Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Am I right here?

I said this to my linguist friend on Friday, and I'm still thinking over whether I'm right:

"Race issues are inherently much more difficult than gay rights issues because gay rights boils down to 'treat everybody the same,' but for race issues 'treat everybody the same' is just the beginning."




Paul Wilczynski said...

Perhaps it depends on what you mean by "just the beginning". What do you consider to be the next step(s)?

Chalicechick said...

Good question.

I guess I mean that I'm assuming once gays and lesbians can marry, adopt kids, get health insurance together, etc, the battle will pretty much be done.

With race we have questions about affirmative action, whether whites should be able to adopt black children, etc, etc.

It just seems a lot more complicated.

I think a lot of this comes down to African-American culture being farther from mainstream white culture than gay culture.

If I'm nuts here, somebody tell me, but that's how it looks from my perspective.


Paul Wilczynski said...

Ok, then the next question would be "the same" in what sense? Lets assume you mean "eliminate from consideration the differences that cause people to treat them differently". The obvious factor is color.

If that's the case, then the question of whether whites should be able to adopt black children goes away because you're eliminating color from consideration. If we really treated everyone as though they were the same color (no matter what it was) then there wouldn't be an issue.

I think there may be a larger question, though. What some people consider racial discrimination others might consider class discrimination.

Chalicechick said...

I'm OK with getting rid of affirmative action in the workplace and basing affirmative action in education on class rather than race, so in that sense I agree with you.

But many African-Americans would disagree. Also, many african-americans have big problems with white people adopting black children and raising them in a white culture.

I think they would say that a colorblind approach is homogenizing and denies them their culture.


fausto said...

You're missing another significant distinction.

According to the traditional teaching of many religions, including all three of the major Abrahamic religions, it is not sinful to be born to any particular race, but it is sinful -- perhaps even mortally sinful -- to engage in homosexual acts.

There are religions that do discriminate on the basis of ethnicity or caste, but they are not influential in Western culture. In contrast, the moral teachings of the Abrahamic faiths are very difficult to purge from Wetern culture.

Thus, in the default context of Western morality, it is not the case that racism and gay-bashing are similarly grievous offenses against the worth of the individual (although that's the way we UUs see them). Rather, racism and homosexuality are both grievous sins that ought to be vigorously opposed, even though they are both difficult to eradicate.

Paul Wilczynski said...

Ok, then the real issue seems to be that different people, or different groups, have differing opinions on what the problem is. A problem can't be solved by everyone unless everyone agrees what the problem is in the first place (never mind the solution).

fausto said...

Which is why racism should actually be an easier problem to ameliorate than anti-homosexual prejudice. There is more of a societal consnsus that racism is immoral than that anti-gay prejudice is immoral.

Unless, of course, society's moral consensus against homosexuality dissipates more rapidly over time than the structural institutions of racism do. (The biases against homosexuality in society are less entrenced in the institutional structures of society, it appears to me.) This does seem to be occurring in secular circles, but much less so in religious circles.

Oversoul said...

For me it’s dangerous to treat the “group” in any particular way; we should instead focus on ensuring that the rights of the human individual are upheld and protected. This leads to other questions such as whether a person of one race can adopt kids from another as being moot (for me anyway). Additionally, it’s hard to talk of “white culture” versus “black culture” in any kind of simplistic, no pun intended, black and white way. I have many black friends who are not natively born Americans; their culture is different than mainstream “Anglo” America, as well as different from what we might perceive as “black” culture.

Cranky Cindy said...

There are layers of complexity in this, imho.

The first layer is the existence of legal protections from discrimination. For instance, it has been legal for African American and European American heterosexuals to marry one another in all 50 states since the United States Supreme Court finally declared these laws unconstitutional in 1967 (16 states that still had anti-miscegenation laws on the books). Since then there have been 300,000 marriages between people who identify as African American and European American. Out of 55.5 million marriages (1998 figures).

In Massachusetts, it's been legal for adults of any gender to marry one another for one year. There's been 7,000 or so marriages.

