I have a feeling I'm going to piss some people off tonight. We've become a country that will not only shoot the messenger when we don't like the message, we'll try to make sure he can't get healthcare for the gunshot wound. Anyway, I've been thinking about (like just about everyone I know) the impending decisions from the Supreme Court on marriage equality. There was a sentiment on Facebook today that because the Court issued a ruling that flagrantly hurts non-republican voters (giving southern states that previously had to get pre-approval from the federal government to change voter registration laws the go ahead to just do as they please from here on out), we might be in trouble tomorrow. After thinking on it a little bit, I feel like that ruling may (MAY, not will) be good for the marriage equality rulings.
I have two theories. The first one is silly and almost certainly not what's going on, but I'll tell you anyway. I thought maybe the court issued this ruling first to placate republicans and put them in a good mood for tomorrow's ruling in our favor. See, silly. Not very likely. And of course not something that would really piss anyone off. So it must be my second theory that is going to cause trouble.
When I lived in Philadelphia in the late 90s, I did a series of articles for a gay newspaper on gay men and women living in the different neighborhoods of Philly. I wrote about the neighborhood I lived in at the time, Roxborough-Manayunk, and South Philly and a neighborhood in the North East that I don't remember now. I also wrote one on a neighborhood called Kensington. I'm not going to pretend I still know what Kensington is like now, but when I wrote this article it was a very blue-collar place with a significant amount of racial tension. It certainly didn't seem like a very hospitable place for minorities to me.
When I interviewed the gay and lesbian residents, they all talked about good relationships with their neighbors. No one gave a damn if they were gay. They were good people. I dug a little deeper and asked if they knew why this neighborhood that was so hostile toward other minorities welcomed them. Without exception I got one answer and one answer only: “There just happy we're not black.” So there you have it. In a bigot's mind, we have nudged our way up the food chain past African-Americans. In fact, we've become so acceptable that more than 50 percent of Americans now think gay and lesbian people should be allowed to get married.
Here's the thing. Our country is racist. You're racist. I'm racist. You can deny it all you want. You might not want to be racist. You may think being racist is a horrible thing. I think that. I abhor racism in all forms. That doesn't mean all those years growing up in an environment filled with racism just magically evaporates from every fiber of my being. It doesn't. I sometimes have to work at not being subconsciously racist. I would never be consciously racist. Would never cross my mind. But I've caught myself thinking and saying things that I don't think are racist, but are in fact racist.
In my opinion, one of the reasons people have taken Paula Deen apart like lions on a gazelle is that latent racism that still exists in us. No one wants to appear like they are defending her for fear of being called a racist. Even though people have been accused of far worse than her and been allowed to stay at their jobs. I would much rather Paula Deen keep her job (even if she continues to use that word) than let all the Wall Street executives that caused the banking disaster still have their hands all over our money. Maybe it would be an outrage to let Paula Deen off with a wrist slap, but where was everyone's outrage when our economy was being destroyed without a thought for who would be hurt?
I'll tell you what. If those bankers had all been black, people would be in jail right now. And if you took that marriage poll tomorrow and only showed people pictures of black or inter-racial gay and lesbian couples, that 50-something percent would drop down below 40 at least, probably below 30.
So, it's not out of the realm of possibility that the Supreme Court is going to say tomorrow that marriage can't be kept from gay and lesbian Americans, even though they essentially said today that the right to vote can be kept from black Americans.
I told you you weren't going to like this.