkansas did something even more shameful – they denied the rights of foster children to live in the homes of gay or lesbian foster parents. Arkansas also denied the rights of foster children by declaring that they could not be placed with single parents. Maybe I have been wrong about Arkansas all this time.
It has been said that we have to take the good along with the bad. I suppose that is a true axiom.
The fact of the matter is this – the idea of “separate but equal” is unconstitutional. Another fact is that “civil unions” do not make up for that which is denied. It is like a cracker tossed out to feed the starving animal.
No, gays and lesbians do not have to sit at the back of the bus nor do we have to eat at separate diners or drink from different fountains. But we are discriminated against in many work places. We do in some cases have to worship in different churches. Many people have left the Episcopal Church in the South Central region simply because it is too painful to try worship in such a toxic atmosphere. ( I mention SC region because that is what I know)
We do have to worry about being attacked, verbally, emotionally and physically. We do have to worry about being murdered. We do have to worry about our children being bullied. We cannot marry the person that we love and with whom many of us have spent the better part of our lives. Our partners cannot adopt our children -- the children we have raised. (at least not in most places) We do not get the rights of inheritance or the right to be by the side of a loved one in sickness and in death. There are so many things that are denied.
The history of the US in its treatment of Blacks is shameful. Add Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, Japanese Americans, Chinese Americans…as the list goes on, the shame grows. We crawl out of one cesspool of shame and find another at our fingertips. That is what the vote of these four states (not to mention all the other states that already have anti-gay marriage laws) brought us into on this day that should been seen as a barrier breaker. Yet, it is only one of the many barriers that we as United States Americans face. The unconstitutional treatment of gays and lesbians is just one more shameful pit from which we will one day climb. And have no doubt, we will climb from it.
November 4, 2008 is a great day to remember regardless of the actions of four states. It is a day of reconciling and healing. It is the beginning of the change that is to come.
It is not something that is going to change just because we have a Black man in the White House. It is something that will change because we now have a leader that is calling us into personal accountability to help change the wrongs in this world. And we are ready.
And I have an idea -- How about all of us who have been discriminated against in one fashion or another, without regard to how much or how often, what if we all banded together as one?
I just bet we could change the world.