one step forward, two steps back, commentary on civil rights


basketball floor

Center court, lime light cast, in New York Jason Collins presses the LGBTQ equality movement forward, while in Arizona civil rights are under threat of regression. After signing a 10-day contract with the Nets, The New York Post reports Collins recent game time welcome as “warm applause… represent[ing] a milestone in the effort to change a sports culture that some feel has lagged far behind society at large in acceptance of gay people”. Thousands of miles to the Southwest, on the heels of this victory, many Americans fear their civil rights will be limited if anti-gay legislation is signed by governor Jan Brewer.  The law in question would legally allow refusal of service on the basis of religious beliefs to customers of certain or perceived sexual orientation, explicitly allowing individuals to discriminate against individuals. 

David Sadaris (guest contributor to This American Life National Public Radio Show), drawing on his experience growing up in the 1950’s, nicely illustrates similarities in civil discrimination between the LGBTQ and race equality movements (Cruelty of Children, 3:18 into the show). His narrative is particularly persuasive when recalling his experience as a young closeted gay male. He describes his relationship with other homosexual students having  secretly identified each other through their shared experience “in cinderblock offices as one speech therapist after another tried to cure [them] of [their] lisps”. More compelling was the unspoken understanding not to interact with one another as to not draw added attention to their sexual orientation, which as pre-adolescent youth, they themselves didn’t even understand. Even during on going harassment, supporting one another was forbidden. One such consistant event was having ones clothing thrown in the toilet after gym class. Sadaris literally prayed never to act on his homosexual impulses and that some day he would win the lottery and through treatment be cured of his affliction.What turmoil.

It is also significant to acknowledge Sadaris’s point, that even as a child, listening to his teachers shamelessly stereo-typing of African-Americans, it was clear to him that segregation was wrong… As a female, witnessing infringement of civil rights sparks a flame of compassion closely followed by an inferno of outrage. It hasn’t even been a hundred years since my sex has had the right to vote in this country. Reading over the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is clear that the intension was for all people from all backgrounds to be treated equally, and if not, have grounds to take legal action.  Wasn’t this settled 50 years ago?  Presently, much of social justice seems to occur through media outlets. I hope the social justice and balance in our country doesn’t hinge on the homosexuality of professional athletes. Although widespread acceptance of gay athletes is a step in the right direction, ones sexual orientation shouldn’t be any more or less accepted based on rebound stats, let alone used to justify whether or not to provide a customer with service.

2 thoughts on “one step forward, two steps back, commentary on civil rights

  1. Excellent thinking and beautiful expression Krystal! The future will not wait for those stuck in the past, nor should it. The future belongs to collaboration, diversity and respect of those that pioneer the ideals of creative non-conformity. Our holistic survival on so many global and regional levels depends upon expansive visions of who we are and how we need to live as a more harmonious and accepting spirited free species that is not locked down by archaic and draconian thinking, feeling and personal expressions of life and love!


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