This has been a difficult week for Americans who have been fighting for their civil and human rights in this country.
The United States Supreme Court upheld the president’s travel ban and also ruled against unions collecting dues from non-union employees.
Then, US Supreme Court Justice announced his retirement, effective July 31 of this year, giving the current president the opportunity to name yet another person to the high court. Undoubtedly, that person will be a social conservative and will pull the court further to the right.
The gains made by Americans who have been fighting for their voice will be pushed back – again.
The Rev. Dr. William Barber, the creator of the Moral Mondays movement and most recently the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, wrote that this nation has historically fought back when too many gains have been made by marginalized groups, most specifically by African Americans. The “first Reconstruction” came after the Civil War; the “second Reconstruction” came after the Civil Rights Movement, and this, the “third Reconstruction” is on the heels of the presidency of Barack Obama.
In each of these “setback eras,” as I view them, angry whites have done all they can, politically and socially to undo the gains that African Americans have made. During the First Reconstruction, they did all they could to suppress the newly gained right of African Americans to vote. Voter suppression was the hallmark of the Second Reconstruction, with social conservatives working to undo the rights afforded blacks by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
And now we sit in the midst of the Third Reconstruction, where voting rights are again under attack, along with rights gained by the LGBTQ community. There is a fear as well that with the nation’s high court getting another right-leaning justice, Roe v Wade will be overturned, making it illegal for women to get abortions. Immigrants and their rights are being attacked and eroded; unions stand to up to a third of their members and funding.
Because of the domination of all three branches of government by Republicans who claim their position to be that of social conservatives, many people and groups will slip back into places from which they have been fighting to get out of for decades.
I am looking for an adjective that I am satisfied with when describing social conservatives. A working definition of a social conservative is someone who holds onto tradition and the way things have been. Social conservatives fight change in the social makeup of a country or government. In America, the granting of rights to what they would call “marginalized” groups has gone over the top. Voting rights, gay marriage, the right of women to choose their options for pregnancy, protection for transgender individuals and continuation of protecting immigrants who come from Mexico, Central and South America have eroded the America in which social conservatives trust has been too much. Author Karen Armstrong has said that when there is too much change in a society or culture, there is a backlash, which includes the rise of fundamentalism. People pull harder to the right to protect what they know, an action which comes off as being racist, sexist, Xenophobic and more and they often use their understanding of God and of the Christian Bible to justify their views and their actions.
Their determination to put everyone back into their place is unrelenting, and once they have successfully wielded their power which is theirs primarily because of their race, gender and wealth, they fall back into the rhythm with which they are comfortable. The “undesirables” have been controlled, and all is well.
People in this world who are not white, male, heterosexual and wealthy will always have to fight for full American citizenship. They interpret the Constitution as a document which demands parity amongst individuals, which it does not. The Constitution was at its inception a document which made a way an protected wealthy, white, male, Protestant landowners. In actuality, the Founding Fathers desired to create a country for white people, even as they imported Africans to this country to help them build this nation’s wealth. That they did not think through what their greed would ultimately do – i.e., establish the African American population of this country – shows their arrogance. Because they did not look at African Americans (or Native Americans, or women, for that matter) as human beings, they did not include those groups as groups worthy of full American citizenship. As the country grew, and African Americans, as well as women, began demanding their rights, the social conservatives worked – and continue to work – to make government protect their rights while chipping away and outright denying those same rights to groups whom they felt were not human and therefore not worthy of equal treatment and status.
Human beings, however, will not stay under a rock and acquiesce to injustice; within all humans is the desire to be free in the fullest sense of the word. Every time the government has worked to reduce their rights, these groups have fought back. The groups of people in this country whose rights are being eroded or which stand a big chance of being eroded will be knocked down, but they will get up. Every time the social conservatives try to stop the movement toward the dignity of different groups, those groups become more resolute to fight for what they know they deserve.
While social conservatives appear to live in and be guided by fear – fear that they will lose their property, their jobs, their dreams and their status – the ‘marginalized” live in hope – the hope that they will ultimately win.
Step by painful step, they will. Evil is a strong force in this world, but hope is stronger. Hope has made the marginalized fight for justice for thousands of years, and hope will be the fuel that gives them the power and strength to get up all over again and continue that fight.
A candid observation …