Thursday, August 16, 2012

Inappropriate, at Best

Something said at Tuesday night's Council meeting offended me. 

So why am I writing about it?  Well, because it's my blog, that's why.  Like anyone else, I have the right to be offended -- the 1st Amendment lets me shout out about it, so here goes:

A resident speaker compared the struggles to repeal Jim Crow laws in the South to modern-day efforts to repeal dangerous dog ordinances.  If blacks and whites should both be able to eat at the same lunch counters, drink from the same fountains, and go to the same schools, she reasoned, then chihuahuas shouldn't be subject to different laws than should certain breeds of pit bull or rottweiler. 

Huh?

I will concede up front that there was no intention to offend.  I think that matters, too -- someone may use a term that's out of vogue (i.e. 'Oriental' instead of 'Asian'), or otherwise use language that could appear loaded (i.e. Joe Biden's recent 'chains' reference) and it's not necessarily some kind of coded dog whistle, as the conspiracy theorists would say.  Sometimes people mess up, and they shouldn't be pilloried for it. 

That said, the comparison didn't sit well with me.  I'm not trying to pretend to be some expert on civil rights just because I watched "Eyes on the Prize" or read Parting the Waters.  I wasn't part of the original civil rights movement (I admire it though), and I often find myself wishing the modern civil rights movement could focus more on advancement than aggrievement. 

Still, just as an American who appreciates the basic freedoms and rights that I and all other Americans share, I felt that the historical analogy used there was in poor taste.  'Separate but equal' was anything but, and it denied equal opportunity in terms of education, health care, sanitation, and many other things to generations of African-Americans.  Even a combat Vietnam veteran like Colin Powell could return to the States after fighting in a war, try to find a hospital at which his wife could give birth to their child, and run into hurdles about who would accept them because of the color of his skin. 

Multiply that times all the countless millions of untold stories of people who were denied the chance to reach their full potential, and you can pretty quickly paint a picture of why that was a particularly ugly chapter in our nation's history. 

You can't really understand all the cross-currents in American culture without having at least a basic grasp of that, and at least a basic appreciation of what people like John Lewis went through when they challenged racism in places like Selma. 

You may think that breed-specific dog legislation is unfair...and of course, that's your right.  As for the specific issue, I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other. 

But I do think the Dr. King reference was appalling. 

2 comments:

Progressive Veterans said...

The arc of the moral universe bends towards ... lead free pet treats?

- Jack

Mimi said...

Greg:

I also cringed when I heard her speak I a m not sure what that was all about.