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I haven't been a little girl for a long, long time. When I was, I lived in a part of the country where bigotry was alive and well. Some bigots were such nice people until you tumbled into discussion of integrating schools, interracial marriage, or having black folks move into your neighborhood. Then things turned nasty. When we make tv shows and movies about the bigoted south, the bigots are fat, disgusting idiots -- but in real life, they were just folks.

You know something funny? Most of those folks didn't think they were racist. They trotted out a "black guy at work" that they thought well of or a "black friend" from childhood. They talked about the "nice black lady who works at the grocery store." This was proof that they liked black people -- they just didn't want them to have equal rights (though they didn't say it that bluntly, of course).

Interracial marriage was especially tough. Many of the folks I grew up with thought it was icky. There was something unnatural about it. And it was wrong in the eyes of God (backed up by interesting Scriptural choices). It was just wrong and would never be right. And allowing it would cause the total destruction of the institution of marriage.

Only, of course, it didn't. And as a very small girl, I couldn't see how it possibly could. How could who someone else married have any affect on your marriage? How was your marriage lessened if some white person married a person of color? I sometimes even asked that question but I was a little girl. But little girls are rarely given straight answers -- especially if the straight answers aren't going to make sense anyway.

Today, I'm seeing those folks again. Now many of the people who ranted and raved in my childhood have shuffled off the mortal coil. They aren't (by an large) part of the angry hoarde decrying the destruction of marriage by letting "those folks" in. It's a new group. But it's the same words. I swear, it gives me the most incredible flashbacks to hear people. I've listened to the conversation before. The voices were tinged with just as much moral outrage. The shudders of disgust were there. The calls on religion were there.

I've been there.
History is repeating itself with an exactness that is terrifying to me. This is history from my life time. Can we not learn from history in the recent past? Do we have to repeat the same bigotry, the same fear, the same disgust over and over? Is that what it means to be American?

Sometimes it makes me tired. Really tired. I love my country. I want to believe the best for it. But when I see us do again what we did when I was a little girl...I'm so sad.

When I was a very young woman, a young black man I knew was beat up for just being friends with a white girl (me). Now as a middle aged woman, I know young men are being beaten up, teased, tormented, and driven to suicide just for being suspected of being "gay."

Gay marriage is just one element of the whole deja vu experience. And sometimes, I'm really ashamed of us as humans. I don't have any close gay friends. But I once wept for a black man beaten up just for being my friend. And I can feel that pain for the folks today who are suffering the same abuse based on what they are.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
aprilhenry
Mar. 14th, 2011 04:19 pm (UTC)
People do change, though, at least sometimes. When I was in high school, my mom totally believed in Anita Bryant "gays can't procreate so they recruit" crap. Over the years she's done a 180 and is perfectly fine with the idea of gay marriage. So there is some hope, even for people who are bigoted now.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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