“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
― James Baldwin
Within the past several decades, as people take an increasingly nuanced look at their identity, many more identities have risen to the public awareness. These different identities aren’t new to the human race. There have been many representations of people identifying as queer and transgender etc. since people have existed. Whereas before, Western and specifically American culture has shunned and punished those who wore these identities proudly, there are more consequences to acting out hate and prejudice against queer and non-cis people. (I won’t talk about the rest of the world.)
However, as with all other types of prejudice, it can manifest in very subtle ways. Besides the sign-wielding, megaphone type of prejudice, the far more insidious half-suggestions and denials is more damaging in the long-term and harder to snuff out.
The refusal of people to use one’s chosen pronouns and name.
The refusal of others to recognise your partner, rather labeling your relationship as “good friends”.
The “it’s just a phase” from your parents
It’s the implication that you as a person is “ok” just as long as you’re not “too gay” or as long as you’re “reasonably passing”. Basically, what it means is that as long as people are able to assume that you’re cishet, then you’re good. This was the idea behind Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
People keep saying, “I’m okay with gay people, as long as…” To me, there are two points wrong with this. Besides what I said in the previous paragraph about performing “normality”, they’re identifying people first as gay and using that label to decide what they think about them before anything else. Not being cishet shouldn’t be a person’s identifying characteristics just as being cisgendered or heterosexual isn’t. Because having a particular sexual identity or sexual orientation doesn’t necessarily tell them any information about that person other than how they identify within/out the gender binary and who they find sexually attractive. That’s it. Second, just the fact that they have to say “you’re okay” with a person’s existence. You and I exist independently of what others think of us. It shouldn’t be within the ability of a person to judge another’s existence.
That is tolerating. Tolerating is you don’t get in my way, I won’t get in yours. There is still a sense of separation, an uneasy truce. Tolerating is my mother knowing my friend is bisexual and letting her stay the night but would disown me if she knew I was bisexual. Tolerating is the “equal but separate” treatment which everyone knows isn’t equal. It’s “you can exist as long as you don’t think you’re equal to me”.
That is why true acceptance is important. The response to “I’m gay.” should be “Cool.” and move on. It should be as easy as telling people your favorite color or pasta sauce. You don’t say, “It’s okay that your favorite color is yellow,” because it doesn’t need to be said; it’s not controversial, the other person wasn’t really expecting anything otherwise and it doesn’t say anything about you as a person besides the fact that you like yellow. This is what needs to happen not only for LGBTQ but also for things like mental conditions, disabilities etc. These are normal parts of being human and they need to be normalised.
That’s it for this time. I have a link for a 2016 essay on the intersection of race and sexual orientation that I couldn’t fit up there so if you wanna read it, check it out. This is Lieutenant and we’ll talk to you next time!
For this debate, I was in charge of the misconceptions about MLK’s role and motives in the Civil Rights Movement while my partner was in charge of what he actually did (or didn’t do) so I only have half the argument.
Synthesis and Thesis:
Abraham Lincoln is named the Great Emancipator in honor of his Emancipation Proclamation that freed most of the slaves during the Civil War as well as the passage of the 13th Amendment which outlawed slavery, both during his presidency. However, the decision to make slavery the center of American politics was not a simple one and Lincoln was far from doing it for moral reasons. Sure, he thought slavery was morally wrong but he was not willing to risk it being a national issue until the Civil War in which he used slavery as a moral weapon against foreign countries seeking to weaken the United States by supporting the secessionist Southern states. This sort of oversimplification of character is also seen in portrayals of Martin Luther King Jr. He was seen as the spiritual and moral leader of the movement and often the effectiveness of the movement is attributed to him alone. However, this is not true. The black civil rights movement was already under way when MLK became known as a leader. He was in a time when the social pressures were just right for him to exhibit his full abilities as an orator and an intellectual and his role as a leader didn’t mean that other more locally-based leaders of the Civil Rights Movement weren’t as essential to the movement. Rather, King put a face on the Movement and people looked up to him but he was far from being the universal leader everyone thinks he is.
- Rise to fame
- Montgomery speech
- Arranged by Rosa Parks and EB Nixon
- Was chosen to give speech
- Became famous for it
- Social Factors
- The counterculture of the 1950s and 60s were ripe for change
- Protests as early as the 1930s gave black community the foundation for further change
- They knew that organised protest often worked to get legislation passed faster
- Ex. Brown v Board of Education: segregated but not equal
- Not well-liked by everyone
- People thought he was working too slow due his insistence on nonviolent protest and some started their own militant group in opposition to this
- Even to his supporters, he was seen more as a role model rather than a leader
- They were determined to make their own efforts for the Movement and not to rely on MLK, therefore the Movement was less about MLK and more about the grassroots nature of locally-based protests nationwide
- Nonviolent Protest
- Used as a PR tactic to garner sympathy
- Gave the Movement good press
- More of a strategy rather than a moral decision
- Wasn’t only a spiritual and moral leader
- He was an intellectual who knew that just moving oratory wasn’t going to change anything
- He didn’t rely just on emotional appeal, he was highly practical and was involved in organising community efforts through “black community institutions, financial resources and grassroots leaders”
- Wasn’t as magnanimous or as omnipotent as he’s shown to be
- Admitted his own limitations multiple times throughout the duration of Movement
- Was initially fearful of harm being done to his family for being a prominent figure of the Movement
- Encouraged local leaders to take their own initiatives
- Concluding statement: King didn’t make the Civil Rights Movement; the Civil Rights Movement made him.