Saturday, September 14, 2013

More on "Scientific" Theories about Race and Sexual Orientation: Black Birds Don't Mate with Red Birds

I've told this story before. I think it may be time to tell it again, with apologies to readers who have already heard it.

My high school integrated reluctantly during my junior year, only after the federal government threatened to impose penalties on school districts in areas like the one in which I lived in south Arkansas, which had done nothing to integrate schools after Brown v. Topeka in 1957 1954 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When integration finally reached us, it took place timidly in my final two years of high school, when a hand-picked group of students from the town's black high school were brought to the white one.

Needless to say, the black students in that hand-picked group were treated with conspicuous disdain by most of their fellow classmates in the "white" school. But these students had been selected to spearhead the integration process because they were smart, well-balanced, and able to engage the hostility with relative good humor and cool tempers.

I remember on several occasions some of my classmates who were, I'll be honest, downright goons insisting that one of the black students be placed in front of the rest of us in p.e. class for interrogation. The rest of us sat on the bleachers. He was asked to stand on the gym floor in front of us and answer questions. Where the coaches were as this happened, I can't recall. I have to think all of this took place with their tacit consent.

On one of these occasions, I remember the dialogue going something like this:

White student: You ever see a black bird trying to mate with a red bird? 
Black student: No. Never have. 
White student: Well, don't that prove something? Nature itself don't want the races to mix. Why do you all want to come over here and force yourselves into a school where you're not wanted, when you belong with your own kind?

When that dialogue occurred, I remember thinking to myself, "But the females of most bird species aren't the same color as the males, so his own example disproves itself. It works only because he's decided in advance that nature behaves the way he wants it to behave, to prove his pet theories about race. This isn't really about science and scientific observation at all. It's about fitting 'facts' to preconceived theories that even the most rudimentary observation of the real world quickly disproves."

But I didn't open my mouth and say a thing, because, as I've just said, the white students grilling that black student were goons, and were perfectly capable of doing violence to anyone who dared to disagree with them--violence to which the coaches would turn a blind eye, as they'd done on more than one occasion when these same students knocked me and other athletically challenged boys down on the gym floor, if we failed to perform to their standards in games. 

"Other athletically challenged boys" as in sissies, since the violence directed at us was clearly motivated by hostility to boys who didn't meet the goons' standards of masculinity, and the pummeling never failed  to be accompanied with taunts about sexual orientation. . . ?

And why do I tell this story now, after a week's discussion of arrows and holes followed by a weekend discussion of magnets and poles? Discussions interspersed with a theological discussion about the importance of taking scientific findings seriously as we form moral judgments about homosexuality . . . .

I'll leave it to you to decide why I'm re-telling this story now, following those preceding discussions.

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