I just got taken for a ride by a very clever article about discrimination in the Daily Kos. While I have some conservative sentiments, I’ve never cared for the “take back America” mantra. Last I checked, America was never taken from us, so I’m not sure from whom we’re supposed to take it back.
This Kos article, by someone named Steven D, initially addressed that mantra, which caught my eye. The first half of it was an interesting account of young Steven’s life in N. Carolina towards the end of the “Jim Crow” era, as a white northerner. It was very courteous of him to note that these kinds of segregationist norms were uncommon in S. Dakota “probably because there were so few black people living in the Northern Plains states.” I’ve never appreciated how white northerners criticize the south for all of our history of racial strife, when they up north so rarely had to deal with it, so I’m glad Steven D notes that very important difference in circumstances. Well, even though I’m about to rip into this article, I’d still encourage you to read it, because the first half really is an excellent primary history source of segregation in 1950s North Carolina.
Now for the ripping.
While I agree with some of the points that followed, in particular that our criminal justice system continues to discriminate against blacks; in typical Kos fashion the article goes on to make ridiculous hasty generalizations against conservatives, and a series of other fallacious arguments I will explain. For one thing, Steven D seems to be suggesting that conservatives who say “I want my country back” want to go back to Jim Crow. I will admit that most such conservatives (who are more anachronistic than conservative by the way), most of them cherry pick the past. They probably want the prosperity and patriotism of the 1950s, and chose not to remember the segregation, much less the very high tax rates of the era. But while their memories may be selective, they are not racists, they are not closet racists, and furthermore, it is indeed possible to look to the past, maybe try to re-implement parts of the past you like while leaving behind the parts that you don’t. I for example would love to make America a manufacturing power house again, like we were in the 1950s. We don’t need segregated schools to have manufacturing jobs, and it would be absurd to tell me “you can’t cherry-pick, if you want to go back to the 50s, you have to have segregation too.”
What bothered me most about this article is that it engaged in the all too familiar leftist victim group umbrella tactic. That is, after deeply discussing racial discrimination in the past and present, it jumped into LGBT issues, feminism, Latinos, and any other “victim group” that the monolithic left seeks to homogenize into their narrow-minded political movement. The article made a clearly false claim about feminism – “Feminism as a movement did not exist until the late 60s and early 70s.” What about the women’s suffrage movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries? What about great classic feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft, who encouraged equality in education, reason and modesty?
Religious Freedom is a Problem?
The article then begins to attack religious freedom itself as a mere excuse for discrimination. So, if a cake decorator is religiously opposed to same-sex marriage, and therefore refuses to make a wedding cake for a gay wedding, that is to be called “discrimination” and the cake decorator punished? So, you’re entitled to your religious beliefs, but if they offend the left, you have to violate those very beliefs in public…because they’re offensive? As so often with the cleverly bigoted left, this is compared to the 1950s when blacks were refused service at restaurants.
Here are three reasons why that comparison is absurd. 1. In the 50s, the discrimination was widespread, and blacks were being denied very basic necessities such as hotels when they were on the road, food when they were hungry, etc. This greatly diminished their quality of life. One religious cake decorator refusing to make a cake will not diminish the quality of a gay couple’s life. There are plenty of cake decorators who don’t care, and would make them a cake. To compare one entitled gay couple who still had their wedding to a poor black family in the 50s who slept in their car because the hotel “doesn’t serve coloreds” – that is an insult! 2. Gay is not black. A black man walks in, you know he’s black. When racial discrimination is allowed, it’s far too easy to do so and degrade blacks in every way. The same would be true of any other skin color. A gay man walks in, do you know he’s gay? Some gay people don’t “act gay”. Some straight people are “metrosexual” (I’ve been known to set off a few gaydars myself). 3. There is a difference between refusing service simply because someone is gay, and refusing to be involved in a same sex wedding ceremony. While I am not against same-sex marriage myself, as an American, I will defend the right of fellow Americans to practice their religion as they see fit. This is not “discrimination”, it is freedom. To punish a cake decorator who refuses to make a wedding cake for a gay wedding is not ANTI-discrimination, it IS discrimination. This leftist tactic of comparing everything they hate to Jim Crow racism is a clear poisoning the well fallacy. Well, I don’t want to be racist, so I guess I’ll have to make a cake of a same-sex wedding ceremony.
This next part isn’t even good enough to be absurd
Of course, this is the Kos, and if you think what I’ve discussed above is the worst in this article…just read on. The article also made a beyond absurd argument that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana will somehow effectively discriminate against, well, any group the Kos wants to appeal to. Here are Steven D’s words – “Their efforts encompass attempts to limit the rights of a far wider range of people, from the poor, young people and students, women, Latinos, immigrants, the disabled and, of course, blacks. Anyone who thinks otherwise is frankly delusional.” WHAT?! I’m sorry, but due to my religious beliefs, I can’t serve poor people…that’s what Jesus would do. HUH?! Sorry, but I can’t serve coffee to you students who are cramming for an exam because, religion. REALLY?! Where did Steven D come up with this nonsense?
I found the ending to be the most offensive and insulting of all. Again, Steven D’s words – “I certainly don’t want a country where anyone can discriminate against anyone else of whom they do disapprove and escape liability for that immoral and otherwise unlawful act under any pretext, be it freedom of religion, racial superiority or traditional values.” In the name of white supremacy, the Reverend Clementa Pickney and eight worshippers were murdered at an AME Church in Charleston S. Carolina – while exercising their freedom of religion! There’s a long a tragic history of black worshippers being murdered by white supremacists, and their churches being burned down. To equate white supremacy to freedom of religion is an insult to the memories of every black worshipper who was murdered.
Why this article still sucks
I’m not frustrated by this article because it comes “from the left”. There’s plenty of respectable leftist sources, such as The Nation and….The Nation…. I’m not even frustrated by all the ridiculous points I’ve now refuted, as I expect nothing less from the Kos. I’m frustrated because this article actually had potential. I’m not saying Steven D couldn’t make these points effectively. With some basic critical thinking skills he could have made a plausible argument for why gay is the new black, or that it is wrong to refuse service for a gay wedding. I’d disagree, but I’d at least consider it a respectable article. But instead, what starts out as a very interesting first hand history lesson quickly degenerates into the kind of left-winged bigotry for which the Kos is notorious. It is the worst kind of bigotry, as it is often in the name of anti-discrimination. But discrimination in the name of anti-discrimination, is still discrimination. If I as a Christian call for religious freedom, then argue that, say, Muslims do not believe in religious freedom*; and therefore Muslims must not be allowed to practice their religion because they are a threat to religious freedom, I would be a hypocritical bigot – no better than the ones at the Daily Kos.
I, too, “want a better country”. But part of that depends on maintaining those aspects of our country that do work well. The first amendment, amongst other things guaranteeing freedom of religion, has always served us well. I’m not prepared to sacrifice that freedom in the name of anti-discrimination. I’d rather use my first amendment rights to persuade my fellow Americans, than deny their first amendment rights in order to force their actions, which will never change what is in their hearts.
*For the record, I acknowledge that Islam, like Christianity, could be cherry-picked to justify suppressing religious freedom. But like Christians, the average Muslim especially in America simply wants to practice his/her faith and has no desire deprive others of the same freedom. If anything Islam has a better history of religious freedom, considering that they at least acknowledge some other faiths as “people of the book” and that during the Crusading era of the Middle Ages, Christians and Jews did have religious freedom for the most part in the Islamic world while the same courtesy was clearly not extended in the Christian world.