The Civil Rights Movements of Our Time

The whole immigration thing is all over the news.    This got me to think about all of the groups fighting for what they consider "civil rights" – all compare their causes to that of black Americans, who are of course, sometimes insulted by the comparison.  Nevertheless, the three civil rights areas today I want to discuss are the homosexual, pro-life, and immigrant movements.  How are they similar to the black American civil rights movements, what rights are they looking for, and how do they differ?  I’m not an expert on any of these, so wanted to open it up for discussion.

Black American Civil Rights

Blacks, of course, sought the right to vote, and to end discrimination in employment, education, and housing.  The only place that we went overboard with regard to this movement, imo, was in the establishment of quotas in hiring and education, which amounted to reverse discrimination

The Mexican Immigrant Movement

Today, immigrants, mostly Mexican, are crossing into the U.S. illegally, largely to be able to make a living.  While U.S. employers exploit their illegal status by paying them under the table and/or low wages, the increased risk of terrorism is causing some congressmen to propose legislation that makes illegal immigration a very serious offense.  What are these Mexicans asking for?

  • An efficient and fair immigration policy
  • Recognition for their contribution to our economy, rather than persecution

They are not really asking for the right to vote, but they are asking for easier ways to gain citizenship.  How similar is this to the black civil rights movement?  I am not sure, but William Jelani Cobb, professor of history at Spelman College in Atlanta, says African-Americans should support the plight of Latino immigrants.

Where could we make mistakes with this movement?  There are three considerations here.

  1. We must consider national security – we can’t just open up our borders to be nice.  We must control our borders better than we are (as well as our ports).  While we can never have 100% border control without a physical barrier, we have to do better than we are now to keep out criminals, drug dealers, and terrorists.
  2. We must respect the rule of law – simple amnesty for those already here just invites more flaunting of the law and mass immigration.  However, some of the guest worker policies being discussed prevent this by setting thresholds – if you are here less than x years, you go back.  Otherwise, you can earn citizenship.  That sounds great.
  3. We must provide a better immigration system – we have created the current problem because the broken immigration system is just unfair to those who are coming here just to make a living.  I mean, if it takes many years, sometimes more than 10, who is going to want to obey the law?  It’s unjust.   However, part of the problem is the broken Mexican economy, broken due to the corrupt politicians throughout Mexico and Central America.

The Pro Life Movement

Pro-lifers compare their movement to the civil rights movement in that their constituents (the unborn) are considered non-persons like blacks were.   Also, the unborn are considered property which the "owner" can dispose of at their will, as if their life is not protected by law.  Also, they have no voice in politics or places of power themselves, and need advocates.  This last comparison doesn’t exactly match the civil rights movements, since blacks could speak up for themselves, but they certainly had few or no people like them in places of power.

Where could this movement step over the line?  I believe the main place they are making a mistake is in defining life as beginning at conception.  This is one logical position, but I think that it shows a little hubris because it ignores the rules we already use for defining end of life issues.  Also, this position would then criminalize in-vitro fertilization if it destroys "embryos", as well as embryonic stem cell research.  As I have said, I agree with the sentiments at c-ral.org.

The Gay Rights Movement

Gay rights advocates have won many civil rights so far – they have gotten solid support for anti-discrimination in employment and housing (is it federally mandated or just voluntary?).  They also compare their sexual orientation to race in that they claim it is a natural, inborn trait that has little or nothing to do with environmental factors.  In addition, they are fighting for one more right – to redefine marriage as including same-sex partners. 

The former rights that they have gained most certainly do parallel black civil rights, but the claim that homosexuality is a natural trait is debated – it certainly does not appear to be as entirely genetic as skin color.  It seems pretty clear from the growing data that homosexuality has both genetic and psychosocial components – although no genetic link has yet been identified.

But the redefinition of marriage seems particular to the gay rights movement, though it does have overtones of the sexual revolution and women’s rights movements of the 60′s   Women’s rights advocates sought to end the rigid gender roles, though they did not seek to redefine marriage per se.  However, they did work hard to destigmatize divorce, and make it easier to do, which was a mixed blessing – good for those trapped in abusive marriages, bad for those who wanted an easy out when the normal difficulties of marriage arose.

