Monday, February 17, 2014

Didn't We Bury Jim Crow?

Today I submitted the following (with some revisions per newspaper guidelines) to the Brookings Register (South Dakota) and the Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, South Dakota). A friend also hopes to read a version of it during two State legislative committee hearings this week.




Didn’t we bury Jim Crow decades ago?
           
You remember Jim Crow, don’t you? Lawful discrimination by “white” Americans against “black” Americans, especially in Southern states, often backed up by selective (mis)reading of Christian scripture and enforced by verbal, physical, legal and extra-legal intimidation. Jim Crow allowed the majority culture to systematize its hatredor at least its contemptfor a minority, thereby causing African-Americans to suffer economic and social disadvantages, if not loss of life and limb.

I’d thought we’d laid Jim Crow in the grave after winning the battle for civil rights. But some of our fellow South Dakotans, including too many of our elected leaders, keep trying to resurrect Jim Crow in different guises. Every year, it seems, the South Dakota legislative session seems to be an “open season” on the rights of somebodyNative Americans, women, the poor….

This year, for example, we have Senate Bill 128 and House Bill 1251, both being heard in legislative committees this week (Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon, respectively). As I understand them, these bills would make it legal for businesses to deny services or employment on the basis of sexual orientation. They would also deny the right to due process to anyone seeking legal redress for such discrimination. They would do all of this and more while wrapping the right to discriminate in the Red, White and Blue of the U.S. Constitution. 

Sigh. Here we go againhistory repeating itself. Only this time, instead of African-Americans, we’re trying to put lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people in “their place”….

Don’t try to sit down at my lunch counter. Don’t try to sit in the front of my bus. Don’t try to drink from my water fountain. Don’t try to swim in my pool….

You may not be one of them, but you’re one of those. So stay where you belong. Out of sight, out of mind. Out of luck….

If you don’t, I’ll make you pay, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me….

That’s what these bills amount to. Their sponsors might as well have used the “N” word. (Or the “F” word.)

I’m tired of slurs and hate, aren’t you? I’m tired of us trying to impose our religious beliefs and ethical values on our neighbors. I’m tired of faith being used as a sledge hammer to drive wedges. I’m tired of scripture being marshaled in support of prejudice, of the Constitution being turned upside down and inside out. I’m tired of bigotry masquerading as righteousness and patriotism.
           
These two bills are mean-spirited bills. Read them for yourself at http://legis.sd.gov. Cut through all the jargon and see them for what they are. Then contact your legislators. Furthermore, contact all the legislators on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House State Affairs Committee. Urge them to oppose these new “Jim Crow laws” and prevent them from reaching a vote on the floor.
            
Hatred is hatred, however disguised. Time to pick up a shovel. Gotta keep hate in the ground.


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