Discrimination is fundamental to humans. Fortunately, so is getting past it. Otherwise we would still be marginalizing Americans of Irish, Jewish, Italian, Catholic, Chinese, Middle European, German, Japanese, Indian and African descent. (Unhappily there will always be individual bigots, I am talking about institutional and societal discrimination).
We are moving past discrimination, in large part, because apocalyptic predictions of bad behavior on the part of these minorities have proven false. Every group, given the chance, has contributed.
Various slurs have been hung around the neck of every ethnic group – shiftless, drunk, lazy, conspiratorial, larcenous, predatory, sub-human, concupiscent, venal and dirty. Many people who came here had, in fact, some of these qualities, but no group “owns” any of them. The word that actually applies best to all of these groups is – hard working.
All these Americans have made it to the mainstream. The President is Black, 6 justices of the Supreme Court are Catholics and 3 Jews, the Speaker of the House is the son of a German-American tavern owner and the Senate Majority Leader is a Mormon – as is the Republican candidate for President.
But we still have a road to travel because two groups are still viewed with hostility and fear – gays and illegal aliens.
Gays are discriminated against because the Bible says they are sinners and because they have a “gay agenda”. Sound familiar? The same Bible was used to justify slavery and conspiracy theorists saw a “Jewish agenda” to take over the world’s banking system.
Illegal aliens are portrayed as criminally inclined and only here for government benefits – despite many studies showing that areas with illegal alien populations have generally lower crime rates than those without and that illegal aliens provide a huge economic benefit to this country.
But the fear and loathing is abating. In Minnesota, two prominent evangelicals have conspicuously refrained from telling their followers to vote for an anti gay-marriage measure in November. The second largest religious group in the state – Evangelical Lutherans – have voted overwhelmingly against the measure.
The majority of Americans now support gay marriage. The fact that so many states have passed constitutional amendments to disallow gay marriage is due to the drive, money and commitment of the minority against it and the lack of passion for the issue on the part of its supporters.
People who were passionately against gay marriage changed their mind when they discovered they had a gay child.
Businesses, that previously had stayed out of the debate, have increasingly come out in support of gay marriage. In Minnesota, General Mills, known for brands like Cheerios and Yoplait, is vocal in its opposition to gay marriage ban.
As gay marriage becomes more common and people see that nothing bad occurred it will become as un-noteworthy as mixed race marriages have become.
In the Republican primaries, conservative orthodoxy required any softening of absolute opposition to illegal immigrants to be resolutely countered. But demographics make that position untenable in the general election – Hispanics are the fast growing minority, and key in many swing states. President Obama thrust the issue into the spotlight with his executive order establishing a de facto Dream Act.
Mitt Romney – rolling out his “etch-a-sketch” campaign has walked away from his absolutism on illegal aliens and made some Dream Act suggestions of his own – allowing immigrants who serve in the military or who hold advanced degrees easier paths to citizenship. And expanding temporary work permits for low skilled workers.
Discrimination is ugly. To hold opinions about people you don’t know based on ethnic “characteristics” that are based on fear and ignorance is narrow minded. Hopefully we will get tired of the effort and run out groups to discriminate against.