June 22, 2013 by jillianpage
Back in my high-school days, one of my history teachers asked his
students to answer some survey questions he had prepared. I didn’t get
past the first question, which asked something like this: “Would you
be seen with a black person in public, say, at the park or in a mall?”
I raised my hand, and pointed out to him that I felt the survey was
insulting, that even asking such questions was discriminatory. In
truth, I probably didn’t use the word “discriminatory,” because I
didn’t know what discrimination was. But I was appalled that anyone
would ask me such a question. What a stupid question! Why wouldn’t I
hang out with a black person?
He was none-too-pleased with me. He exploded in anger, and demanded I
apologize to him. I refused to do so, and pointed out to him that we
had a black person in the class. “How do you think a survey like this
makes her feel?” I asked.
I was literally saved by the school bell, and I left his survey —
unanswered — on my desk, and headed off to my next class.
The next day in history class, the teacher apologized to the class. It
was clear that I had stirred something in him the day before. I don’t
think he slept well. He had done some serious soul-searching, he
explained, and he never meant to discriminate against anyone. He
withdrew the survey, and we moved on.
I believe him. I’m sure he didn’t mean to discriminate, that he meant
to educate, and he forgot that some of us kids were still so innocent
that we didn’t even know yet that some people could hate others simply
because of their race. (Later on, in the same high school, I learned
about the Holocaust . . . and I cried. )
I am reminded of that early experience in my history class every time
I read about the various debates in political forums going on these
days over such issues as same-sex marriage and transgender rights.
What is to debate? LGBT people MUST have equal rights. It’s common
sense. It is fundamental decency. And those politicians who do debate
the issues — and open their forums to bigots in the name of so-called
“objectivity” — need to do some serious soul-searching. Why would you
even entertain the possibility of denying equal rights to LGBT people?
Well-meaning, perhaps, but still discriminatory in essence . . . There
should be no debates when it comes to equality and human rights. Make
it happen. End of story.
As for the Bible verse at the beginning of this post, I took that very
seriously when I was a kid. I still do.