© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense
People keep telling me that race relations have improved immensely over the past 40 years. They also point to advances in terms of how America treats women, the disabled, gays, and many other groups in society.
They are quick to pull up statistics to support their positions, and produce polls where the respondents express this new-found enlightened thinking.
However, I’ve never bought it. In my view, we just suppressed the views of the bigots and the narrow-minded, and made it unpopular and impolite for them to truly express themselves. What I submit has occurred is simply a shift in which groups are encouraged or allowed to express themselves.
Stop to think about it. There were many interracial couples who wanted to marry at an earlier time in our history, and were prevented, through miscegenation laws, from doing so. Gays had sex, which was prohibited by law, and were afraid to reveal themselves and their behavior.
One of my graduate schools classmates fell in love with an African-American man, and she did not disclose the relationship to her very liberal parents. They had only recently admonished her against going on a camping trip with another African-American friend, out of concern that “kooks” might attack them.
So you see, the suppression of expression comes in many forms. I submit that it is really all about economics, social positioning, and timing. (Religion also obviously has a role, although a complex one.) Much of what Hitler had to offer to the German masses had to do with convincing them that they deserved better than their pre-war status suggested.
Much has been made in recent days of the comments made by supporters of the McCain-Palin ticket at various campaign gatherings around the country. Some have dismissed the comments as those made by a “few kooks.” However, those kooks happen to be the brave or sick ones, and although unquantifiable, I suspect that their numbers are much larger than we are willing to admit.
Of course, the number of those willing to express themselves could quickly change. For those of you who consider yourselves students of recent history, check out France’s experience with Jean-Marie Le Pen during the late 1990s into the early 2000s. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_marie_le_pen.) Some of the same issues that were central to his emergence are also present here in America at the current time.
Earlier today, in the syndicated column, “Annie’s Mailbox,” formerly known as “Anne Landers,” and currently operated by her two former editors, a couple wrote in to seek advice about their adoption desires. The couple has two girls, ages 5 and 6, and they are interested in adopting a boy. They are also willing to adopt a child of any race. Interestingly, the step-father of the husband has already let it be known that if they adopt an African-American boy, he will not be allowed in the home of his grandparents.
Quite frankly, I think that it is better that the parents know the step-grandfather’s position now, rather than permit him to spew his hatred after the fact. It is far preferable for us to create the conditions to allow the bigots and the narrow-minded to truly express their feelings and expose them. They will, of course, suffer, or benefit from, the consequences of their expression.
In my view, one of the biggest mistakes that our country has made with respect to the goals of civil rights and equal treatment has been its use of the strong arm of the law. The Warren court of the 1950s, in particular, failed to behave as a part of the judicial branch of our government, and took on a legislative role.
That America did not have the political will, until some years after Brown v. Board of Education, to legislatively pursue the goals of equality tells you that the hearts and minds of American were not ready for it. Same with the Equal Rights Amendment. It is the legislature that has the responsibility for promulgating laws, not the judiciary.
That a relatively small number of “concerned citizens,” no matter how well-intentioned their motivations, should be able to impose their value system on the many, will always be a problem.
You see, the ultimate goal of any group in society seeking equal treatment is respect, and the appreciation by others of your true, core, basic, value based on your merit. People may be forced to respect someone out of fear or intimidation; however, their minds and hearts will never respect you. Furthermore, aren’t bigots and the narrow-minded entitled to be so?
People need to learn, individually and collectively, how to love, respect, and appreciate others on their own terms. To develop artificial contrivances, particularly those imposed by governmental or legal force, only serves to pervert the system and diminish the goal by perverting the principle of fairness.
Furthermore, it provides the bigots and the narrow-minded with further arrows in their quivers to continue to ridiculous debate about equality. There simply shouldn’t be any debate.
Additionally, we need to come to the realization that no decision in the world is fair. The best that we can hope is that we devise systems to treat people processed through it fairly to the best of our ability, and recognize that it still is not going to be perfect.
