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.
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.
2. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.