Likely, most of the people reading this are doing so after listening to a discussion between myself and Greg Hawkins. That discussion was the longest I have ever had between myself and someone who disagrees with my political positions, overall I think it was very productive, but I do think there were some things I could have done better at discussing. Primarily, I want to address comments about wedding cakes, feminism, systemic racism and black lives matter. Hopefully Greg and I showed that respectful discourse can (and does) exist between people who disagree with each other.
Talking about wedding cakes
I want to get the one that bothered me as soon as the discussion was over. Greg brought up an assertion by Gary Johnson who said in a forum moderated by John Stossel that Jewish Bakers should be forced to bake Nazi Wedding Cakes. I said that the logical extension of my argument was that I would have to agree with Johnson, but that there must be some reasonable compromise on the issue (since that seemed a bit outlandish). Upon review, I don’t believe that it is a logical extension. There is a tremendous difference between a religious baker making a cake for someone that their religious sensibilities disagree with, and the imminent threat that neo-Nazis represent to people in the Jewish community. If you can reasonably believe that you are in danger of imminent harm, that trumps the rights to non-discrimination that others may have.
In terms of actual case law, Katzenbach v. McClung and Heart of Atlanta Motel v. US establish that the commerce clause can be used to prevent discrimination by businesses given that the business serves interstate travelers, or a portion of its business is predicated on serving people across state lines. The things beyond the scope of Congressional power to regulate are “those which are completely within a particular State, which do not affect other States, and with which it is not necessary to interfere, for the purpose of executing some of the general powers of the government” (see Wickard v. Filburn). This set of case law puts bakers that don’t do business across state lines outside of the regulatory limits of the commerce clause if a) bakeries are not restaurants and b) it does not serve interstate travelers. Perhaps a baker that does not have a storefront where customers could purchase goods on-demand would be able to escape the bounds of precedent, but otherwise, that seems far-fetched.
In an odd turn, protection for potential employees seems much more robust than for consumers. Any business which employs 15 or more people is obligated by law (confirmed by the Supreme Court) to not discriminate based on gender, race or religion. Precedence set by Oberfergell v. Hodges suggests that this will – at some point – apply to gay people as well. The Supreme Court is also about to hear its first case having to do with transgender rights, so there is a possibility that these rights will also be encompassed in the future.
Now, I don’t believe that businesses that employ less that 15 people should be allowed to have discriminatory hiring practices, and I also don’t believe that businesses should legally be allowed to discriminate against customers. The reality of modern business is that most of it is probably encompassed by the commerce clause (with the internet and a significant national transportation infrastructure) which means that most business shouldn’t be able to legally discriminate against potential customers. There is an argument to be made that everyone should be protected when hired for government jobs because of the 14th amendment, but there is not an analogous equivalent to the 14th amendment that applies to private enterprise. Likewise, I also don’t think there is anything that constitutionally prohibits Congress from passing national non-discrimination laws, and I see this as the next frontier for LGBT activists.
A stronger defense for feminism
Feminism as a social movement primarily relates to obtaining equal treatment for women. Feminism as an academic discipline is diverse, and oftentimes critics attach themselves to branches of feminism that they believe are easy to critique (they may have a harder time attacking a “moderate” feminism, or even intersectional feminism). I do not have enough background in feminist theory to adequately defend the academic discipline. While I believe that it is primarily a movement of recognition and liberation that uplifts not just women, but everyone who is affected by exclusionary social structures, I don’t have the necessary history to defend the discipline with good evidence, or to have a back and forth conversation about the particulars.
In terms of feminism the social movement, I feel that I can offer a much stronger defense than what I did. Feminism seeks equality and autonomy. Even in the Obama administration, female staffers had to strategize in order to make their voices heard. Women’s access to healthcare, the way that they are treated in public and private settings, their experiences as an employee (related to pay, promotions, etc.) are often vastly different than their male counterparts. Feminism goes beyond the “pay gap”, and it goes beyond everything I’ve laid out here. People who are feminists, probably won’t make comments like Donald Trump did, won’t perpetuate the US’ tremendous issues with sexual assault, and won’t claim that people must conform to traditional gender roles. Discussions with women about the issues they face that are related to their gender are critical, and their concerns shouldn’t be dismissed as “identity politics” (a term often used to dismiss minority concerns).
Additionally, feminism is a root cause for the success of other social movements. LGBT rights aren’t acquired without feminist leaders, and feminist support. The LGBT movement as a whole is a feminist movement. The same is true of any civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, etc. etc. are all undeniably important to the civil rights movement of the mid 20th century, but so are Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hammer, Dorothy Height, etc. etc. That movement was and still is a feminist movement.
Pushback seems to often come with regards to the idea of “patriarchy”. “Patriarchy” does not constitute nor necessitate a war on men. Patriarchy means that often times women are excluded from particular endeavors because of implicit bias some men have, or because structures were made to favor men more than women. It is not a call to dismantle society per se, it is a call to recognize that there are places where women are at a disadvantage – not because of their ability – but because they are women…and then to correct it. Patriarchy originally was:
Anecdotally, my experience tells me that this is still an accurate definition of patriarchy, and it has moved beyond the usage of second-wave feminism (which is what people usually critique, to my mind, oftentimes unfairly) into colloquial language where its implication are slightly different.
Yes, systemic racism exists: here is a more detailed explanation
The following thoughts are from prior posts I have made. You can see them in context in my blog posts entitled A case against Reparations and Race and Confirmation Bias: Another Furgeson Opinion. The final paragraph is new thoughts I have on the subject.
