I was a bit miffed by the spin of the National Black Justice Coalition that a friend just forwarded to me. “The [N.A.C.C.P.’s] board of directors voted to support the freedom to marry as a continuation of its commitment to equal protection under the law ... The NBJC commends the NAACP for this historic step.” I do not mean to offend the NBJC which, after all, is a public relations organ and a rather good one at that but the Orwellian revisionist history is disconcerting. I know public relations is not journalism but when it comes to politics that is a distinction with little real difference today and this spin leaves a false impression that the NAACP actually has been vigilantly crusading for equal projection of the law for all. The truth is that NAACP has regarded some people as more equal than others and on marriage equality the determinative factor has not been color but religion.Historically the NAACP has, against the wise counsel of men like Julian Bond, eaten one class of its own and done so under the banner of heaven. While color has nothing to do with this prejudice the mission of the NAACP is the advancement of civil rights for people of color; but clearly the NAACP has regarded one class of persons as less equal only because God said so and color has had nothing to do with it. The bitter irony is that this invidious rationale was precisely the one the Supreme Court overturned in Loving v. Virginia which the NAACP now, a bit sanctimoniously, cites as the precedent for its new ‘evolution.’ There the trial judge suspended the Loving’s criminal sentence on the condition that they leave the State of Virginia and not return together for 25 years. His rationale to deny the guarantee of equal protection and a fundamental right was that,
Almighty God created the races ... and ... placed them on separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.In striking down all such state anti-miscegenation laws the Supreme Court held that, under the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause, neither the invidious classifications of race or religion could justify the abrogation of the ‘fundamental’ right to enter a civil, secular, marriage contract.
The Fourteenth Amendment is simple enough and essentially guarantees that no State shall deny any class of persons due process or equal protection of the law. Unless one does not regard LGBT citizens as ‘persons’ (which itself seems a rather depraved notion) marriage equality is a legal no-brainer. But until now, even when it came to color, the NAACP has regarded some people as more equal than others. Indeed, it’s past position in the issue has effectively been that LGBT citizens are not ‘persons’ entitled to equal protection of the law and, just like President Obama , the only rationale given for denial of this fundamental federal right has been religion. Indeed Obama still takes the official position, flatly rejected by the Court in Loving, that the states have the constitutional authority to deny such right to a class of persons who suffer an immutable characteristic. Neither the NAACP or President Obama have ever stated any legally cognizable reason for the federal government to permit states to deny this fundamental right. Not one legal reason has ever been stated by our civil-rights-lawyer president. Not even one. Where an history is more an infamous embarrassment than a noble legacy those who control the past control the future and for that reason no mention is made of the ‘historic steps’ whereby the purported commitment to Constitutional equal protection was kicked to the curb purely for reasons of religion. History is bunk. Whisk Whisk.It is to much to expect the decency to not insult our intelligence with this Orwellian re-write of history and, let me be clear, the NBJC and the NAACP are certainly not the only ones peddling the same newspeak. This fudging of law and history is easy enough to get away with where history and constitutional bedrock are miserably taught and the average voter has the attention span of a poodle. None of this recent spat of sudden epiphany has been ‘evolution’ but rather the carefully orchestrated intelligent design of spin-doctors. Like Obama the NAACP merely held it's finger to the wind to see which way it is blowing and now follows. Roll over in your grave Coretta Scott King.
Don’t get me wrong, it is very nice that the NAACP finally did the right thing after decades of gutless failure to stand up to religious bigotry and it is nice that it finally had the decency live up to unequivocal equal protection of the law for all persons as the Fourteenth Amendment has always guaranteed. In that regard it has stepped out ahead of President Obama! But the fact is that the NAACP only stood up after it took little courage to do so, after public opinion largely shifted in our favor, and after many of us slammed our checkbooks shut refusing to support those who failed to support us unequivocally.I do not deny the fact that many fine people of good faith such as Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, and the towering pillar of the Civil Right Movement Julian Bond stood with us when the NAACP did not. But even as chairman of the NAACP, Bond had to make it clear this was his personal position and not that of the NAACP. He was always required to distinguish and disassociate his personal position from the NAACP’s official policy. I do not mean to demean any of these great men and most notably Mr. Bond showed audacious courage when he boycotted the funeral services for Coretta Scott King on the grounds that the King children had chosen an anti-gay megachurch. This was an insult to their mother's longstanding support for the rights of gay and lesbian people.
