The New American Apartheid
Why we can’t wait to stop hate.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Standing before a crowd of thousands in Washington, D.C., the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. told audiences 45 years ago: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”
In what seemed to mark the partial completion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, Barack Obama was elected president in a landslide victory. Standing before a crowd of more than 200,000 people in Chicago, President-Elect Obama told the nation: “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”
For millions of Californians, his words already rang untrue.
THEY ARE YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF HOW INJUSTICE AND VIOLENCE ARE WROUGHT IN GOD’S NAME.
Though Obama’s election has created a sense of euphoria and a belief that all things are possible for all people, the passing of Proposition 8 by a 52 percent-48 percent margin (earlier, it had been losing by 17 percent) has cast a doubtful shadow over our national dream of equality. Nov. 4, 2008, will go down in history as a day when the United States overcame the hateful legacy of racism and slavery. It must also be remembered as the unfortunate day when California voters, including record numbers of historically disenfranchised black voters, decided to perpetuate the persecution of another minority. Exit polls showed that black voters supported Proposition 8 by a margin of 70 percent.
When Martin Luther King Jr. marched on Washington in 1963, his dream had gathered inertia, but it was far from being realized. The Supreme Court had made school segregation illegal nine years prior, but overt and violent racism was still a norm. In a 1958 Gallup poll, 94 percent of Americans disapproved of interracial marriage, a statistic showing the deep entrenchment of American apartheid.
Throughout the long history of slavery and segregation, religion was called upon to defend the undefendable. Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War, stated: “[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God… it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation.”
Just as religion was once used to justify slavery and segregation, it was used by the Yes on 8 Campaign to suggest that gay people are somehow different and lesser than straight people. Fliers distributed by the Yes on 8 campaign brazenly declare that “God himself is the author of marriage. Its meaning is written in the very nature of man and woman.”
California’s Nov. 4 decision to create a new system of apartheid was both ideologically and financially supported by religion. The Mormon Church is estimated to have contributed at least 50 percent of the more than $30 million raised by the Yes on 8 campaign.
South Africa is perhaps the only nation in the world with as virulent a history of racial injustice and apartheid as the United States. On Nov. 30, 2006, the National Assembly legalized gay marriage despite widespread religious protests demanding a same-sex marriage ban. South Africa, with its more recent experience with oppression by a tyrannous minority, denied these outcries and denounced the system of “sexual apartheid” and “separate but equal.” If South Africa can do it, why can’t we?
This week, dozens of leftover “Yes on 8” signs testify to the abundance of money funneled into the Yes on 8 Campaign. They do not represent religious righteousness; they are yet another example of how injustice and violence are wrought in God’s name. They represent not the triumph of tradition or God’s will, but the betrayal of the values upon which we Americans have built our country. In California, we realized the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. by a staggering percentage: 61.2 percent for Barack Obama. Why did we vote to dampen this bright day with discrimination against another minority?
This week, we herald the culmination of a great dream. Minorities all over the country are awakening rightfully reinvigorated by the hope that equality has been realized. Yet, millions of our separate but equal fellow citizens are awakening to a different dream, a nightmare that raises the question many Americans asked after Sept. 11.
Why do they hate us so much?