Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Quote for Day: "The Love Between a Black Man and a White Man Punches a Hole Through the Wall of Racism"

Andrew Sullivan on the kiss just seen 'round the world, between Michael Sam and Vito Cammisano:

The love between a black man and a white man punches a hole through the wall of racism, just as the love of a black man and a white woman or a white man and a black woman. And it punches it with love. There is way too much embedded racism in the gay community, way too much lingering homophobia among African-Americans, and way too much sexual-racial segregation all around. Breaking these impulses down is the work of culture, not law, and as such, it's life that helps move us forward, not politics. By showing us a simple, obvious love affair across race and within gender, Vito and Michael strip us down to a deeper human identity.

Well, yes and no. Of course it's love that punches a hole through the walls of prejudice of any kind. And of course it's life that helps us move forward, not only politics.

But the two don't exist in hermetically sealed compartments totally disconnected from each other. As someone who saw first-hand what happened in my state and surrounding states as people of color marched for their rights in the 1950s and 1960s, I am 100% certain that without law —without the direct and forceful intervention of the federal government — no amount of appeals to love or life or cultural imperatives would ever have swayed the majority of white Southerners who were determined to keep legal segregation alive.

And the eventual decision of the federal government to intervene — through direct actions like sending federal troops to my city's white high school, to enforce the law about integration when our governor tried to defy the order to desegregate the schools, or through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — happened because people engaged in political actions that forced the hand of the nation and its political leaders. And galvanized the nation's conscience, by showing the ferocity of resistance, of outright hatred that people peacefully demanding their rights faced as fire hoses were turned on them, police attack dogs set on them, churches bombed and people killed in cold blood.

It was not merely life and love and cultural change that gave women the right to vote. It was political action that women provoked as they put their lives on the line to demand that right. This forced changes in the law from which, it is hoped, cultural changes began to ensue. 

And so it will be with the issue of human rights for gay people. Particularly in a country in which two-thirds of states continue to afford no legal protection to gay citizens from workplace discrimination, housing discrimination, discrimination in medical services, solely  because they happen to be gay.

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