That said, the inconvenient truth is that the NAACP Board ignored the mandate of Loving. v. Virginia it now rather sanctimoniously boasts of. Indeed, the NAACP Board consciously and consistently chose to stand with the invidious religious faction obstinately opposed to equal protection of the law for this one class of persons (no matter what color) and it did so for the exact same reasons the white majority labeled the Lovings ‘criminals’ – God’s intent. For many of us, when it did that against the wisdom of those like Julian Bond who were the most fit to instruct, the NAACP damaged itself and its credibility as a civil rights entity as it disrespected the equal dignity before the law of its own children. Color had nothing to do with it. The race card could not even be played where the God card trumped. This too was a Faustean bargain for if the NAACP stood with us when we really needed it then it is safe to guess their faith-based Christian funding would have dried up. Demanding equal protection for all would come with a price and by standing with those who denied it in the name of religion the NAACP betrayed the express rationale of Loving.But now that wind of public opinion shifts in our favor it seems a bit sanctimonious for the NAACP to lecture the LGBT community about the NAACP’s continued commitment to equal protection of the law for all persons. While this shift is commendable there is contemptible and disgraceful, decades-long, history of consistently betraying the Fourteenth Amendment and the spirit of Loving for reasons of religion. The God card is exactly the rationale that kept ‘Negroes’ beneath the boot of Jim Crow.
What is missing from this self-serving ‘evolution’ is an honest confession of the NAACP’s own historical cowardice (guilt might be a better word) in the face of religious bigotry, an apology for its collaboration with and capitation to the very invidious forces that denigrated the legal dignity of one class of human beings. What is also missing is a Christian a plea for forgiveness that such capitulation and collaboration caused so much suffering to the LGBT Community that labors under an ‘immutable characteristic.’Forget about asking forgiveness of sins of scripture for the NAACP hasn’t confessed but pretends a charade of historical revision as it tosses over public relations spin about how it has always remained committed to equal protection of the law for all persons; however, that is simply false in fact and not a matter of mere opinion. Even in an age of cynical politics and spoon-fed propaganda I have hard time pointing to a sanctimonious hypocrisy so patent it should make even George F. Babbitt blush.
Call this recent spat of ‘evolutions’ what you want but do not call it leadership for it is not leading but following. Soliciting for political support by pandering to invidious religious faction that foreswears the Constitution to uphold the Bible just doesn’t play well even in Iowa any more. That much is end game in national politics thanks to the death of ossified orthodoxy and the enfranchisement of the young who have more respect for human dignity and little patience or respect for religious bigotry that insinuates itself into civil rights.What I suspect all this really took was a secular diaspora and mass exodus from the pews. Where is the NAACP going to get it's money if young blacks and most on the Left are fed up with the religious hypocrisy the NAACP Board bowed down to in ‘respect’ for religion as it disrespected the Fourteenth Amendment? Why do I suspect that a many millions more in faith-based tax dollar hush-money will flow to the churches to compensate for the empty collection plates? After all, with the mass exodus from the churches even in America , the blockbuster new American Religious Identification Survey from Trinity College reports that the fastest growing “faith group” is the one claiming “no religion.” If it was not for our faith-based tax dollars one might wonder where the churches will get the money to defend their molestation of children and to finance their holy war on our secular Constitution. Getting money from the government to do what churches really have a duty to do (feed the poor and care for the inform) leaves the rest of the bucks for proselytizing, political crusading, and for lawyers fees.
So hallelujah, the NAACP finally held it’s finger to the wind and can feel which way it blows. Making no mistake about the direction, awakened by the icy winds of cold calculation, we are now told that 2 + 2 = 5, they were always really on our side, and whisk, whisk, history is bunk.Yes, we must take our victories as we find them. To some the NAACP move is tipping-point but to others it’s too little too late. Yes, this will help heal the past harm done to others in the name of virtue but the NAACP’s history of standing up for equal protection of the law for all persons? No. Sorry. The NAACP Board, held hostage by religious faction, abjured that opportunity many times much to the dismay of its own most revered members. It failed to stand with us when it would have made the biggest difference and it's a pity it lacked the courage to stand up against majority tyranny when it was easier to kowtow to the tub-thumping fundamentalists who paid their dues.
Now that the majority is converted, or well on their way, all these self-serving evolutions seem a bit of a farce. Arguably the tipping point came with attrition and public opinion and before Biden and Obama and the NAACP who followed. In fact, Obama has still not came back to where he started sixteen years ago before his ‘separate but equal’ Booker T accommodation wherein, fearing the faction of religion, he followed public opinion and not the law. Indeed, he abjured the law for religion and now that public opinion shifts he follows again. Yet still he arrives exactly where Dick Cheney left us eight years ago and now Obama, ironically, lags behind the NAACP which appears to support marriage equality as a federal matter under Loving and the Fourteenth Amendment. We should urge that he evolve even more. Statesman, so we are told, should follow public opinion as a coachman follows his horses; having firm hold on the reins and guiding them.While even farce can still be a win we should not forget that bigger heroes in this battle for equal protection are not the propagandists who mold public opinion or the politicians who exploited legal ignorance and pandered to prejudice for their own self-interest, but the leaders who literally stuck their necks out when push came to shove as well as the lawyers who have won in court to protect one minority against majority tyranny and prevailed despite public opinion. They are the ones who remained committed to late Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson’s admonishment that,
"The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One's right to life, liberty, and ... other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections."
Francois ArouetCopyright © 2012