Some streams of the women’s rights movement disdained marriage as denigrating to women.  Some of the more extreme anti-masculine advocates were lesbians, and this in turn has led to the folding in of lesbian issues into the women’s rights platform.  But again, redefining marriage was not really part of these movements per se.

Where could the gay rights movement go wrong?  Because homosexuality can not definitively be proven to be genetic, and more importantly, because it appears to many to be against nature, and is against the judeo-christian code of morality, it will always be considered morally questionable, unlike race, which is clearly genetic and unrelated to sexual mores.  Therefore, as I have written, I think that government should neither criminalize it (like in sodomy laws), nor condone it through officially calling it "marriage."  I think that the gay rights push for legal sanction is stepping over the line, and can only hurt the gay cause.

This article has 12 comments

  1. There are numerous Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and immigrants of all types. that don't support the current protest movement among illegal immigrants because many want more than a fair immigration policy and recognition for their work.
    Ignoring the Che-supports, communists and reconquistadors at all the rally, many of the other average illegal immigrants were carrying signs demanding amnesty for every illegal immigrant.
    I honestly have not made my mind up on what position I support. I think the guest worker plan (with the years limitation) has benefits, but I also wonder about what that does to those who went through the process legally. They did it the right (long) way, now someone else breaks the law and gets to do it faster. That doesn't seem right.
    At the same time, it seems silly to me to say "kick 'em all out." The logistics of that are virtually impossible and harmful to our economy.
    I think the best current solution is to build the wall, enforce the border to not allow anymore in and then decide what to do about those already here.

  2. Typical Seeker,
    You see gays with legal protections that prevent discrimination and you already think that they've gotten too much. But the point is still clear: since homosexuality does no damage to our culture, and since changing the legal protections that gays can receive does nothing to impact your ability to teach your children to hate (love!) gays, there is no reason not to extend equal rights to gays.
    And incidentally, here is but one example of the damage done to gays who aren't legally allowed to marry FEDERALLY: http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish/2006/04/governme
    Quite clearly, not being afforded equal recognition isn't equal. Finally, YOU will always consider homosexuality morally questionable; don't for a minute suggest that all Americans find homosexual conduct morally questionable. Your coterie of hating (loving!) Christians does, but that doesn't mean that this entire country agrees with you.

  3. Well, every one of the civil rights movements above makes similar arguments for the most extreme, selfish, or unjust implementations of their cause. Often, they claim that they want equality, but what they really are asking for is special treatment – see reverse discrimination.
    And I don't think gays have gotten too much. But pushing for the redefinition of marriage to include their dysfunction is too much.
    As for what the country believes:
    - between 51 and 60% of Americans want to legally define marriage as limited to a man and a woman (51% would favor a Consitutional Amendment)
    - 70% believe that gay couples should either get NO legal recognition (40%) or civil unions only (30%). Only 30% believe we should allow them civil marriages
    - a slim majority (52%) believe homosexuality to be morally wrong
    The majority is not always right, but since, as I said, homosexuality is not clearly a benign trait like skin color, and because it is tied to sexual mores and morality, I think asking for legal sanction is unjust and against sound legal principle.