We, here at the Institute for Applied Common Sense, previously delved into this subject matter. In one of our very earliest articles, we spoke of “How Racism, Although Problematic, Serves a Pragmatic and Utilitarian Function.” (http://theviewfromoutsidemytinywindow.blogspot.com/2008/04/why-racism-although-problematic-serves.html.) In our Post No. 42, entitled “If You Really want to do Some Thinking,” we referred to an article in Edge (http://www.edge.org/) by Jonathan Haidt, entitled “What Makes People Vote Republican.” (http://theviewfromoutsidemytinywindow.blogspot.com/2008/09/post-no-42-if-you-really-want-to-do.html.) In the introduction to that article appeared the following:
I saw George Will on Charlie Rose a couple of months ago. He essentially said that conservatism has the “upper hand” because it is “pure.” The problem with liberalism, according to Will, is that it comes off as elitist, in that it essentially says that “we can do a better job of thinking about your interests than you can.”
In his article, Haidt suggests that, “Most democrats don’t understand that politics is more like a religion than it is like shopping.” Bigotry and narrow-mindedness are also like a religion. You can’t just stamp out or suppress what people feel and believe. Additionally, those individuals who hold those views are offended by those who tell them that something is wrong with them for holding them.
I submit that they need to live [I purposefully avoided using “suffer”] the consequences of being bigoted and narrow-minded, whether good or bad, on their own terms. I have always felt that in the long run, it would have been far better for African-Americans to have quietly taken their business around the corner to Caucasian merchants willing to provide them public accommodations and services, than for the law to have forced all merchants and service providers to do so. Take a guess as to the financial impact of such action. By forcing a condition on the unwilling, we as a society only made them angrier and perhaps more bigoted.
Force also further delays the creation of circumstances where one can personally recognize the value of another human being.
Let me tell you this: more and more bigotry and narrow-mindedness will come to the surface as the economic status of the average citizen further deteriorates over the next couple of years. We need an outlet valve – the creation of a prominent third political party, The American Bigot Party.
Just think about it. All of the closet bigots will join, and they’ll be happy to once again speak their minds in public, without recrimination. All of the old racists, who were Dixiecrats and voted for George Wallace before switching allegiance when Ronald Reagan came along, will march down the street in solidarity parades. The Ku Klux Klan and the Neo-Nazis will also have a political outlet. Imagine the platform of that party.
If society truly considers the bigoted and narrow-minded to be a cancer on our society, then in order to deal with it, we need to know where and how it exists, not hide it. Common sense dictates as much. Come on out, let us see and hear you, lawyers, judges, politicians, doctors, accountants, farmers, bankers, and all….
The Republicans also have a major problem right now, with which they apparently have not figured out how to deal. They are the default party for the nuts and kooks of America, as least as far as discrimination is concerned. (The Democrats have a different set of nuts and kooks.)
It would be far easier for both the Democratic and Republican parties to join forces, contribute an equal amount from their coffers, and form the American Bigot Party, to sequester the problematic elements of both parties.
Let them be heard. Let them have their say. Then perhaps the candidates of both current major parties would be not have to distance themselves from the John Hagees and Jeremiah Wrights of the world, and if they had to do so, could do so with a straight face.
One final comment. Shortly after 9-11, I attended a seminar conducted by a constitutional law professor and scholar, Erwin Chemerinsky (http://www.law.duke.edu/fac/chemerinsky/), about the importance of not allowing our government to engage in unconstitutional activity.
He noted that during times of crisis and fear, there is a tendency to ignore the Constitution and suppress individual rights. However, he further noted that the Constitution serves as a rudder to keep us on our “right path” and prevent the pendulum of public sentiment from swinging too far in either direction.
Let the concept work its magic. Just don’t pervert or distort its operation and thus encourage people to disrespect it.
Free the bigots! Let them speak and express themselves! Let them organize! We’ll be a better country for having done so, and hopefully, at the end of the day, they’ll just fade away.
© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense
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