March 31, 2016:
Selectively acknowledging injustice is highly problematic. Even more so, is when one invokes their religion or freedom of conscience to justify discrimination and hate. Case in point, many religious people see no problem with LGBTQ persons being denied certain rights and freedoms – or even killed – because “the bible says…”
Others say nothing because it doesn’t affect them. It doesn’t affect me personally either, still, I see a glaring problem when a gay or trans person is denied access to services – whether essential or non-essential – or when a man is beaten for having a tad too much swing in his hips or flair to his wrists.
During the eras of the abolition of slavery and the anti-segregation and civil rights movements, many white persons invoked the bible as justification for them holding slaves, for denying black people basic human rights and freedoms and for denying inter-racial couples from being seen together in public or marrying.
Mind-boggling, right? Yet, there were scriptures used to justify the enslavement of black people by virtue of us being descendants of Ham and us being born to serve. I can ask any black Christian if they believe that and their answer would most likely be no. But they would probably say homosexuality is wrong because the bible says so.
Today, people are fighting tooth-and-nail to deny LGBTQ people their rights, much like the anti-abolitionists fought to keep my ancestors their slaves and pickin’ cotton. Now, don’t get me wrong, everyone has a right to believe (or not believe) in whatever they want, however, the buck stops right there.
No one has a right to impose their beliefs on anyone or deny them their rights just because they don’t believe they should have those rights. I can guarantee that there are still quite a few white folks who don’t believe that I, as a black person, should be doing anything but working their fields and calling them ‘massa’. And they could have their way and justify it too, as there are quite a few scriptures to back them up.
Some of these people can be seen out there carrying banners and wearing white t-shirts entitled: “Make America Great Again” and “Make America White Again”. Now, America was never purely white racially, so I can only assume they mean to make it the way it was when white supremacism was very visible and they didn’t have to subtly show their discontent with the way things are, but could simply do a public lynching or grab some neighbours, throw on a couple white sheets and burn a cross on my front lawn. That’s how they dealt with ‘troublemakers’, you know, all these non-white people talking about rights and justice and trying to disrupt their privilege.
Okay, let’s get back to my argument about the selective acknowledgment of injustice. What does that have to do with slavery and gay people? Nothing and everything at the same time. They’re totally different issues, right? Maybe. But those who have made others to suffer have cited religious freedom a whole lot, which is always at the expense of those who have suffered. And it’s not limited to slavery either, which predominantly affected blacks.
Native Americans, Jews, Irish, Gypsies, practitioners of indigenous religions such as vudon, Japanese and Mexicans have suffered at the hands of those citing religious freedom or freedom of conscience. Christians themselves have suffered discrimination over the centuries. Yet here we are.
Countless atrocities have been committed in the name of religion over centuries, and countless more continue to be committed today. At one pole, there’s ISIS spreading religious extremism, forcing conversions to Islam and killing countless people along the way, while at the other pole is the system of discrimination and hate that sometimes leads to death.
But those are extreme cases, they’re not the same, right? It’s like one of my favourite historical figures and civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” Sooner or later, in a completely different aspect, your freedom may be on the line. What then? Will it only be discrimination when it directly affects you or someone you care about? Will you only express your righteous anger then? By then, your cry of ‘but I’m not like those people’ may also be seen to have no merit, much like the ones who are crying now.