  4. There are numerous Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and immigrants of all type. that don't support the current protest movement among illegal immigrants because many want more than a fair immigration policy and recognition for their work….many of the other average illegal immigrants were carrying signs demanding amnesty for every illegal immigrant.
    But they don't want amnesty because they want to encourage illegal immigration, they merely want to stay here without the incredible hassle and expense of trying to go through the rediculous gauntlet of our immigration system. I have many friends who are illegals from Mexico, and I can tell you that pretty much to a man (or woman), they are here to make a living for their families, and are hard-working, honest, and pro-America. Also, for what it's worth, they are usually strong Catholics who have a strong regard for Jesus – they are more like us than different than us.
    Our system is broken, and it needs to be fixed. It's not just about border security or regard for the law – for them, it's about survival. They break the law, not becuase they are criminals or desire to break the law, but because they are so desperate, they are willing to risk their LIVES trying to make a life for their families.
    They often have to live not seeing their families for months or years at a time, and they live here always looking over their shoulders in fear that they will be caught. They have to pay for black market driver's liscences (often close to $1000) and Social Security numbers – not to cheat the system, but so that they can work – they often pay taxes with NO hope of getting future benefits (though they sometimes take advantage of current medical benefits).
    If we are serious about border security, we will build a fence, plain and simple. Until then, demonizing the poor immigrants looking for a life is just shooting ourselves in the foot – if we sent them home, we'd lose half of our crops, as well as our service workers and restaurant cooks, esp. here in California. And I like Mexican food! :D.

  5. My beef is not with the individual illegal immigrant, I also personally know some. Virtually every one I meet is a fantastic, hard working person, but it has to be split from personal feelings. If I was in Mexico I would probably want to come to the US through whatever means as well, but that has no barring on should we enforce our laws or not.
    The government can't interview all 12 million and decide which ones a good, honest hard working people. But neither can they simply let all 12 million stay unpunished, it sends the wrong message – break our laws and you will be rewarded.
    The first step should be to buld the wall, the next step should be to remove the undue bureaucratical burden from the legal immigration process, then we get to the trickier issue – what to do about those who are here now. It has to be more than, well you're here so I guess you get to be a citizen now and less than kick 'em all back to Mexico. There's a good nuance in there somewhere. I just don't know what it is, but I know what it isn't.

  6. BTW, Sam, how come you only mentioned homosexuality, and not the unborn or immigrants? Do you agree with me, or are you just fixated on homosexuality? ;)

  7. what to do about those who are here now.
    I heard something amusing about the term "Guest Worker" on TV. It's a huge oxymoron. Would you invite people into your house as guests and then tell them, start with the dishes and then take the trash out? The best guest workers we had were from Africa. Guest Worker seems like exploitation to me.
    I agree with Lou Dobbs. Secure our border first then deal with 12 million illegal aliens. Some considerations would be granting full citizenship (Criminals exempted), making those currently waiting on the immigration process citizens, easing restrictions on family visas (splitting up families is not good). There are many more considerations I have missed I am sure.

  8. You agree with the arch-conservative Lou Dobbs? Geeze, *I* don't even like him. He, like Aaron, is too focused on the whole "criminality of illegal entry" thing. They are barely more criminal than conscienscious objectors or pro-life protestors. They are breaking what amounts to unjust immigration policy.

  9. I agree with Lou Dobbs in that we must secure our borders. If this puts me to the right of you and Aaron… Well, I guess we can all ponder that one :) If Dobbs says that he wants to make 12 million felons out of all the illegal immigrants in the States, I call that unrealistic.

  10. Seeker,
    Just as the majority believed that interracial marriage was a horrible evil that would bring about the downfall of America. Pointing at the majority and alleging that the majority knows what its doing is ludicrous; the majority is often wrong. And the point isn't the majority anyway. It's doing what's right.
    And what's right isn't treating the gay couple down the street as if they're different from you and your wife.

  11. Of course the majority is not always right, and I have said so. However, Sam is under the impression that my stance is some outlier rather than a current majority. He says such things to paint his opponents as extremists.
    I believe I am right based on my arguments, not by appealing to being in either the majority or the minority.
    I'm not personally treating gays differently – but legislation is a different matter than personal interaction. The law treats people differently, but not should not treat them unfairly. It restricts the sale of tobacco to minors. It fails to recognize polygamy and homosexuality as valid family arrangements – but it doesn't penalize them either. If gays want legitimacy as far as marriage goes, they can seek it from their churches, but they can't push it on the rest of us by forcing government to sanction their nonsense.

  12. [...] their power and pushed non-egalitarian legislationSome of the solutions we are pushing are probably extreme and not really the righteous solutions. For example, we may hold the conviction that homosexuality [...]