When I Get There Before You: A Commentary on LGBT and Racial Equality
What happens when I get there before you? It is a question that has sparked an increasingly significant concern for me. Times are changing. We are winning the war. The war, is the never-ending slate of battles by which we slowly achieve equality for LGBT people. In the meantime, racism is alive and thriving in America.
As marriage equality spreads across the nation, I begin to see that the dynamics of inequality are not what I thought they were. When the end of legalized-discrimination against LGBT people finally happens in America, and it will happen, the fight for equality in this county will not be finished.
Far too many people believe that the race war is over; that we did the civil rights thing back in the 1960s. That notion fails to recognize the fact that black Americans are twice as likely to live in poverty in comparison to white Americans. It pretends not to see the multitude of systemic obstacles in the paths of young black men and women.
Racism denies society's responsibility for the overwhelmingly disparate numbers of young black men in jails and prisons. It contains the notion that declares unwittingly that discrimination based on race has ended. In so doing, it nonchalantly continues to tell black Americans to give up their seats on the bus, then points a finger at them as though they were the cause of the problem.
There will still be a fight for true LGBT equality. There will continue to be pockets of violence and overt discrimination against LGBT Americans. But it will be nothing like the discrimination that still exists against black Americans today. The real fight will be a fight for racial equality.
For a very long time, I have believed that the fight for LGBT equality was the fight to end discrimination; at least the state-sponsored discrimination that makes it legal to treat one human being as though they have less value than another human being. It is a very long walk from the end of legalized-discrimination to the end of discrimination.
The changing dynamics of the LGBT battleground together with the voice of Professor Ben Coates -- the professor in my Sociology class three years ago -- make something very clear to me. When the day comes that it is not legal to discriminate against LGBT people, the ugly head of prejudice and discrimination will be no less present.
When the end of legalized-discrimination against LGBT Americans is finally realized, most of the discrimination will phase out over a generation or two. We are still at least three or four generations away from the day we can truthfully say that there is an end to racism in the United States.
There is no explanation for the House of Representatives failure to do anything other than obstruct President Obama's initiatives. The stench of racism exudes from the extreme right with such indisputable identity that denying its pervasiveness can only be described as delusional.
When I am in a situation that requires saying The Pledge of Allegiance, I do not speak the last six words. We don't have liberty and justice for all. We have liberty and justice for some. The end of legalized-discrimination against LGBT Americans will add a number of human beings to the list of those for whom liberty and justice are possible.
What happens when I get there before you? It turns out that I will still have work to do. Now that I have come to understand this, I have a responsibility to become a part of the effort to fight racism now. If not, I am just one more member of society who nonchalantly takes my seat on the bus without looking into the eyes of human beings who are not afforded the same opportunities.
© 12/05/2013, Stephanie Mott
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