I was sorely tempted to write an unequivocally joyous post this morning, trumpeting the new dawn in American politics. I stayed up far too late last night, drinking far too many celebratory beers, filled with pride in a country that could elect a man named Barack Hussein Obama, the son of a Kenyan and a Kansan, president.
I wanted to proclaim a last and final (yes, I know that's redundant) end to the Civil War, with an African-American not only winning a presidential election, but even gaining the electoral votes of the former capitol of the Confederacy.
I wanted to do this. I really did. But my joy is tinged with grief this morning. Because I see a new Civil War emerging.
While one avenue of oppression was at least partially closed, with racism getting a stinging (if incomplete - the election of a black president neither ends nor erases centuries of institutional racism) rebuke, another avenue of oppression is seeing a tremendous increase in traffic.
Across the country there were ballot initiatives designed to trample of the rights of same-sex couples, and all four of them passed:
With 92% reporting, Arizona Proposition 102 is ahead 57% to 43%, which means, of course, that it has passed. This is especially painful because a similar ballot initiative, Arizona Proposition 107, was defeated 51.8% to 48.2% only two years ago. In those two years, then, it seems homophobia and heterosexism have enjoyed a 9 point bump in Arizona.
Meanwhile, Arkansas voters, responding to a 2006 Arkansas State Supreme Court ruling that a state policy banning LGBT foster and adoptive parents, have "approved a measure banning unmarried couples who are living together being adoptive or foster parents." This ban is essentially a back-door route to banning LGBT foster and adoptive parents, although its victims are not limited to the LGBT community.
In Florida, voters - not content with having already banned same-sex marriage - have voted to do it again, just for good measure, passing Amendment 2 62% to 38%.
But, most shockingly, it looks like California Proposition 8, a measure to change that state's Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage, has probably passed. Yes, even in California, heterosexism and homophobia still rule.
Last night was still a great night for America. The country stood up and demanded change, and change has happened. But many, many more changes are still needed. A young African-American girl or boy may now be able to dream of leading the country without being laughed out of the room, but a gay man or a lesbian can still be denied fundamental rights, and can still be scapegoated for the problems faced by heterosexual couples.
Racism may have been dealt a blow, but it has certainly not been killed. And, this same election that dealt that blow to racism has also proven that heterosexism and homophobia are not only still alive and well, but are in fact growing.
So congratulations to Barack Obama, president-elect of the United States. And congratulations to America for taking a bold but necessary step. We can certainly rejoice in this great moment. But my rejoicing is muted this morning, as I mourn for those citizens of this great nation who were told in no uncertain terms last night that they are still "other," still "less than," still at best second-class citizens, who cannot marry the person they love, who cannot adopt children (or even take in foster children!) and who may even be denied the right to visit their partner in hospitals.
So, by all means, take a moment to celebrate. But when that moment is done, realize this sobering truth: Injustice and inequality persist, and are in some very significant ways growing in strength.
We're not done yet!
Oh, and Comic Elon James White takes on the notion that Obama's victory somehow signals an end to racism and the rise of a post-racial society in Episode 12 of his brilliant This Week in Blackness:
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