(Picking up from Are We Great, Yet? (part two))
This isn’t so much about what the president and his numpties are doing now. It’s not that “there isn’t any credible national security rationale for” the Muslim bans. It’s not that the DHS document that was leaked to the press says that “country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity” and that this “extreme vetting” 45 keeps yammering about is already happening, has been happening for years. This is about trying to understand how we got here in the first place.
Today, 7 March, 2017, marks 52 years since “Bloody Sunday” when state troopers assaulted peaceful civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama. About 100 years before that Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation though the Civil War didn’t end until May of 1865. Yesterday, 6 March 2017, Ben Carson, head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (and a black man) said slaves were “immigrants” who “had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great grandsons, great granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.” Wow, huh?
Since 1865 we’ve seen non-white people get the right to vote legally. Then women got the right to vote. Most of us today think nothing of women driving and working, couples of mixed “races” (yes, I use that term loosely as humans are all genetically/scientifically the same race), people who don’t go to church, or couples of the same sex.
As a country, we’ve seen changes in attitudes, publicly anyway, that meant people were less and less afraid to exercise their rights, to vote, to work, to marry, to live without fear because of who they are. For many of us those fears are never really gone, but there comes a time when a woman feels confident or safe enough to go vote during the day even though she’s alone. Things we take for granted now were earned for us with the work, tears, and the blood of the non-whites and non-Christians and women and LGBTQ people who came before us. When I picked up birth control pills, started a business, filed for a divorce, when I pay with my credit card or say “I” (instead of “we” implying I have my husband’s permission) in a business transaction I remember that someone gave me that opportunity. We shouldn’t have to fight for it; it should just be. We’re humans just like anyone else, but at some point some white men proclaimed they run the show and the rest of us will obey (no idea why the rest of us didn’t just kick their asses right then for being bossy jerks). Since then, the rest of us have been trying to get back to where we belong. We don’t want special treatment or special rights. We just want equal rights and opportunities, the same as any other human being. It’s stupid that we still have to fight for this in 2017.
In my short lifetime, so far:
In 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Lovings’ convictions for “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth (of Virginia).” The court concluded that anti-miscegenation laws were racist (and had been enacted to perpetuate white supremacy). This meant that anti-miscegenation laws on the books in other states could not be enforced.
In 1973 Roe vs Wade was decided affirming the legality of a woman’s right to have an abortion under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
In 1974 in Cleveland Bd. of Ed. v. LaFleur the Supreme Court found that the mandatory maternity leave policy for public school employees violated the Due Process guarantees of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.
In 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges meant that states could no longer ban same-sex marriage.
There are many more civil rights cases just in the last 50 years as our citizens and our society put in writing that we are equal.
On days like today when I am still trying to find the words for the final entry in this series it helps to see how far we’ve come when it comes to victories like these for civil rights. Today I’m reminded that I can leave the house alone wearing pants, and I can drive my own car where I need to go because someone paved the way for what I take for granted every day; not every woman can do what I can do. When I cannot understand how we could be taking so many steps back as a society I need to step back for some perspective. When I cannot understand how a black neurosurgeon who now runs the Department of Housing and Urban Development could say something so monumentally stupid about slaves being immigrants looking for opportunity in a new land I can only wonder about his motives. Maybe he has forgotten the sacrifices people made so he could train to be a surgeon here, so he can vote here, so he can hold that office now, so he could say something ignorant like that to his staff. When I see stories each day of Americans telling other Americans to go back where they came from it helps to be reminded that there is such a thing as hate crime in this country, that most of us recognize we’re not “there,” yet, and that law enforcement treats hate crimes as the serious offenses they are. Or anyway, they do for now.
Link: “U.S.-Born Latino Found ‘Illegal’ Spray-Painted On His 1971 Volkswagen” – The Huffington Post