Monday, June 10, 2013
The More Things Change . . .
Thirty years ago a fell in love with a woman whose skin was a different color than mine. I lost one friendship because of it. She lost almost all her friends of color. When we were together people would stare. Some people cursed at us. We both endured a lot of homophobic and racial slurs - both behind our backs and to our faces. Eventually we suffered the most horrific attack, both homophobic and racially motivated. And in the aftermath, the words that still ring in my ears - "well, what did you expect?"
Well, certainly not that.
At the time we lived in a liberal, progressive state but in a very republican, conservative, Catholic, working class area of that state. Admittedly there were not a lot of inter-racial couples around. And certainly no inter-racial, openly gay couples.
Her family had already disowned her because of her sexuality. My parents, who were both born and raised in a very diverse New York City, were very accepting. (In fact, at the time, my mother was having more issues with my sister marrying a Jewish man. She had no problem with the Jewish part, but was very upset that her grandchildren would not be baptized. She eventually got over it.)
It’s hard to imagine that kind of racial intolerance today. Or maybe it's just where I live now. In fact, walking around I think that inter racial couples are the norm. Thirty years have changed a lot.
Or maybe not. I was absolutely stunned by the vitriol comments about the Cheerios commercial. Really? In this day and age?
And kudos to Cheerios for standing up to it.
I had begun to think that the intolerance was perhaps regional - that the more conservative areas of the country led the backlash. But, you may not have heard, there has been a wave of horrendous gay bashing in New York City. New York City? Where queer folk are everywhere and every nation and religion is well represented? Where a white, straight, christian person is now the minority?
Or perhaps that is the problem. The ruling class has become fearful of the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. And fear can lead to horrible and violent reactions.
So I don't know. Thirty years ago you would not see a person of color on television - unless, of course, it was in a role of servitude. Certainly there were no gay folks represented. Today, we are represented, although still often in negative stereotypical roles. Marriage equality seems to be spreading. Certainly more queer folk are comfortable being out. It has been a long time since I've sat with any kid afraid to tell their parents they are gay, and even longer since I've heard about a parent dis-owning their child, although I'm sure it still happens. That is all good stuff. Certainly getting to know people - not their labels - has broken down a lot of walls of fear.
But just as I start patting society on the back for finally moving in the right direction - the Cheerio backlash happens. Or another trans-gendered person is found beaten to death. Or yet another gay man murdered. Or a Muslim woman shamed. Or another lesbian raped. And not for anything they've done but only because of the label someone has placed on them. Then I really begin to wonder . . .
Things have changed.
But, for some people, they have also stayed the same.
What did they expect?