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Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere

Daniel Fishman | Staff Columnist

Like many Wash. U. students, I was disgusted by what I heard and read about the discrimination that occurred at Mothers bar. Students I know and respect were unjustly treated like second-class citizens because of their race. This bigotry is reminiscent of the treatment of blacks before the civil rights movement. This period not so long ago reeked with injustice as “separate but equal” ruled our nation. Plessy v. Ferguson was overturned only 55 years ago. Congress only banned racial segregation in housing, public facilities and employment in 1964.

This legal discrimination did not end because of some benevolent act of Congress. Blacks fought for their civil rights with protests, marches and boycotts all over America, many of which resulted in imprisonment, injury and, in some cases, death. They did not struggle for their rights alone: Many whites fought in the civil rights movement. Prominent white leaders fought the injustice side by side with blacks. In the march on Selma in 1965, John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr. and others joined arms with white leaders like Abraham Joshua Heschel and Maurice Davis to protest the injustices faced in the area at the time. White college students fueled the Freedom Summer of 1964, which aimed to register as many blacks as possible in Mississippi, a state that had only 6.7 percent of eligible blacks registered in 1964. This white dedication to civil rights went beyond marching and organizing.

During the Freedom Summer, the Klu Klux Klan murdered three people working to register blacks: James Chaney, a 21-year-old black civil rights worker; Michael Schwerner, a 24-year-old white social worker; and Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old white college student.

Even with the threat of violence, whites continued to fight for civil rights. These whites would not directly benefit from the successes of the civil rights movement. They had the right to vote and access to public facilities, yet they chose to protest, boycott and suffer with blacks because they believed what was occurring was wrong. They believed people should not be discriminated against because of who they are. They believed, as King wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

King’s declaration rings true today just as much as when he wrote it in a Birmingham jail cell in 1963. Many of the same injustices the black civil rights movement fought still are applied to members of the gay community. In 32 states, landlords can legally evict tenants because of their sexual orientation, just as landlords could deny housing to blacks based on their race. In 29 states, it is legal for a company to fire an employee based on sexual orientation. This legal right to fire based on sexual orientation is exercised constantly by many employers, including the U.S. military, which has discharged more than 13,000 service members because of their sexual orientation. These brave and loyal American men and women want to defend their country. They were deemed fit to serve and did so, many in occupations the military defined as “critical,” until their sexual preference became known.

This injustice towards gay Americans affects more than just housing and employment. By forbidding committed homosexual couples the same rights as committed heterosexual couples, the government refuses homosexual couples more than 1,100 statutory provisions it grants to heterosexual couples. This includes denying partners the right to visit their loved one in the hospital, refusing American citizens in binational relationships the right to petition for their same-sex partner’s immigration, and forcing estate taxes on property inherited from a deceased partner. It is just to amend the definition of marriage to include homosexual couples just as it was just to amend the definition of marriage in 16 states in 1967, when anti-miscegenation laws forbidding interracial marriage were ruled unconstitutional.

Heterosexuals must stand up with our homosexual peers to demand the righting of the wrongs the government allows, endorses and participates in. We must demand gay equality under the law by signing petitions like the one being circulated by the Right Side of History at We must walk arm in arm with the gay community as we fight for the rights these individuals want, need and deserve. Heterosexuals must fight for homosexual rights because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

  • Arcienilo

    The mere fact that I support Gay rtihgs doesn’t have to make me Gay or Lesbian you moron. You are just showing the entire world such an ignorant fool you are by stating that. Whats hard to understand ? That all of us evolved from Monkeys ? What century are you living in ? Maybe you should have been born gay and only then would you know how it would have felt. Condemning someone just because they are different makes you inhuman. Humanity can go nowhere with such an attitude.

  • carlsblog

    It is an injustice at its root, but not in the way you say. You fail to realize that it is not a civil right to be gay. It is a misunderstanding of what it means to be human, a perversion of God’s order and design. It is thus infamy, a violation, and thus injustice against the Author of your creation and meaning.
    Men do not have a right to be mean to you, only a right to point out the Truth. Thank you for the privilege. You are still a human being, ergo, a lost fallen one.

  • Dirk

    You fail to realize, as most Wash U students do, that all those landlords and employers have rights. No one has the right to housing or a job. By saying we should make it illegal to discriminate based on race or sexual orientation you are saying we should violate people’s property rights. People have the right to associate and disassociate with who they choose regardless of reason. It may be despicable to discriminate against someone for something so petty and irrelevant, but when we let the government tell us who we can and cannot work with, associate with, or live with we deny ourselves basic and fundamental human rights. The civil rights movement isn’t what caused racism to become a marginal rather than omnipresent issue. People themselves changed. For instance, for the 5 years prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 blakcs’ incomes rose at a faster rate than after the act was past.

  • Lizard Drawn Maze

    Comparing the incident at Mother’s bar with people who sacrificed their lives to help realize basic rights for an entire race is absurd. The life of an average homosexual person in this country is nowhere near the life of an average black person in the middle and first half of the 20th century. Our generation is already overwhelmingly supportive of gays – the future is set up for gays. I don’t think anyone doubts that in the next ten or twenty years, things will be better off and continue to improve. These empty gestures do nothing to accelerate progress; they only agitate the cultural differences (some might say “war) that we are all involved in.

    Let me be clear: I am on your side in this cultural face-off, but these theatrics must stop. The oafish, unending masturbation of our generation must stop. We are not freedom fighters. This sense of urgency is so obscenely self-serving when compared with more serious global and cultural issues. Make the self-righteousness stop. Make the arrogance stop.

    Let’s start to put things in perspective and find out what really matters.

  • Seven

    Every single one of the “white” activists or leaders you mentioned was Jewish. I find it amusing that you’d call rabbis “prominent white leaders.”

    • carlsblog

      I gave you the thumbs up (the first one at this point). Let’s just get it straight that MLK and others of his ilk were largely following Christian morality as practiced by its Founder where race, as in the Story of the Good Samaritan was in spite of Jewish racial divide as practiced especially by the Jewish leadership, in that day versus Samaritans, in our day versus Palestinians. The difference today is that it is the Israeli nation state that keeps hostage its own people, and not the Roman Empire.
      “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being”…we are of one blood, there is no place for racism in the theologically Christian view of reality.

  • Sarah Jones

    Very important issue– thank you.