I remember buying snacks at the “abarroterías” in Panamá. These were local “sell a bit of everything” stores. If you were hungry you could purchase a slice of cheese with four crackers and an Orange Crush. Older folks could buy one or two cigarettes at a time. A mother could buy a half stick of butter. In my area these stores were mostly run by Chinese immigrants.
I remember watching the poorly dressed vendors we made fun of because of the way they spoke Spanish, because they ate different kinds of food, because they ate with two sticks, and because they lived in a tiny hole behind the store. These people we were making fun of were steadily adapting to the Panamanian culture. They owned the little stores and adapted it to the poverty amongst where they lived. They sent their kids to the best schools even as they lived in these less than favorable places. These Chinese immigrants for the most part did not practice our religion and had different values. Not wrong values but different values.
The children of this discriminated group are now merchants, store owners, and business people in the Panamanian society. Most of those and the children of those that were intolerant and that inflicted prejudice on this group are still in the same state. Their financial progress seems inversely proportional to their intolerance. Inasmuch as many were intolerant of these people there was no codified legal doctrine that made them less than.
Now fast forward to North Carolina in 2012 and for that matter 25+ states that are opposed to same sex marriage. These states have codified discrimination. While on one hand they claim to support the family unit as well as a limited government that stays out of one’s personal lives, their tenet does the diametrical opposite. They think by imposing their values and opposing values and lifestyles they do not understand or are thought to be morally wrong they are doing the right thing.
Codifying the prohibition of gay marriage is no different than codifying interracial or interfaith marriage. It is no different than separate and unequal. The opposition of the binary family structure of two consenting adults irrespective of gender makeup is patently wrong as it is the imposition of values some on others. One particular marriage make up has no bearing on another.
What this discrimination does however is make all the advantages of marriage unavailable to same sex couples. It means advantages that make life easier for a society biased for married couples are made that much difficult for gay couples.
It was with great dismay that in reading the North Carolina polls I noticed two out of three blacks voted to support the constitutional amendment denying this right to same sex couples. Hispanics tend to have the same outlook as well. This is a troubling outcome giving that these two groups understand discrimination. They understand that a society that affords more rights to some than others materially affects the aggrieved. Yet because of their devotion to an interpretation of their religion they find this prejudice justifiable. It is incumbent on the leaders in these communities to communicate the reality that anyone showing any type of discrimination legitimizes discrimination by others on them and will be used when the first opportunity arises. Just like the purveyors of prejudice against the Chinese immigrant remained in their same state because placing resources in hating does little to move one forward , so it will for the vast majority of those that are the most forceful opponents of supporting unadulterated rights for all.
The Chinese immigrants in Panamá overcame much of the prejudice against them because it was not codified. Blacks and Hispanics are making progress in this country because codified racism was rolled back. We must not codify the denial of rights of gays and not expect the results to be anything but negative.
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