This guest post was written by Natalie Ringsmuth.
Equality. What comes to mind when you hear that word? Perhaps you first think of gender. Or marriage. Or race.
Does the word “fair” come to your mind? Some folks define equality along the lines of everything “being fair.” But, really, is that possible? And is that even the goal?
“What’s equal is not always fair, and what’s fair is not always equal.”
When we make the mistake of thinking that fairness and equality are the same thing, we ask questions like these:
Why isn’t there a straight pride parade? That’s not fair.
When is white history month? That’s not fair.
My gut instinct is to post this as a response:
…but, I can’t really post that on the interwebs if my goal is communication and dialogue. (However, maybe I’ll try this one out on my kids next time someone argues about who got more mac and cheese in their bowl.)
What I can say are some of the things I have said to the people that desire “fairness” for straight and white Americans. We don’t need straight pride parades because straight folks aren’t beaten up and killed for being straight. We don’t need white history month because most of the history that was taught for decades in American school was white history, and mostly white male history at that.
We must know and come to grips with the fact that it is easier in this country to be straight than it is to be gay. Is it easier to be gay in this country than in others where gay folks are openly persecuted? Yes. But, the reality is that some parts of this country make it very clear that gay men and women should just keep a lid on it. And, if they don’t keep that lid on it, there are folks who will shut that lid forcefully with shunning, physical abuse, or online bullying.
Many studies have shown how much easier it is to grow up white in this country than black, and so many personal testimonies told from the point of view of black males especially, that we can’t just discount the truth of the matter. Too many people still see color before they see human, and it’s continuing to cause problems in our country today.
The next time you want to design a float for a straight pride parade, recall the face of Matthew Shepard, a 22 year old gay man who was beaten, tortured, and left for dead — just for being gay. Instead of showing you the 22 year old face, I’m going to show you 2 year old Matthew’s sweet face. I know I still can see my 11 and 12 year old boys as toddlers if I catch their faces at just the right angle. I am sure that Matthew’s parents saw this face when they looked into his casket back in 1998.
These are just a few of the faces that should come to mind when we question why there is a need for equality. Equality is needed because hate still runs rampant and, too often, unchecked until it is too late.
Stand up. Speak out. Fill in the gaps with love.
Be the change you want to see in the world.”
About Natalie Ringsmuth
Header photo via Unsplash.