Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By Derrick L. Anderson, MSW
When I reflect upon my life of 49 years, it is like viewing a kaleidoscope of history in all of its richness as it unfolds from the African-American civil rights and Women’s movements, HIV/AIDS activism, and currently the GLBT civil rights movement. What is most interesting about these various social justice issues is that they continue to be works in progress. Much has been accomplished, yet so much remains to be addressed. The greatest aspect of this ongoing dialogue on human rights is that the issues continue to be addressed actively, radically and unapologetically.
Additionally, as I am Black, Gay and HIV+, I’ve born witness to many arguments steeped in the politics of bigotry and divisiveness that sought to socially dehumanize via elements of identity. The tired rhetoric of “they want special rights” is just that – tired and unoriginal. Human rights should not be determined within the context of hierarchies built upon class, privilege, and access to power, but humbly by accounting for the diverse needs of all who share an American identity. America is a patchwork quilt diverse in ethnicities, religious beliefs, culture, ableness, socio-economic status, sexual orientations and sexual expression. One would think that any person who seeks to occupy the highest elected office, regardless of political affiliation, in our country would be mandated to non-objectively be a leader of all the people, in spite of their individual personal biases.
Sadly, this is not the case with our current administration. The dynamics of social bigotry are a cornerstone of their political platform, as our current president seeks to amend the Constitution to discriminate against GLBT Americans simply because our existence and identities are not congruent with the politics of the majority. Or perhaps it is not that simple. Maybe this is an issue of gaining economic and constituency support from a core group of activists – conservatives whose visions of the American dream are blinded by their unearned heterosexual privilege as they collectively seek to codify discrimination in one of the most progressive documents of our time, the Constitution of the United States. I have yet to understand the deficits in same equal marriage in terms of its perceived, socially-marketed erosion of heterosexual marriage. However, there is much to be gained by providing a tool that honors/validates GLBT unions and fosters acceptance of America’s diversity of orientations, and our humane right to life, dignity and the pursuit of equal justice within a larger dominant cultural context.
I am intimately aware of the social injustices that one experiences when aspects of identity places them outside the lines of dominant culture. Black folks were still being lynched in the south at the time of my birth, people living with HIV disease were actively and dispassionately disenfranchised and made to feel like lepers in the early 80’s, and GLBT folks of all races continue to be targeted for violence and murder with tacit approval from our “compassionate conservative” administration. I view the president’s push to amend the Constitution to ban equal marriage rights as a very tangible act of violence against the GLBT community that has the potential to breed yet more physical violence against sexual minorities.
I don’t wish to malign the life-affirming role that organized religion has performed in the pursuit of equitable, humane social justice (i.e. the role of the Quakers in the Underground Railroad), however in contrast I have to acknowledge the historical influence of organized religion as core values to groups like the KKK and Aryan Nations. Religious freedom is protected from discrimination within the Constitution. I find it pathetically ironic that those who benefit from the freedom that that protection provides, would utilize that freedom to legislatively deny access for equitable human rights to other Americans. I sincerely hope that the president’s misguided, and misdirected effort to sanction discrimination fails. I pray that whoever occupies the White House in the future declares it a hate-free zone; a place where a vision of human diversity is embraced, and not an icon that nurtures a dogma of hate and intolerance. We need a president who accepts responsibility for being a leader of all the people that define America, not just a select group of contributors to his financial base. After all, my being Black, HIV+, and Gay in no way minimizes that I, too, am American.