18 August 2011

When will we ever learn?

When I was young and idealistic, the fight for liberty was the civil rights movement. We demonstrated, marched, sang and generally raised hell. We did that later by holding American conduct up to the light next to the statements of American principles. How can we claim to hold that "all men are created equal" if black men cannot use a clean restroom in a bus terminal or black women cannot sit on the bus?

Some of us, it is true, were whites. I think that more than anything infuriated the defenders of the status quo -- we were traitors. Consider the anger focused on "apostates" in many religious disputes. We did our part, and I like to think we helped. But we could "go home." I could, hell I did, go to school, get married, live, and love without experiencing most of the crap a de jur racist and sexist society imposed on others. I worked jobs that were closed to women, to "protect" them. Bunk! The law protected me from competition.

I worked hard to end those laws. I worked and voted for the agents of change, made efforts to help women working for me to advance. But, I benefited from the culture, I could not help it. It is hard to look back and take a lot of credit for my efforts.

Which leads to a question: where are we now? I do not like the answers. It remains in the words of a song I often perform, "a long hard, damn hard and bitter ride" for minorities. If you look at Rev. Elizabeth's post and look into either the book or movie, "The Help" with that question, "where are we now" in mind, I bet you won't like the answers either.

Oh, the overt, de jure discrimination against ethnic and racial minorities is pretty much gone. But we still dismiss some groups in our language. Been "gyped lately? Have you dealt with a "real B***h" somewhere or asked an angry woman if she has her period? Hmmm? Rev. Elizabeth reports a particularly egregious example, but clearly our hearts and minds have a long way to go.

De jure discrimination against lbgt persons is in its death throes and we can hope it is completely dead soon. But given the apparent decision by Roman Catholic bishops and the LDS hierarchy to stand firmly for the worst in 16th century ethics and their influence on many institutions, it is difficult to estimate how long we will take coming to the end of legal and regulatory problems. I predict a long period of litigation as RC institutions try to subvert the marriage equity law. I may start a pool on the year and month when the last lesbian couple files a complaint over mistreatment when one is in hospital. I want January 2021. But then I am known as a notorious optimist.

Real estate offers alas, a similar question. Decades after the first "open housing" laws were passed we still know where the "White Suburbs" are in many cities. Liberal and self righteous California has them, so too Chicago and New York.

When will we ever learn to simply treat all people as people? When will we finally give up the stupid idea that being up requires us to put someone down? When will we accept the idea that we can all compete with our gifts instead of diminishing others?

Rev. Elizabeth's post made me wonder. In another powerful way, Mad Priest's post on the evil done by unrestrained greed to the minority communities in England made me think too. Go read them. Then ask yourself where you are in the journey? I predict you won't like the answers, but that is a beginning, not an ending. There is always time to pray, to change, and to act.

FWIW
jimB



4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Have you ever felt like you might be committing a fallacy of idealization? ie. projecting a naive and overly idealistic view on "minorities and women"? I think one of the great strengths of the Western Christian tradition has been that it has always been correctible. It goes astray, as all societies do, but eventually a Luther, or a Wilberforce or a Martin Luther King, Jr. arises and shows it where it has gone wrong.

Was the same true of any other society that ever existed?

Also, you make this easy shift equating racial/gender discrimination to "discrimination" against homosexual behavior. But gender/race are immutable conditions of being. Temptation to sexual sin might be an immutable characteristic (for all sorts of sins, including homosexuality), but we wouldn't say thieving is OK if hypothetically we could prove Bernie Madoff has a genetic predisposition to it. To act on a temptation is not an immutable, morally neutral thing, like having a particular shade of skin or particular genitalia.

Of course you are entitled to your opinions, but the absolute certainty with which you hold such dubious claims seems to be just another type of fundamentalism, in which dubious, reductionistic, unreflective leftist claims are substituted for dubious, reductionistic, unreflective fundamentalist claims. Humanity doesn't seem to be advancing anywhere, despite the zeal of "progressives".

Jim said...

Anon, my responses are below in italics.

"Have you ever felt like you might be committing a fallacy of idealization? ie. projecting a naive and overly idealistic view on "minorities and women"?" No. I do not see where I wrote anything suggesting that women or other minorities are particularly good or rate special status.

"I think one of the great strengths of the Western Christian tradition has been that it has always been correctible. It goes astray, as all societies do, but eventually a Luther, or a Wilberforce or a Martin Luther King, Jr. arises and shows it where it has gone wrong." Given the 30 year war, the long and often difficult decades of Wilberforce's campaign against slavery and the murder of Dr. King, I am not sure you are making your case. Yes they helped "correct"W Western Civilization, (although the job is far from done in the case of Dr. King,) but the long, hard ride is still part of the picture.

"Also, you make this easy shift equating racial/gender discrimination to "discrimination" against homosexual behavior. But gender/race are immutable conditions of being." Why is it we can observe variations in hair color, eye color, height, and a dozen other characteristics, but insist that sexuality is bi-polar? The data are exactly the opposite.

"Of course you are entitled to your opinions, ..." as or course are you. And you are welcome to express them here. I cherish my few comment writers, including those who make me think. I would however appreciate your selecting a nick name even if it is only used here -- otherwise things get confusing. Feel free to continue to post as "anonymous" but please sign the posts. It helps an old man figure out to whom it is he is typing.

FWIW
jimB

Erika Baker said...

Jim,
I love this post!
I do still, and despite some evidence to the contrary (especially in American politics at the moment), believe that society as a whole slowly slowly moves forward to more and more justice.

But I also believe that the goal posts keep changing and that we become aware of more and more injustice as we journey along, and so the job will never be done.

At first, it was sufficient to accept that the patriarch should treat his women and children kindly, then we discovered that women are equal, now we're still discovering what that means in all its full implications.

We've learned not to execute lgbt people because of their "sickness" or "evil", but we would still like them to live celibate lives because we have this strange idea that they can live moral lives only if they forsake all love. But compared to many other countries, it's already some kind of progress.

My personal wake-up call came a few weeks ago from a new FB friend who is autistic. She has taught me so much about what autism is about and how it disables people from functioning according to the standard those of us not afflicted have set for interaction in society. And having had my eyes opened, I am now faced with having to modify my own behaviour as well as trying to raise awareness for others.
What my friend experiences as discrimmination is still largely based on a genuine and complete lack of awareness in society.

Once that awareness is more general, the continuing different treatment will, indeed, become discrimmination.
And then there will be a phase where the "normal we" welcomes the "different them".

And very finally, and God knows how long in the future, we will all see each other as completely equal and treat each other accordingly.

By then, the next inequality issue will have arisen and it's probably one we have absolutely no awareness of at the moment.

Jim said...

Erika,

Thanks! I am glad you liked it. Yes, there is always a battle, another need to be inclusive, and embattled. We are called to final victory but until then to ongoing struggle. Which is OK, because we are sure where we are going.

FWIW
jimB

St Laika's

Click to view my Personality Profile page