These times we are living in seem so promising so far as concerns tolerance and maturity in certain regards. When I started public schools in the late 60’s, mine was somewhat of a pioneer generation unawares. We all went to school together. Blacks, Whites, Latinos. There was no distinction, at least in terms of the right to be present. And we were somewhat unaware of the greatness of the moment. Since we were all together from the beginning, there was never any question of who belonged. We all belonged. That was just the way it was. As it always should have been. I am certain that our parents, Black and Whites alike were amazed and bewildered. I am certain most would not have imagined, even 15-20 years before, that the day would come that everyone would be allowed in public schools, with the sole distinction being age and location of residency, rather than race and ethnicity.
At the risk of breaking my arm by patting myself on the back, I am proud to be a product of the education system of the late 60’s-late 70’s. We were a pioneer generation, and I am proud of that. We were the “NAACP-ism” generation (Never Again Allow Childish Practices). The generation that concerned ourselves with the plight of the underdog and the rights of the downtrodden. We were the generation attempting to right ancestral wrongs by making things right for everybody. And in so many ways, we have made and continue to make great strides towards even more profound social maturity and toleration.
As hard as it is to imagine, even during my lifetime “mixed” marriages were illegal. Today, the president of these United States is “mixed”. Is that not beautiful? And yet the strides and accomplishments of what I term the “NAACP-ism” generation does not limit itself to progress in terms of race relations. For just as there was a time not so long ago when black children and white children were not allowed the joys of public education side by side, likewise there was a time when true love by same gender partners were denied the recognized social status enjoyed by traditional “husband and wife” sorts. And so it is that even 15 years ago I would not have envisioned living in a society which recognizes the legal status of same gender marriage, yet here we are on the verge of crossing that threshold, so to speak. I am proud to know that during my lifetime society will have matured to the level of recognizing equality in terms of public education, and legal recognition in terms of same gender marriages. I truly believe that within 20 years same gender marriages will be somewhat “the law of the land”, if not on a Federal level at least in most of our 50 states.
And so it seems so odd that during times which indicate maturity and tolerance, that we should be witnessing a reversion to the old days in terms of women, race, and violence. Reproductive health for women has not been so openly challenged on the legal level for 40 years. Under handed efforts to deny a woman the right to reproductive health, social guidance, and the freedom to abort an early term pregnancy are ruling the day in the way of State legislatures who are grossly curbing the availability of proper medical care to women. The dark ages of back alley abortions may one day return, and that without even having to repeal “Roe vs Wade” if these patriarchal State legislatures can seemingly eliminate a woman’s access to proper medical facilities.
And then there is the subject of guns and “kill at will”;er-uhm, I mean “stand your ground” laws. As hard as it is to imagine, the “shoot ‘em up cowboy” generation rides again. Patriarchal pop gun artists rule the day, once again by way of our ever powerful State legislatures. Not only is “the right to bear arms” on the breath of the patriarchal pop gun artist types, now on a state by state basis (generating mostly in my beloved South I might add) the law supports the liberty to kill at will when one “feels threatened” instead of pursuing retreat to safety as the sensible option. Frankly, the “shoot ‘em up cowboy” era of common citizens carrying loaded guns with the liberty to kill instead of retreat era is a radical reversion to days best left to Dime Novels and Sunday afternoon Western marathons. This is real life. These are real bullets. This is real death.
If there is one lesson to be learned from the George Zimmerman “trial”, it is to realize that our society is not mature enough to be entrusted with loaded guns and the right to legally kill. Inasmuch as I provided an idealistic view of race relations in this country based upon a long overdue integrated education system, the fact is that we have a long way to go in regard to our overall racial relations. Frankly, racism still all too often rules the day, and racial profiling is all too often the way of those who carry guns and “protect” the streets. If ever such a day existed, and if ever such a wrong was experienced it was realized in the way of the George Zimmerman acquittal.
There were many guilty parties in the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin incident. Trayvon Martin was guilty of being black. George Zimmerman was guilty of being a racist. George Zimmerman was guilty of racial profiling. The legal system was guilty of empowering an armed racist with gunpowder residue and the fresh blood of his victim on his hands to walk away completely free, as though nothing ever happened. And worse yet, the law further empowers this same racist to carry the same gun which ended the life of Trayvon Martin. Whose crime against society which lead to the encounter with Zimmerman was: Being black.
People, these are turbulent times. State legislatures are hindering women from proper health care, while enabling armed racists to patrol the streets. As the father of three young adults in their 20’s, I ask these questions of this generation:
What do you want for your generation? “NAACP-ism” (Never Again Allow Childish Practices)? Or do you want “NRA-ism” (Nuts Regulating Atrocities”)?
What do you want? What is the right thing?