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?



8 comments:

  1. With all the recent advances in gay rights it is easy to get lulled into a sense of complacency, isn't it? Although I doubt you are ever complacent in your attention to safety.

    Our country is becoming extremely polarized on many different issues - gay rights, immigration, gun control, etc. I fear that if the trend continues, with the sides migrating further apart and no middle ground to be found, that the culture war will continue to escalate in violence and there is nothing good that can come of that.

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    1. I worry about that polarization too. Everyone just seems to wants to yell from their own soapbox. No one wants to listen, discuss, mediate. I'm sure we have gone through periods like this before, but you'd think we would eventually learn how to move forward without all the hate. It's very discouraging.

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  2. You know I never blinked twice about that commercial until it was in the news that people are upset. Some people need more in their life than worrying about such things...

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    1. I actually saw the commercial (strange because I watch so little TV) and I didn't notice it either. And then the haters came out of their holes. Wow!

      I agree with you and I do wonder how much energy it must take to be that negative all the time.

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  3. It's funny, maybe it's because I lived in very conservative areas very recently (Arizona) but I'm always amazed that people think it's changed a lot when I see backlash everywhere.

    The reaction to the Cheerios commercial didn't surprise me. It did sadden me.

    It all does.

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    1. I have always been uncomfortable with the "It Gets Better" campaign. Yes, some things have definitely gotten better - for some people. But I think it is foolish to think that the haters have been converted. Or that any marginalized person is now safe from the backlash.

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  4. I know what you mean. Just when we think things are changing for the better... this kind of bullshit happens. I bought ten boxes of Cheerios and dropped them off at the Food Bank. It's all I could think to do.

    As far as gays being shot point blank on the streets of New York City, well, hell. I always thought we were safer in the cities. I love living in the country but it always felt too risky to me. Now our slender foothold in urban America appears threatened.

    Discouraging.

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    1. New York City!!! It just makes me weep.

      Kudos on your Cheerios donation. I love my Honeynut Cheerios, but a donation to the food bank sounds like a perfect response. I'm on it.

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