Another layer is the application of those protections and those laws. There is a monolithic, I believe, presumption among white folk that black folk are a certain way, and that presumption lends itself to avoiding, misinterpreting, or ignoring the equal protection laws. For instance, the number of white people who believe that Affirmative Action = Quotas, or = unfair advantage is tremendous. The truth is that Affirmative Action is simply that employers go out of their way to ensure that a hiring pool is diverse.

Another layer is the assumption of a monolithic African-American culture and white culture, and a monolithic gay culture. I think there may be a set of common assumptions that white folks have about the world, and about race, but truth is there are several African-American cultures in America today -- Hip-Hop culture, a middle class educated Martha's Vineyard and Harvard culture, a black church culture. There's the Jamacian American and Venezulan Cultures... and all the hispanic folks who identify as black and all the glbt folk of color.

In my own white culture, there's the farmer working poor white folk culture I grew up with, and the middle class educated white folk culture I joined after Seminary, and the well-to-do white folk culture that assumes that my partner and I and our family could afford to go to Star Island or GA or take a week off in the winter to ski in Vail.

But the institution of racism makes certain assumptions about people with brown and black skin which has real world benefits to those of us with pink skin regardless of our economic class.

Which leads us to another set of complexities. The difference between opinions and law.

Whether or not people of european descent should adopt children of color, or whether or not adults who are glbt should adopt children isn't simply a legal isue but one of opinion.

Can a white parent teach their child of color how to deal with "driving while brown or black?" I believe yes, but not by accidentally falling into a comprehensive explanation, or by teaching by example. These parents have to work hard to understand the complexities of race in America and pass that on to their children.

Can a glbt parent teach their child how to deal with dating someone of the opposite sex? Um, yup. Can a lesbian mother deal with her son's getting himself caught in his zipper for the first time? yup. You don't have to have been there to learn and understand, but you do have to want to learn and understand.

My extended biological family includes European American, Japanese, Mexican, UU, Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist, and Jewish peoples, most of whom are heterosexual. My extended family of choice includes African Americans, Cambodians, Vietnamese, and Canadians.

My partner's son is a very tall, very thin, medium beige white man. He dreaded his hair a couple of years ago. At first I didn't like it, but soon he was beautiful. During the time he wore his hair like that, he was pulled over, picked up off the beach and stopped on the side of the road more than he had previously all together.

I was in Provincetown a few years ago with my god-daughters. They are African American, thin, and beautiful, I am European American and round.

The nice lady at the public toilets looked at the girls, then at me, back to them, and back to me and said, "Are they your foster children?"

What an assumption. If a white lady was with brown children they must be wards of the state. And they must be deaf as well, I suppose, to explain the rudeness.

I have had foster children join me for periods of time, but the girls weren't them.

I took a deep breath, looked the nice lady in the eye and said, "What? Huh? Oh, I get it. This happens all the time. You must think I'm white. My girls and I will go now. Thank you very much."

Cranky Cindy said...

I left out a sentence, and it makes me sound like an ass. This is why I try not to comment on other people's blogs. It's too much like the dog walker who forgot to bring a plastic bag.

Anyway, after the word Canadian, and before commentary about my partner's son, please read:
The complexities of race are played out in my family in interesting ways at different times. Like the white man who gets pulled over for driving while brown.

Chalicechick said...

Ah. That does improve the flow of things.

Please leave your droppings in my blog anytime you like. I thought your comments were extremely insightful.


Kim said...

Other than Affirmative Action, the big difference, as I see it, between the plight of black people and LGBT people is that black skin is somewhat more obvious than being gay -- usually. I think LGBT people often feel an obligation to be as un-obvious as possible, and yet, are often accused of being too obvious. So that all becomes an issue, whereas, dark-skinned people can't hide it.
What if homosexual people kissed and pawed each other in public as much as heterosexual people do?
And there is the religious issue: for some strange reason there is a segment of society that seems to feel that it is virtuous to harm LGBT people. That's not a lot different from African-Americans, except maybe the time frame, as mentioned before.