ECHOES OF INDIANA’S HISTORY OF SUPPORT FOR THE KU KLUX KLAN IDEOLOGUES WHO SOUGHT TO “TAKE THEIR COUNTRY BACK” TO BEFORE 1861? :-$ O:-) :-$ :-*
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana is another in a long line of laws intended to limit the freedom of people. it will allow one small group of people, under the guise of “religious freedom, to impose their own bigoted and hateful beliefs upon the many. Beliefs that, when acted upon, negatively impact the freedom of our brothers and sisters, and literally sanction the right to harm people they do not like for whatever reason.
You see, conservatives may be big on reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, with its declaration of “one nation … with liberty and justice for all,” but when they say those words they don’t really mean them, not for allpeople in any event. No, they don’t see anyone other than themselves as entitled to freedom, equality and justice. And when they say they want their country back, they really mean they want to turn back the clock to the way it used to be before civil rights laws were passed to protect, however ineffectively, the rights of those who do not fit within the narrow definition of straight, white Christian men. And they are deadly serious about that agenda.
Many of you have grown up in an era where equal rights is assumed to be the norm, but let me assure you that for most of the history of our country, and I would argue, this includes the present time, that has not been the case. Feminism as a movement did not exist until the late 60s and early 70s. The movement for “Gay Rights” originated in the seventies, but really only began to see significant progress over the last 15 years or so. And the right to vote for all intents and purposes did not exist for black people when I was born, and schools all over the South were still legally segregated despite the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The following image reflected the intense backlash of extending any rights to black people back then:
One year, before our family moved away from North Carolina forever, the NAACP and other civil rights groups circulated a petition in our neighborhood. It contained a simple statement asking the state to dismantle the numerous legal barriers that prevented most blacks in the state from exercising their right to vote. My parents signed the petition. What my parents failed anticipate was that their neighbors would see my parents’ names on that list when the volunteers seeking signatures for the petition knocked on their doors, and what our neighbors’ reaction would be.
Within a day, my parents were shunned by all their so-called friends in our little development in Cary, and their children were prohibited from coming to our home to play with my siblings and I, and we were not allowed to visit our friends in the neighborhood at their homes. Eventually this “shunning” subsided so that once again we could play with the other kids, but the my parents’ relationships with our neighbors never really recovered from the incident. My folks had broken the single most important rule in southern society back in then – never, ever do anything to show support for the rights of colored people. In other words, never do anything to oppose the doctrine of white supremacy.
So, when I hear someone say that they want to taketheir country back, I cannot help but look at the person making that statement and wonder, which country do they want? The one that used police to bust up unions? The one that made lynchings a celebratory outing? The one that preached a woman should be happy staying home, raising the kids and catering to her husband’s every whim? The one where homosexuals hid their sexual orientation from all but their closest confidantes out of fear their careers and lives would be destroyed, and that they would be disowned by their families? The one where black people could not eat in the same restaurants at which white people ate, or drink from the same water fountains, or attend the same schools or live in the same neighborhoods or ….
I don’t want my country back. I want a better country. One that truly provides liberty and justice for all people. And I certainly don’t want a country where anyone can discriminate against anyone else of whom they do disapprove and escape liability for that immoral and otherwise unlawful act under any pretext, be itfreedom of religion, racial superiority or traditional values.