Late last week addictinginfo reported that the NAACP announced that they will support marriage equality and challenge efforts to codify discrimination into law. Still, the monumental importance of this news didn’t sink in till last Monday night as I listened to Rachel Maddow interview Ben Jealous, the president of the NAACP. Before his interview I listened half halfheartedly to the banter of yesterday’s show, but then I couldn’t help but stop and be captivated by video footage of Mr. Jealous being forced to pause as he spoke on this issue, overcome with emotion as he told how his parents had to go to Washington D.C. to marry because interracial marriage was illegal in Baltimore when they were wed. He seemed to fight back tears as he described how people thought that the wedding was a funeral when they saw a train of cars traveling together across state lines for a reception at home. I was captivated by his humanity both in the video footage and as he choked up again when the video ended and Rachel began her interview:
As a mother, as a former bullied child, and as a human being capable of empathy… this speaks volumes to me. The fact is that so long as we condone an attitude of ‘separate but equal’ in laws that divide us and restrict rights, like civil unions, or worse; so long as we write outright discrimination into our state and national constitutions, we are all guilty of bullying, hatred, and violating the civil rights of others.
It is not the time to sit idly and declare that this is an unimportant fight that belongs to someone else. I am not gay. I don’t want to marry anyone of the same sex. I could easily let this issue fall aside and waste not a single breath on it, but that would be wrong. Jealous brilliantly addressed this issue of whether the rights of homosexuals were of just concern for the NAACP (or anyone else, really) when he said, “This is an issue of our constitution. It is a matter of our laws, a question of how our government treats its citizens and ultimately whether we will let states codify discrimination into their constitutions and therefore make hate the law of their land.”
When Rachel asked why the NAACP wasn’t content to support individual state causes, he went on to say that, “We decided it was important to come out clearly for the entire country, to make it clear that we will fight these efforts wherever they pop up, we simply cannot stand by and watch one group be targeted for de jure discrimination, we have opposed de jure discrimination from our founding, the reality is the right-wing in this country is seeking to instill hate in the state constitutions and we can’t stand by no matter who the group is.”
Let’s repeat that one more time, lest we forget, “We cannot stand by and watch one group be targeted for de jure discrimination.” No. We cannot.
The president knows it. Ben Jealous knows it. I know it. You know it too. There are no excuses. There are no good reasons for hate, or separate but equal, or don’t ask don’t tell, or any of that mopey shame-y stuff anymore. As I watched this fine man speak last night, in my last moments before sleep, I heard the rumble of a stone of hope, being hewed from a mountain of despair. This small change in the atmosphere of our country is momentous. I am proud to witness it, as I was proud two weeks ago to watch President Obama express similar sentiments. Though the mountain of despair still stands, another holy stone of hope has gone rolling and I look forward to the landslide.