Discrimination and Recognition
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The eyes of the American people were focused today on two opposite dimensions of discrimination. The country is mourning as President Obama delivered the eulogy at the funeral of State Senator Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. America is mourning his death and those of eight others murdered last week in a racist attack during their Bible study session in the Church. At the same time most Americans are celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming the fact that the federal constitution guarantees same sex marriage to all people in the country regardless of where they live.
On the one hand, the country is witnessing how deep and serious racial discrimination remains in the United States. On the one hand, the Court, in deciding to remove all remaining legal barriers in the United States to the acceptance of same sex marriage, was stepping forward and assuring the entire LGBTQ community that there can be no legal, discriminatory barriers anywhere in the country against gay citizens.
The issue here is clear. Same sex marriage as a national concern is relatively new. Historically in the U.S. it was a matter that faith communities addressed but the political process barely took note of this issue in the United States before the Stonewall riots in June 1969. It is fair to suggest that the progress made in 46 years is extraordinary.
With respect to racial discrimination, there was terrible poignancy in watching an African-American president recount not only the progress made in race relations in the U.S., but also the long ugly history of racism in the country. While reaching out to console the bereaved, Obama noted with deep sadness how much still needs to be accomplished to reduce racial hatred in the United States; beginning with elimination of displaying the Confederate flag on the South Carolina Capitol grounds.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation appears likely to disappear rapidly as most Americans have begun to accept the gay community as an integral part of society. Despite slavery, the Civil War, Constitutional amendments, reconstruction, Supreme Court cases, the Civil Rights movement, and even an African American President, deep seated racism persists in many places in America. Demand for political leadership throughout the country, from both parties, without a Black president leading the charge is obviously necessary; as it is for gun control as well.
Discrimination based on color is much harder to eradicate than discrimination based on sexual orientation. Hatred cannot be eliminated in either case by legislation or court rulings. It appears, however, elimination of racism still has a very long way to go.