My parents taught me from the beginning to treat all people the same. If that person earns your mistrust, fine. But don’t automatically judge people by the way they look.
My mother taught in a school district where most students were Hispanic or black. She brought many of those kids home to our house for a couple of hours on weekends to play with me and my brothers. For most, it was the first time they had been out of their neighborhoods.
I didn’t care. I just enjoyed playing with other kids.
Hate is something that you learn. Racism is something that you learn. I never learned those things as a kid, and that has carried into my life as an adult. Of course, the same can’t be said of everyone. (Lest anyone think differently, I am not trying to say I am perfect. Far from it).
I remember when I was stationed in Arkansas in the Air Force. I played music on weekends with some guys, including a black drummer named Roy. I remember every time we walked into a store, employees would keep an eye on Roy, often following him around – although trying to be stealthy about it.
I finally brought it up to him and Roy said that was just a fact of life for him. As a black man, he was always a suspect in the eyes of many people. That made me crushingly sad and incredibly angry.
Discrimination is always bad, and I for one am glad we have laws that forbid it. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen with shocking regularity. Not only because of skin color, but also religion, sexual orientation – you name it.
Just recently, the current administration asked the Supreme Court to declare that federal law allow private companies to fire workers based only on their sexual orientation. That would basically legalize discrimination against gay Americans.
Now, some of you are fine with that. I am sorry you feel that way and am glad to say the world is moving away from those beliefs, but people have the right to feel how they feel.
But imagine if a business you worked for fired you only because you are straight? How about a business that won’t hire you because you are white? How about because you have kids? Or are a Christian? Or are an atheist?
The list could go on and on and on. Discrimination is wrong, period.
And can we please just agree that this is not a left vs. right issue? I know plenty of folks on both sides of the political divide who don’t understand how this is even an issue. For younger people, this makes older Americans seem out of touch and living in the stone age.
Younger Americans generally don’t have the same hang ups as their parents or their grandparents. It has always been that way. They are more accepting and more open to our rapidly changing world.
They also seem to understand that people are black, white, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, atheist, short, tall, male, female – whatever. And they don’t care. At all. People come in a bunch of different varieties, but they are still people.
We cannot legislate our own morality. Isn’t that what we scream about countries in the Middle East doing?
Ultimately, America can’t be a country with legal discrimination. That is not what we are about. That is not Freedom. That is not American.