A lot has been made recently about the terms “majority” and “minority.” A majority, schoolchildren, is the larger portion of a unit, be that food (Hey! You ate a majority of the pizza, and now I’m going to punch you in the face!), tangible items (a majority of newspapers were returned today because no one wanted to read Ricky Duke’s column) or people. In our society, a majority of people are able to decide many things. That’s simply the way it works.
We live in a city, county, state and country where in many cases, the majority rules. You want a certain person to represent you? A majority of people will decide that. You want to raise taxes in the community in order to pay for more services? A majority of people will decide that as well. We have become so entranced with the idea of majority-rule (sadly, however, voter turnout doesn’t always mirror it) that there are those who believe that majority-rule should apply to everything. Even human rights.
But there’s a funny thing about human rights, at least the way we have designated them in this country. They cannot and should not be dictated by the whim of a large group of people. That’s why they’re called rights, because no “majority” should be able to take them away.
I have spent my whole life in a “majority.” Not necessarily politically. In fact, I’ve voted for people on both sides of the aisle, and some of my votes for Republicans have won or lost and some for Democrats have won or lost.
But I am part of a majority, or at least in a place of power, that many also occupy. I am a natural-born American, white, heterosexual male. Like Louis C.K. said, “You can’t even hurt my feelings.”
I was born into this group, as were others who have never felt true persecution in their lives, but who are trying to make sure that the “will of the people” is used to persecute others. These people, who live in the United States in 2014, still believe that there are people who are different from them but who are not equal. They believe with their whole hearts that these people are less than them, therefore less than human.
But the funny thing is (actually it’s not that funny), this has been the case for this type of “majority” throughout our sordid history as a country. There have been many majorities who have believed that school should be segregated and that black children should not have the ability or right to go to school with white children. They used the same argument — “You cannot go against the will of the people!” — in order to berate those justices who interpreted if any rights were being violated. These same people believed, as recently as 35 years ago, that there should be no marriage between different races. The “will of the people” was invoked at that time as well, ignoring the rights that fellow American citizens were being denied. Let’s not forget the ability of the “majority” to suppress black voter turnout during the civil rights era through acts of terror, intimidation and in some cases murder. We were a nation for decades before we “allowed” women the right to vote as well.
As a part of the “majority,” I have never felt the way those discriminated against have, and neither has any other white, straight, Christian male, despite what they may say in public or in the pages of, say, the state newspaper. They’ve never felt the persecution that Christians in some other nations feel, real danger for their lives. That’s where real persecution lies, not in the United States ... well, except if you’re actually a minority.
It’s simple, really. Other than adolescents who have not reached the age of adulthood, or felons, who have given up certain amenities because of their crimes, we are all created equal, and we all deserve to be treated equally.
That includes protection from the discrimination of businesses, the right to marry who we choose and the right to be considered as adoptive or foster parents. It does not matter if a group of like-minded citizens get together and are against it, based on whatever they choose to believe.
We are better than that. We should choose to grant the same rights to all citizens, regardless of whether they believe in the same God as we do.
I can promise you, seeking equality for every single person is not running roughshod over a “majority’s” beliefs. If anyone is running roughshod, it’s those who continue to discriminate in the name of Christianity.
(Ricky Duke is the Editor of the Log Cabin Democrat. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org)