Liz provided a tricky mental exercise below. I hope more readers participate in it because it is important for us to be deliberate and clear about the reasons why we choose to engage in the battle for equality.
It can help one refocus on being logical and rational about the way we approach Obama’s public policy. For instance, I do not want to ever stereotype him for being African American, or his race, but I do want to hold him to the same standards I hold myself. If I took race out of the mix and asked myself, “If my parents could not marry based on some ‘X’ reason and that ‘X’ reason were overturned by the courts, should I as the product of their union be more empathetic to other’s oppressed by society wanting that similar right, or the right to marry for ‘Y’ reason?” My answer would be, “Yes.” That said, I would hope that because I’m an inherently empathetic person, I would fight oppression of minorities everywhere to provide as much freedom and equality as possible for all. So, I agree that Obama should not be supporting gay marriage because he is African America, but simply because, in not supporting it, he is guilty of oppression of a minority by the majority.
Does it make it worse because his father’s race, and especially his wife’s African American experience, has a different set of experiences and history of oppression than our particular minority? That is a complicated answer and there is pressure, of course, and collusion between those who have been oppressed joining forces with oppressors desperately grasping at the last vestiges of groups or minorities of people to institutionally oppress. Because I consider myself living at ground zero, or Oklahoma, for that particular oppressor of the angry white male southerner who lost the ability to oppress according to race, I know how some of them, whether consciously or not, are raging over the fact the last institutionally discriminated oppressed group or “the gays” seem to be winning some recognition of our rights. I also know they welcome any kind of allies in their fight to keep their comfortable, oppressive system in place, and they have been able to drive a wedge between African Americans who are in solidarity with us and more conservative African Americans who, because of conservative religious dogma, are able to rationalize being oppressors along with their newfound brethren. It is disappointing to find Obama siding with those African Americans who have thrown in with the oppressors who somehow consider their brutal history of oppression, along with conservative religious theology, as an excuse to oppress a minority they dislike, or don’t understand and fear.
To the oppressor’s glee, you can even see the wedge issue play out in the family of Martin Luther King. Of course, we are thankful and grateful the majority of King’s family is on our side due to the brilliance of his widow, Coretta Scott King. Of course, King’s niece, Alveda, has sadly and publicly joined the old oppressor group.
Then we get into active and passive support of the old oppressive system. Obama has attempted to play both sides of the issue, or has become a passive supporter of the old system by not publicly pushing for full and unequivocal equality. The separate but equal system does not, nor ever will, work. Marriage is an institution between two adult human beings and until any two adult human beings can call themselves “married” then it is just the old “separate but equal” failed system all over again.
Humanity will only be truly free when we evolve to realize the oppression of any group for any reason is unjust and all humans innately deserve the same measure of equality and freedom. All diversity should be celebrated. Until then, all of society are prisoners of an unjust system that we have created to govern ourselves.
Make no mistake about it. One of the reasons Republicans are so fired up and excited over these midterms is their dreams of stopping LGBT rights dead in their tracks and Obama, due to his and other advisers in the White House having a lack of strong leadership on the issue, has provided their enemies that opportunity. It truly is that whole power and fear equation playing out before our very eyes.