My wife and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary yesterday. After twelve years of loving, monogamous, commitment to each other, we were finally married by the state of Massachusetts in 2009. We had a destination wedding, not because it was fashionable, but because our own state did not legally allow our marriage. It took another six years for the Supreme Court to rule that our marriage is legal in this country.
Regardless of the law, it is still an act of defiance and political action for me to simply hold my wife’s hand in public in most places in this country.
That’s why I feel a kinship with the professional athletes taking a knee to speak out against racial injustice. The players are taking a stand for millions who have no voice. I can get behind that. We are all Americans who simply want to be fully included in America.
Every time a marginalized group dares to assert their full rights as citizens, those with privilege shout about disrespect. They’re disrespecting our country! They’re disrespecting marriage! They’re disrespecting the flag!
I see a pattern here.
Every civil rights movement is met with the same righteous indignation.
A former colleague of mine said to me yesterday: “We all worry about changes to society as a whole.”
What changes? Full inclusion in America? Equality? The ability to walk down the street and not be stopped or followed around in a store? My ability to hold my wife’s hand in public?
Those of us who have had to fight for every inch of acceptance get the same angry response every time. We’re disrespecting some notion of America that for some reason shouldn’t include us.
The players have consistently said they are protesting racism that still exists on behalf of those who have no voice. How can I be offended by that?
Although I cannot fully understand what my fellow citizen’s of color must endure simply because of their skin color, I hear their cries for equality. Just like the relentless push back on race began almost immediately following the Civil War and passage of the 13th and 14th Amendments, the backlash against Gay rights has been fierce from the moment SCOTUS said my marriage was valid. So, I get it. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.
We are all Americans. We just want to be treated the same as you.
Our flag represents equality for all. But that equality has been denied our fellow citizens who are African American since before our country was even the United States. Until my country no longer fears and criminalizes my friends’ blackness, I will kneel alongside them in solidarity. Justice requires it.