When you see someone acting ugly or doing something that crosses one of your values, what do you do?
Do you consider that maybe there’s more to the story and give them room for having their reasons?
Do you ignore them and wish for them to go away, all the while hoping they don’t hurt someone first?
Do you tell them they’ve crossed a line?
I ask you, what do you do?
I’ve made a concerted effort to not engage in social politickin’ and have been mostly quiet on Russia, immigration, pizzagate, tariffs, spygate, tax cuts, various versions of lock-them-up, corruption, decorum, the deficit, HUD policy…I could go on… Healthcare and LGBTQ issues are the two areas where I’ve felt compelled to comment, though (I did say ‘mostly quiet’).
Why have I held my tongue? Well, because I’m not sure any of you need me adding to the bickering and often over-dramatised craycray in American politics. It seems that most of the political huffing and puffing (including interweb commenters and social media posters) isn’t intended to address problems, it just generates attention. Since life is short, I keep my comments to myself and stay focused on what matters.
By now you’re asking “so what?”.
Why am I telling you all this? I’m setting the stage for a discussion about something that really bothers me: Treating anyone, regardless of their label, as if they don’t matter is not how I was raised.
I’m aware that we haven’t eradicated all bias, prejudice, or injustice, but I did think we’d driven it underground. You know what I mean, the kind of bias that people might be ashamed of, so they at least don’t plaster it on a sign.
Apparently, I’m wrong. There are still some things that people are willing to post in large letters on posterboard.
So let’s walk down memory lane.
Then you can tell me whether this recent news item is as disturbing as the anti-immigrant, pro-segregation days of the 20th century.
This sign dates back to a time when restaurants and other establishments freely discriminated against non-whites. For more info, check out Latino USA’s ‘No Mexicans Allowed: School Segregation in the Southwest’.
This one came from the University of Maryland’s Baltimore County online gallery. It’s a stark reminder of times when America freely discriminated on the basis of color. Can you imagine telling someone today that dogs and pick-a-label-for-someone couldn’t enter? Dogs, yes. People?
Another sign, this time banning Irish job applicants.
I could keep searching for pictorial evidence of historical, overt discrimination that is now outlawed and socially unacceptable but I think y’all get my point. Plus, I’m getting kind of bummed about picking through our cultural rubbish bin. Let’s move on to the real point of this, shall we?
What label would you pick that could make a sign like those above seem reasonable?
Or are all signs of this nature discriminatory? Even the one below?
A store in Tennesee has had this sign up for about three years, according to Snopes. Several news sources (just google ” no gay amyx” and you’ll find them all) say Amyx Hardware put this sign up in 2015 or thereabouts.
The store owner apparently replaced it for a few days with one about constitutional freedoms, which is marginally better. At least it would have been if he hadn’t put the original sign back up.
I have to ask, though, if someone walked into your hardware store and they happened to buy a hammer or some paint while also being LGBTQ, what does that have to do with your freedom of speech or religion? I may be unclear on the concept but I’m pretty sure the label – their identity – doesn’t affect your freedom to practice your religion or say your piece. Unless, of course, you bring it up.
Is that what happened? Did you offend someone or did they offend you and now you feel like you can’t have any of “them” in your store? Has the sign brought you peace?
I’m all for our constitutional freedoms. Recall, however, that folks based their racial discrimination on the same principals and we eventually decided (well, most of us), that we didn’t cotton to discrimination. As folks around here would say, ‘that dog don’t hunt’.
So, you’ve seen the sign now. You’ve read my thoughts.
What do you do?
Here’s what I’m doing.
I’m telling my LGBTQ friends that they matter.
I’ve made our family business a politics-free, religion-free zone. (These have been the rules for years – we all co-exist relatively peacefully and without judgment – Never-Trumpers and MAGA-hat wearers alike.)
And if I lived in Tennessee and needed something from the hardware store, I’d shop somewhere besides Amyx Hardware, partially because I think discrimination is wrong and partially because I think the owner doesn’t know how to deal with folks that disagree with him. Life’s short enough without adding more ugly to my life.