Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The times they are a'changin'?

I was reminded by Adam Liptak's report on the Supreme Court's historic punt on gay marriage that in 1967, interracial marriage was illegal in 24 states. Not only that, but a majority of Americans supported banning it. The SC took that case, and declared the bans unconstitutional -- you know, that pesky 14th Amendment -- but honestly folks, that wasn't very long ago.

This is a salutary reminder for me because I've lived in something of a bubble as a New Englander from a liberal, well-educated family. I entered high school in the same year that the court ruled on interracial marriage, and although I wouldn't call Andover (also attended by George W. Bush) a hotbed of pinkoism in those days overt racism was definitely out of bounds and I can't recall encountering it. The black kids even had a bit of cachet as the Civil Rights movement was broadly inspirational in that cultural milieu.

As a community organizer in Philadelphia's poor white Fishtown neighborhood I encountered profound, grotesque racism, pretty much for the first time. So yeah, I knew it existed but that was a brief phase as I went on to graduate school and spent most of my adult life traveling in progressive circles and working in multicultural environments. So the real world out there, full of racists and creationists and homophobes is exotic to me. It's really hard for me to appreciate how commonplace ignorance and bigotry really are.

Ergo, I always struggle to understand why people vote for lunatics who believe, or claim to believe, in crazy ideas and are fully and publicly committed to working against those voters' best interests. It's sobering. On the other hand, who would have thought just 5 years ago that there would be majority support for same sex marriage in the U.S.? Racism has been very slow to fade, if it's fading at all right now, but for whatever reason, this particular form of irrationality is dying fast. Maybe there's hope for the rest of the reality agenda.


robin andrea said...

I entered 10th grade in New Jersey 1967. I met my first real boyfriend in my homeroom. He was mixed race. I actually got called n*gger-digger by people driving by on the streets. I hid the relationship from my parents (and mostly everyone else). It's interesting to consider the change in attitudes about same-sex marriage. But ignorance still blares loud and clear. In fact, it surprises me just how close-minded and stupid people can still be.

mojrim said...

You are continually surprised, and will continue to be so, because you misconstrue their "best interest" by assuming humans are rational actors. Anthropology tells us, in times of existential uncertainty, people cling harder to their tribe and its attendant morality. This has good evolutionary reasons but is subject to manipulation by sophisticated moderns. Until the left fully understands tribalism and the power of cultural memes it will continue to be blindsided by things like this.