For hundreds of years, the United States functioned on a moral bedrock that permitted slavery. Thus, millions of people were robbed of generational wealth, knowledge and status. How much more difficult is it to be successful, when you have no predecessors that have walked the same path? Ending slavery, as we all know, was not the end of discrimination in the United States. Until the Voting Rights Act in 1965, minorities still weren’t fully enfranchised. The people that faced that kind of discrimination are still alive today, as are the people who caused it. How can we claim to be a post-racial society when we have that kind of legacy, and the victims and perpetrators still play a large role in our society?
Without enfranchisement, equality under the law can never exist. Predatory housing policies effectively barred middle-income black families from living in the same neighborhoods that middle-income white families lived in. Homeowner’s Associations did not allow people of color to live within their jurisdiction, while lenders were not required to lend on an equal basis. This bred at atmosphere that encouraged predatory lenders to take advantage of a group that had no access to housing.
The pinnacle of the American Dream is to own a house. Well into the 1960s, FHA loans were only approved for neighborhoods that were seen as “stable” investments. The neighborhoods that low-income families could afford were redlined as unstable, and therefore loans were not FHA backed. This meant federal policy did little to help the social class created by years of slavery and Jim Crow Laws but instead exacerbated existing injustice.
Because they shared this same dream, and the logical utility of actually having a house, alternative methods with which to acquire them developed. People who were eligible for federal subsidies (White, non-Jewish people) bought homes in certain neighborhoods and ran predatory lease-to-own programs for Jewish and minority buyers. This resulted in house prices being effectively double that of what a white person would pay. When these families couldn’t afford a payment, they were kicked out of a house and it was sold again. “From the 1930s through the 1960s, black people across the country were largely cut out of the legitimate home-mortgage market.”
Once trapped in this sort of situation, it became impossible to leave it behind. How can you leave a home when you have already paid off 70% of the “value”? That just means that you wasted money. So neighborhoods developed that were primarily black, that lacked social mobility because things cost more than they did to their white counterparts.
These policies are what created segregated neighborhoods cities like Chicago. This gap in living conditions is further enhanced by the poor educational systems that developed in these neighborhoods. The first generation of black citizens of the post-civil war era did not have parents that were classically educated, and did not have the means to become educated themselves. Within the community, there was a sore need for quality educators. This gap had to be filled with primarily white employees, and white employees didn’t want to work in black neighborhoods, and once employed may not have been sympathetic to the problems that oppressed minorities faced.
In 1960 a black man would make $.69 for every $1.00 a white man made. As of 2010, that number stands at $.75. Higher education yields higher wages, and this statistic shows that our educational system has failed black youth. It isn’t a systemic problem inherent to black culture; it is a systemic problem inherent to American culture.
There also seems to be a significant amount of victim blaming when it comes to racial injustice. The economic and social inequality seen between white people and people of color are not a result of laziness, they are a result of a system which has built a strong, white middle class at the expense of minorities. There are still people alive who were affected by FHA discrimination, there are still people alive that were affected by Plessey vs. Ferguson, there are still people alive that were affected by segregation. These people were affected at the time this discrimination occurred, and they are still being affected.
We also need to think about the fact that almost all discussion of racial inequality centers around the “inner cities.” Certainly, these are the areas where inequality is most pervasive, but it often leads to questionable statements and assumptions by people from various backgrounds.
Am I a part of Black Lives Matter?
This is something I’ve had to put some thought to. As someone who is gay, I’ve never thought that straight allies were a “part” of the movement for LGBT equality, just supporters. That is exactly the position that I have placed myself in with regards to the Black Lives Matter movement, not a part of it, but a supporter of it. Mostly it is about a desire to keep the movement centered on the people that it represents and to show solidarity in that “I agree, this is a problem, and I will do what I can to help.” With the LGBT rights movement, where straight allies hve died alongside LGBT people (see Pulse), I am having issues keeping that delineation. Perhaps I should have similar issues making that distinction with regards to Black Lives Matter, and if that is the case, then I would consider myself a part of the movement. Until my thoughts are settled, and until I have talked to some people about this, I will stick with being “seperate” from the movement, but still an ally.
A stronger defense of Black Lives Matter
Just like the discussion about feminism, I do not feel like I did an adequate job defending or explaining the Black Lives Matter movement. Rather than do that myself, I want to link to three excellent articles that everyone should read:
“Part of what we need people to understand is that their silence, their complicity, is part of the problem,” said Ashley Yates, a Black Lives Matter activist who helped plan and carry out a protest at Netroots Nation, a conference where Sanders and O’Malley were slated to speak in July. “There’s an absurd quality to the idea of people telling you to be calm and controlled in your pain. To whisper quietly as you’re being killed.”
“The conception that all we’re mad about is police and policing is a strong misconception,” Selah said. In fact, Black Lives Matter released a statement last week condemning the shooting in Dallas as counter to what the movement is trying to accomplish.
Ralikh Hayes of Baltimore BLOC echoed Selah, saying that Black Lives Matter is not inherently anti-police or anti-white, nor does the phrase Black Lives Matter means other lives aren’t important.
“We are against a system that views people as tools,” Hayes said.
The Black Lives Matter movement is an umbrella term that has evolved to encompass several black-led and centered organizations like Dream Defenders, Operation Zero, Black Lives Matter Network, and BYP100. These groups have spearheaded protests and organized communities across the country, but many of them haven’t built up national coalitions with hierarchies and official roles. Its diffuse nature has meant that there’s no explicit place or structure for white people, a clear and intentional departure from civil rights groups of the 1960s. While this is a good thing for the most part, it has made their participation complicated and bred a type of well-meaning but sometimes problematic white ally.