Friday, March 23, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #49 - Part 5

Homophobia and racism are not "yesterday's news."

This is a topic that deserves a much fuller treatment than I'm going to give it here, but do want to raise it this way; maybe I will do it more justice in a future show.

The topic is quite simple, the outrage quite obvious: It's the persistence of bigotry in our society. I'm going to give you two recent examples.

Indiana has a large number of specialty automobile license plates where for an extra fee, you can have a plate showing your support for a particular organization or cause. When I worked there, there were dozens and I understand there are even more now. This year, an outfit called the Indiana Youth Group was approved for a specialty plate after several years of trying.

This is it, this is the plate:

Obviously your own license plate number would go where the word "pride" is.

What's the problem? It's that Indiana Youth Group is a support group for gay and lesbian young folks.

Well, when the fine upstanding members of the Indiana legislature heard about this, well, they weren't going to stand for it - especially not after the notoriously right-wing American Family Association - labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center - told them the plates amounted to the state "promoting the homosexual agenda to children."

In the last week of the legislative session, members tried different ways to revoke the group's specialty license. When those failed, they turned to getting the group's contract with the state canceled based on a claimed technical violation of the contract - one which, if it is a violation, is one of which almost every other group with a specialty plate is equally guilty, a fact confirmed by a representative for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

No matter, on March 16 the plate was cancelled - a day after that BMV spokesperson was fired.

And then we have this.

This image went viral, with some folks claiming that it was photo-shopped, that it couldn't be real. But some folks at Yahoo! news were able to locate a website that sold it. It is quite real.

The owner of the site insisted that that's not racist. She doesn't have a racist bone in her body! After all, she likes black children! In fact, she's so not racist, she insisted that the word "nigger" is not racist. (By the way, says the word "is now probably the most offensive word in English.")

Another site that it appears actually produced such stickers and well as others was called Stumpy's Stickers. Among the entries in its catalog of delights was this charmer:

That is something I don't even want to have to know exists.

I'll tell you something else I don't want: I don't want to hear a single breath, a single hint, a single whisper, they were are a "post-racial society." Anyone who says that to you is lying, either to you or to themselves, I don't know which. But the fact is that we are suffused with racism and sexism and homophobia - we are steeped in our bigotry until it penetrates our souls.

Yes, it's getting better. Yes, it has been worse in the past. Yes, gay rights are gaining ground. Yes, even in the torrent of anti-women legislation, even in the backsliding, there still is only so far back the troglodytes will be able to turn the clock. We do not and will have to re-fight all the old battles. Yes, we can see an impact, we can see how bigotry now is usually expressed more with a wink and a nod, with dog whistles, not with overt filth of the sort I just showed. We can even see it in the fact that that woman is no longer selling that bumper sticker and Stumpy's Stickers has disappeared entirely.

But if you as an adult sitting there reading this think, if you want to argue to me, that the attacks on women's rights are not about sexism, if you want to argue to me that homophobia did not take down that Indiana license plate, if you want to argue to me that racism has nothing to do with why Trayvon Martin is dead and George Zimmerman is still walking around free, then I want nothing to do with you nor should any decent person of decent conscience with two synapses to rub together.


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