Thursday, May 10, 2012

Amendment One: I See Hateful People

Hateful. Ma called me that when I was little. The word summoned the image of darkness oozing out of my pores, crawling along my scalp, sliding down the strands of my snarled hair, until it filled the room like a black void. My hatefulness was the manifestation of wanting to be loved, demanding it, and wanting to destroy the world if I couldn’t have it. I felt the unfairness of Ma’s inability, probably due to postpartum depression, to bond with me. I emitted a mountain of emotion for so small a child, and my memories of it are still crisp. I know hateful when I see it.
North Carolinians, not every single one, but a majority, have shown their hatefulness, and it feels like a black void blotting out the Carolina blue sky and sunshine. Amendment One, a constitutional modification that states a marriage is between a man and a woman, was overwhelmingly passed on May 8th. The next day the rain poured down, thunder rumbled, lightening cracked open the sky, and the darkness at ground level caused me to switch on lights. “God must be crying,” I mused.
I thought that because God was plopped right into the middle of the debate. Both sides were quoting the Old Testament.
 As a vocal liberal, I’m sure most people don’t know that I am a born again Christian, as in I accepted Jesus as my savior in a private moment of epiphany. I live in contentment because of my choice. Until I wrote this post, I did not share that fact with many other people. I don’t shout it in the streets, thump my Bible, practice religion, go to church, and attempt to convert others, or tell people that God has spoken to me and that I am delivering a message. I also don’t tell people they are wrong if they do any of that. Everyone has a right to worship, or not, in the way they choose.
I try not to judge others, though I think we can all admit that can be difficult at times given our own imperfectness. I try to show compassion and love, as Jesus did, for all of mankind, maybe because I felt so unloved as a child.
So I am not condemning the people of North Carolina for their decision to pass this amendment. I condemn the amendment itself. I am deeply saddened and frightened by its passage and by the opinions and judgments expressed about the people this amendment targets, the GLBT population.
I saw the hatefulness in the remarks of a Fayetteville pastor who encouraged his parishioners to beat their children if they displayed behaviors, attitudes, or dress that veered from traditional gender roles. I saw hatefulness in the words spoken by a state senator’s wife who said the amendment was important to pass because the white race was diminishing and that “white people founded this country” and “it should be the country they founded.”
When the civil rights of one group are taken away, we are all diminished by the action. It has nothing to do with God. It has everything to do with discrimination, oppression, and hatred. It has to do with treating peers as unequal, as less than. 
Once it is socially acceptable to forcefully take the civil rights of one group away, it becomes easier and easier to target other groups.
Read my post “On Being a Creative Maladjusted” to learn how quickly Hitler rose to power and targeted groups for oppression, imprisonment, and death:
Look how Jim Crow laws gave permission to supposedly good people to torture and lynch blacks and prevent interracial couples from marrying. Look how government supported involuntary sterilization took away the reproductive rights of thousands of citizens. The darkness, the hatefulness, the fear, and the anger grow and grow inside people that might otherwise be fine citizens. A mob mentality takes over and erases all personal thoughts and actions.
The Southern cultural heritage is complicated and unresolved in my opinion. I’ve told people from down here that I am offended by the Confederate flag and what it symbolizes, and they’ve answered, “But that’s my heritage.” What does that mean, though? Do they acknowledge that their history is one of slavery, oppression, violence, and secession? Do they still cling to those beliefs? No one has ever given me a straight answer, so I can only go by what I see.
I see hatefulness. I see fear. I see aggression. I see the Southern stare.
Ronald and I coined the phrase “Southern stare” to describe what we often experience (and what I have often written about in my blog). The Southern stare is the way some people look at us. They bore their eyes into us, turn their heads, slow their pace, twist their bodies to get a better view, veer their cars across lanes, drop whatever else they are engaged in such as conversation or eating, and stare. They don’t speak to us or acknowledge us in any way. They just stare.
That leads me to believe, despite seeing quite a few interracial couples walking around besides us, that it still is not accepted. The amendment that made interracial marriages illegal in North Carolina was codified in 1875 and not removed from the state constitution until 1971, four years after the Supreme Court ruled anti-miscegenation laws illegal.  Is anti-miscegenation considered part of the Southern heritage?
Another thing we discovered is insularity. We are called Yankees. We are considered outsiders. We’ve been told we don’t belong here. It is apparent that since we don’t go to church, we are considered unworthy of friendship, and that’s been our experience with people of all races. It’s been difficult to make friends and acquaintances.
“Why stay there?” you ask. We aren’t sure that we will. We’ve asked ourselves that question a lot lately, because we feel that we’ve given it enough time but things haven’t gone as we had hoped. We’ve grown tired of conversations that are racist and one-sided, like people calling President Obama “your president” or telling my husband that they hate Tiger Woods, challenging him to disagree. We’ve grown wary of people who talk about carrying guns and shooting others or who veer their car in our direction as if they mean to hit us. (See my posts “Profiling Fatality”:
and “Do the Right Thing”:
to read about those two experiences).
Then we remember that we experienced racism in our old town up north, too.
One thing we both believe in is that we have a right to choose where we want to live. It is one of our civil rights and we exercise them with the belief that they are inalienable. We believe in them so strongly that we will fight for our right to exercise them. See my post “The Legacy of Racism” that talks about our housing discrimination suit:
However, we have been disturbed by the passage of Amendment One. It is a sign that civil rights can be taken away at will, with ill intent, and with the purpose of discriminating against targeted groups.
I don’t expect every person to like me or for me to like every person. That’s how humans are – some people have interests or circumstances in common that draw them together. Oftentimes relationships are formed based on cultural and racial commonality or similar values. Dislike is often caused by dissimilarity. But just because you don’t like someone or how someone lives, doesn’t mean you should act against him, especially if he does not cause harm to others.
Hate is different. Hate is a strong emotion. It takes energy to hate another human being. Hatred has the power to harm. Like in the case of taking away civil rights from groups who are different from the majority.
A lot of North Carolinians are upset about the bad press the state has gotten in the media. They are proud of the state, and I can see why. We wanted to claim this state as our new home. It is physically beautiful. And there is that whole thing about heritage, which, as a recent migrant, I am still trying to understand.
I watched comments fly back and forth on Facebook. People expressed offense over the meanness of certain comments that belittled all citizens of North Carolina, and I agree, there were some over-the-top ones and some terribly offensive generalizations made. There are very strong emotions on both sides of the fence.
People are shocked by the passage of this amendment now, at this time in our history.  The amendment has consequences for more than just the group of people it targets, and it diminishes our social ethos. Why would anyone deny another person the right to a mutual, consensual, loving, committed, stable relationship that protects both partners? In my mind, there was never a reason to put it out for a vote, other than to use hatred against a group and to wield power to keep them oppressed.
But then another thought entered my mind as the comments continued to fly back and forth. It isn’t the nicest thing I could think of to say, but it just seems right: When you bare your ass in public, don’t get upset when people talk about how big it is.
Amendment One is North Carolina’s ass hanging out for everyone to see and comment on. That isn’t said in hate. It is said with disappointment, sadness, fear, and wonder if we should stay in a state that can take away civil rights and use God and the Bible as the excuse to do it. This is not the first time and probably not the last time. There is a proud heritage of taking people’s civil rights away in this state.
I see hateful people. I’d like to think God had a really good cry after Amendment One was passed.

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