Well, it really has been an eventful week thus far. In fact, I feel like I may have to break this posts into parts. Let’s start with . . .
The Good: Since before Barack Obama even got the nomination, I have been doggedly criticizing him for not supporting same sex marriage and generally not doing enough to promote gay rights. I have criticized him in discussions with registered Democrats (I’m an independent), in editorials in my high school newspaper (before I went to college) and in posts at my old blog site, Tumblr. I have been so upset by his lukewarm stances on gay rights that I was seriously considering voting third party in 2012. That, however, has changed. Earlier today, President Barack Obama said in an interview, “It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” We can criticize Obama for waiting so long to say this. However, while this is no excuse, it is important to note that Abraham Lincoln, the president who eventually pushed for a constitutional amendment to end slavery, was first elected to office promising not to interfere with slavery in the South. In 1960, John F. Kennedy was most certainly not the most progressive Democratic contender when it came to civil rights. Hubert Humphrey made the most sense for black Democrats to support as the party nominee. Yet Kennedy eventually pushed for a groundbreaking civil rights bill that was passed after his death and signed by Lyndon Johnson, a former segregationist who, in the midst of favoring civil rights as presidents, used the n word to describe black people. I say all of this to point out that some of the presidents who ended up being pushed to do the most for civil rights did not have phenomenal records on such issues previously. The groundbreaking nature of Obama’s shift cannot be understated. Never before has a sitting U.S. president even come close to publicly favoring same sex marriage. In fact, both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush flaunted their opposition to same sex marriage. Some people have, while complaining of Barack Obama, longed for a third term of Bill Clinton, but Obama’s recent statement is more than enough to justify ranking him over Clinton as a president. It is also enough for me to make an important decision. There is no longer any doubt in my mind that I will be voting for Barack Obama this November. It would be insane for me not to vote for the first sitting president to support equal rights for gays and lesbians. I would also urge all gay and lesbian Americans to forgive Obama’s previously tepid support for gay rights and vote for him as well. The choice is between a man who thinks same sex marriage should be legal and a man who thinks it should be constitutionally banned. It seems like a very easy choice.
The Bad: It’s hardly shocking news for a Southern state to do something racist or homophobic. I realize some people think it’s the equivalent of racism to suggest that the South is more anti-black or anti-gay, as a whole, than the North. However, several facts most be noted. First, while slavery did exist in the North, it had all but ended by the time of the Civil War while still thriving in the South. African Americans in the Jim Crow era had far more legal rights in the North than in the South. In fact, by the 1960s, far more Northern states had legalized interracial marriage (or had never had a law against it) than have legalized same sex marriage thus far. Furthermore, not a single state from the Old Confederacy has legalized gay marriage. Compare Maine with North Carolina. Maine voters came very close to approving same sex marriage. North Carolina voters decided 60-40 to approve an added ban on same sex marriage even though it was ALREADY ILLEGAL IN THEIR STATE. Both states are homophobic, but North Carolina is much worse. Interestingly, the state has previously amended its constitution three times with regard to marriage. In the first case, it was to ban interracial marriage. In the second two cases, it was to strengthen the ban already in place. In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to mention that I am from Atlanta, although my mom is from Maine. The recent disgusting incident in the Tarheel State is just a further demonstration of the fact that people’s rights should not be on the ballot. Do we really think Brown v. Board of Education or Loving v. Virginia would have been approved if they had been put up for a vote in North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, or for that matter, Idaho? I imagine that the late racist, homophobic, Dixiecrat Senator Jesse Helms is laughing in his grave right now as his native state once again earns national attention for bigotry.
The Ugly: When Jesse Lee Peterson ends up in the news, it is almost always for making an offensive comment. Before talking about his latest offensive comment, I would like to cover some previous ones:
“[Martin Luther] King was a man sent by God to do His will and there is no way that you can have that type of relationship with God and accept wrong as right . . . In the scriptures it says that homosexuality is an abomination against God.” Of course, in the Scriptures, it also says slavery should be permitted. But Peterson might not have a problem with this, since he also said, “I’ve often said that, ‘Thank God for slavery,’ because, you know, had not, then the blacks over here would have been stuck in Africa… Everybody and their Mama are trying to get out of Africa and come to America and so God has a way of looking out for folks and He made it possible by way of slavery to get black folks into this country.” This insane idea that African Americans should be grateful for slavery has come up enough that I feel I need to address it. First of all, should the grandchildren of German Jewish immigrants be grateful for the Holocaust because it caused them to end up in America? Would anyone take that argument seriously? Another good analogy posed by someone (I’ve forgotten who) is that asking a black person to be grateful for slavery because they have more opportunities in America (more on that momentarily), is equivalent to asking a rape victim to be grateful for being raped because it resulted in a beautiful baby. Let’s imagine we’re in a courtroom, and a rapist says, “Judge, I know what I put that woman through was unpleasant at the time, but before I raped her, she was sad and lonely. Now she has a wonderful baby that will fill her life with joy. Where’s the gratitude?” How well do you think that would go over? All right, given our lax sex offender laws, it might go over pretty well. Still, you get my point. As for the claim that blacks would be worse off in Africa, I want to offer another analogy. Let’s suppose I find a baby on the street. I adopt the baby, then raise it with physical and verbal abuse, coupled with malnourishment. If the child sues me for harming them, I cannot argue that they are better off than they would have been if left alone. When America chose to enslave black people, the nation accepted responsibility for them. That made the question, “Would black people have been better off if brought to America, treated as free people rather than slaves, and given equal rights?” rather than, “Would black people have been worse off in Africa?” Peterson later seemed to express a desire to bring back slavery, saying, “”One of the things that I would do is take all black people back to the South and put them on the plantation so they would understand the ethic of working,” But most recently, this “Man of God” lamented, “I think that one of the greatest mistakes America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote,” Now, all of the statements that Peterson has made have been made by extremist conservatives in fringe groups like the Ku Klux Klan. However, Peterson has a degree of mainstream prestige, being a friend of Sean Hannity and a recurring guest on his show. While Hannity has disagreed with Peterson’s statements that 96% of African Americans are racist and that most are “wicked,” I believe that the time has come for him to disassociate himself from Peterson politically. If they want to hang out, eat chili dogs, and watch Red Dawn together, I don’t care, but Hannity needs to stop treating this preacher as though he is a viable political activist.