Somewhere along the lines we got it in our collective American minds that we can have our cake and eat it too. We have forgotten that when we make our bed, we must, at some point, lie in it. The past few weeks have brought to the surface an underlying current of biases and prejudices that continue to keep certain populations from experiencing freedom in it’s fullness.
We have had Black churches burned and shot-up, and we have had the federal acknowledgement of Same-Sex Marriage. These two events coming back to the focus of mainstream media and into the conscious minds of America has brought two separate reactions. In the case of Racism in America there remains an unfortunate and apparent acceptance in the South. In the case of Same-Sex marriages there is a massive opposition to legal rights that are afforded to everyone else.
I can not speak to what it’s like to live for years of your life unable to come to grips with an internal conflict for fear of being banished from your home, your family, your church, and your community. I do not envy those who have persevered through bullies, or to discover who they truly are. The difference between the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and the current one for the LBGT Community is that everyone knows when you are born Black. There was no internal conflict.
What I can speak to is that Racism has always been a part of American Culture. Confederate flags were still flying as a reminder of who was allowed to make the laws and who was under the boot of oppression. History illustrates that after Slavery, Black people wanted to be able to be free. There was no quarrel at that time between Former owner and master, nor with Black or White America. There was a brief reprieve of any conflict between the races.
That is, until Jim Crow Laws were invented.
The Confederate Flag has a very clear history. The thing about symbols, is that their meanings change as the times change. The flag may have meant one thing in 1865, but in 2015 it means… well it actually meas the same thing: Black People are not my equal.
The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s is something we should look at today in order to find the correlations. Racial tensions are still present. They may be somewhat hidden through Political Correctness, but calling me Urban, a Thug, saying I Look like I am a Basketball Player, etc is the same as calling me a N—-. I grew up in a predominately White town; actually it was all White. I was THE Black friend. If I didn’t learn to let someone else’s ignorance slip off my back, I would not have survived. The problem with surviving like that, is that I have forgotten how bothered terms like “boy” used to make me. I have cooled the fire inside in order to make it out of that environment.
The 1960s is a lesson in what it means to fight for your beliefs when your country opposes you. We have forgotten what it means to struggle for Racial Equality. Even though I will not say that Racial and Sexual Equality are the same, I will say that they are related. The Same-Sex Marriage legitimacy by the Federal Court and the backlash that has followed should serve as a glaring reminder that The Struggle is real, and it continues. Even Frederick Douglas understood the importance of it in the 1800s.
Struggle is a necessary part of life, and it has been a crucial part of American Culture. In fact, it could be argued that struggle for freedom is a cornerstone of our country as much as anything else. We struggled for religious freedom, for democratic freedom, for racial freedom, sexual freedom, and who knows what’s next.
Whenever I reflect on what I’ve come through, I consider the unknown struggles my kids will endure. What will our country struggle with in their lifetime? How can I prepare them for the unknown changes in the cultural landscape? I can’t. What I can do is teach her to love herself, and to love those she holds dear to her. If she is secure in herself and in her place in this world, then no one can convince her that she is any less than that. If my son can learn the harsh truths of HOW and WHEN to oppose authority and stand for what is right, then I have succeeded as a Dad.
In order for there to be growth, there must be a struggle. The current conflicts in American culture are a sign of the growing pains. This journey we are on looks to be a rough one, but the destination looks to be one we can all look forward to.