The tragedy of the rising number of suicides of young gay people has brought national attention to the issue of both bullying and homophobia in the United States. Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better Project,” a series of user-generated videos reassuring gay youths that life becomes exponentially better after the trauma of high school, has exploded from a simple YouTube project to a full-fledged national campaign. But beyond the confines of teenage bullying, some have vocally addressed a need for the national conversation to go a step further. Richard Kim, senior editor of The Nation, argued:
When faced with something so painful and complicated as gay teen suicide, it’s easier to go down the familiar path, to invoke the wrath of law and order, to create scapegoats out of child bullies who ape the denials and anxieties of adults, to blame it on technology or to pare down homophobia into a social menace called ‘anti-gay bullying’ and then confine it to the borders of the schoolyard.
It’s tougher, more uncertain work creating a world that loves queer kids, that wants them to live and thrive.
Similarly, on last week’s episode of Need to Know, Jon Meacham delivered a video essay on the “culture of anti-gay hate” in America invoking the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and anti-gay remarks by politicians. He compared today’s intolerance of gays to that of blatant racial discrimination of the Jim Crow era. One reader commented on this comparison:
The article assumes that we are past the ‘Jim Crow’ era. That is false … ‘Jim Crow’ has gone underground. It isn’t so overt as it was in the past. Today, instead of clearly calling it out by race, we have put the burden on the legal system … While the laws look like they are for everyone, we have selective enforcement allowing segregation to thrive.
I think that the real question is: ‘Why does our society need to have someone to discriminate against?’ We have done it to blacks. We have done it to Mexican Americans and Native Americans. We did it to the Japanese Americans in WWII. We have done it to homosexuals. Today, many towns are enacting laws keeping some people from living within their borders. How can we move past discrimination at all?
What do you think? How does a society manage to move past a seemingly endless cycle of discrimination? Weigh in at the comments below.