Bruce Parker

What Good People Cannot Seem to Understand...

Filed By Bruce Parker | December 02, 2005 5:28 AM | comments

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You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom. You can only be free if I am free. - Clarence Darrow

No, Proposition 622 won't prevent hatred and violence from being directed at gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered folks. No, Proposition 622 won't bring an end to the massively upsetting statistics of lgbt teenage suicide. It is only honest for those of us supporting this proposition to answer these questions honestly when confronted with them.

I spend my days teaching multicultural education to future teachers at Purdue University in the department of Curriculum and Instruction. If my fifty undergraduate students can grasp the concept, I am confident that a few members of the city council can figure it out as well.

Shall we start with the basics? Ending slavery, giving blacks the right to vote, and affirmative action haven't prevented the continuing disproportionate amount of black families living in poverty or the shamefully low rates of blacks in higher education. For instance the fifty future teachers that I teach at Purdue are overwhelmingly white. Of the two nonwhite students neither are black. Hate crimes against black folk are still overwhelmingly upsetting. Now, ask me if I think that the fact that these things are still problems means that there is no need to maintain our commitment to the above-mentioned lays and public policies? Most of us would say that question is ridiculous. The reason why? Well it is an easy question to answer.

People are afraid of difference and like to feel superior to others. The government can't change that. What it can do is send a message that hatred and judgment has no place here. I don't believe this ordinance will stop discrimination. I do believe it is a start. It is a group of 29 elected officials saying that are uncomfortable with people being fired for who they are or whom they sleep with. Maybe just maybe the message the Indianapolis doesn't support hatred will impact the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered folks perceptions of themselves. Maybe for a teenager to hear that the government doesn't think its okay to treat gay people badly will think twice before killing themselves because they are gay.

Laws don't immediately change reality. They do shape long-term social responses to issue. Don't avoid the conversation by saying it is a useless law. It is a glass of water for 1 out of 10 people who are lost wondering in the desert. It is not enough to keep people alive forever but still who wouldn't drink what they are given


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Well put Bruce. Too often they come at us with these statements -- like will it stop suicides -- which are impossible to predict or even correlate to each other. Let's be honest -- no law ever stopped a suicide. But creating that atmosphere of inclusion -- in this case, the government saying we don't tolerate discrimination and hatred -- means people can begin to breathe a little freer. It won't change hearts and minds overnight, but it does allow a modicum of relief for those in danger.

By the way, I think the comments posted to the Indy Star question the other day should be printed and sent to ALL 29 of these city councilmembers. Of course, the majority of the Republicans have already decided this is a good issue to get reelected on. But maybe they will begin to see intolerance for what it is. Maybe if we changed the target to blacks or hispanics in the comments, they would begin to see how intolerable such attitudes really are.

Sad that we have to convince people first that we are a discriminated against group too gain the same basic rights and freedom from fear that they have as a birthright.

It all makes perfect sense. Now we just have to get them to see that too. The City-Council must send a message to Indianapolis citizens that they care about ALL their constituents and want them to be treated fairly. This issue has nothing to do with sex - it has everything to do with equality and civil rights!