Civil Rights? What Civil Rights?

If I tell you these names, will they mean something to you?

Ezell A. Blair, Jr. Franklin E. McCain. Joseph A. McNeil. David L. Richmond.

Maybe if I say Greensboro Lunch Counter?

What about Rosa Parks? Or Martin Luther King Jr.?

Greensboro Lunch Counter at the American History Museum

Yeah, you got it.  I’m talking about Civil Rights.

Now, why would anyone would have to fight for their civil rights is a question that blows my mind. But unfortunately people have to do it.  Still.  In the 21th Century.

Not too long ago, women could not vote or own property.  Even closer to the present time, black people could not sit side by side with white people.  Today, gay people are not allowed to marry.  Today, women’s wages are still lower that those of men.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Civil rights are:

the basic legal rights a person must possess in order to have such a status. They are the rights that constitute free and equal citizenship and include personal, political, and economic rights. No contemporary thinker of significance holds that such rights can be legitimately denied to a person on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, or disability.

But this is where it gets interesting.  And by interesting, I really mean stupid.

Until the middle of the 20th century, civil rights were usually distinguished from ‘political rights’. The former included the rights to own property, make and enforce contracts, receive due process of law, and worship one’s religion. Civil rights also covered freedom of speech and the press (Amar 1998: 216–17). But they did not include the right to hold public office, vote, or to testify in court. The latter were political rights, reserved to adult males. Accordingly, the woman’s emancipation movement of the 19th century, which aimed at full sex equality under the law, pressed for equal “civil and political equality” (Taylor 1851/1984: 397 emphasis added)

And this is where I get on my soapbox.  Nerve on adult males.  But that’s a feminist issue and this post is about African-American Civil Rights.  They are not related.  Or are they?

The civil-political distinction was conceptually and morally unstable insofar as it was used to sort citizens into different categories. It was part of an ideology that classified women [and obviously, black people and gay people for that matter] as citizens entitled to certain rights but not to the full panoply to which men were entitled. As that ideology broke down, the civil-political distinction began to unravel. The idea that a certain segment of the adult citizenry could legitimately possess one bundle of rights, while another segment would have to make do with an inferior bundle, became increasingly implausible. In the end, the civil-political distinction could not survive the cogency of the principle that all citizens of a liberal democracy were entitled, in Rawls’s words, to “a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties” (2001: 42). [Emphasis all mine]

There.  So, no bullshit separation between first class citizens entitled to all civil (and political) rights while second class citizens have to suck it up and sit in the back of the bus, or be paid lower wages, or not be able to marry the person they love.  ANY kind of civil-political distinction is conceptually and morally unstable.

It makes sense, right?

Well, unfortunately, common sense is the least common of the senses.

And that’s why back in the sixties, you could see women (those very women so happy that they could vote now and own property, a civil right that was unjustly denied to them for so long) being very vocal about why segregation was right.

I don’t have proof, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about black people being very vocal about how wrong same sex marriage is.   But for some reason, it is mostly white adult males who make the news. Like Mitt Romney who is so against same sex marriage.  Or Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, Ron Paul and the likes making moronic comments about the legitimacy of rape.

Now, I don’t mean to be disrespectful to either black people or white people.  Or any kind of people.  The truth is that lack of common sense is universal to [wo]mankind.  Being a woman doesn’t protect against the lack of common sense either as you can see from the picture above.  As it turns out, you don’t have to be a white adult male to say and do stupid things.

That makes me sad.  As I said in yesterday’s post, it makes me cry.  to quote myself (wow, fancy, I’m quoting myself now) “Tears of anger that white people allowed this to happen and tears of sadness that we treated other people like they were not people.  And still do”

How I wish we were all truly on our way to freedom land.  A land where people not only have the right to sit anywhere they want, regardless their skin colour but also to marry whomever they want, regardless their gender.  Not to mention the right to earn the same wages regardless your ability to carry a child in your womb for 9 months.

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11 thoughts on “Civil Rights? What Civil Rights?

  1. purplemary54 says:

    Here in California, many black churches and leaders came out to support Prop 8, which abolished same-sex marriage in the state (although that’s looking temporary, thanks to recent court rulings). Since Obama has come out in favor of same-sex marriage, many African-Americans are changing their tunes. Maybe they always believed it should be a right, but were afraid to speak out against their leaders until Obama said something. I don’t know. I do know that the bigots who oppose same-sex marriage have spent a lot of time and money trying to convince people of color that civil rights for LGBTQ people isn’t the same as civil rights for people of color, playing especially on religious bias.

    There, that’s my update on what I know about same-sex marriage and “minorities” in California.

  2. saradraws says:

    Maddening. Simply maddening. I too carry the naive (and perhaps prejudiced) assumption that those who have suffered oppression will not in turn oppress others. Holy frickin’ crap am I wrong. When I was working for a Pakistani family, they were slagging the Hasidic Jews. When I had dinner with my Greek and Philipino neighbours, they started in on the Sri Lankens. Turns out, race, gender, ethnicity do not dictate morals or biases. That was MY racism/sexism showing. Humans are humans everywhere. And some of them are asshats.

    • SummerSolsticeGirl says:

      Yes, it is unfortunate but it is true. Sadly, we are taught from the cradle to distrust and even hate those who are different from us. We see it here in Canada all the time. Like that Quebec woman and her stupid remarks.

      But why do you say you assumption might be prejudiced?

      • saradraws says:

        I assume other cultures/ethnicities who have suffered from oppression/racism would not be racist themselves. It’s a generalization based on ethnicity, which is inherently racist.

  3. danfromsquirrelhill says:

    The reason that women earn less than men is because of the choices that they make. For example, a 2009 New York Times article reported that Anne York, an economics professor at Meredith College in North Carolina, had conducted a study of high school valedictorians in the U.S. According to the study, female valedictorians were planning to have careers that had a median salary of $74,608, whereas male valedictorians were planning to have careers with a median salary of $97,734. As to why the females were less likely than the males likely to choose high paying careers such as surgeon and engineer, the article quoted York as saying, “The typical reason is that they are worried about combining family and career one day in the future.”


    Likewise, the fact that 92% of people who die from work-related injuries are men is not because of discrimination, but because of the choices that men make when they choose an occupation.


    • SummerSolsticeGirl says:

      I know I am very naive but I dream of a world where people accept each other for what they are. Where people understand that we don’t have to all think the same way, or look the same way, or talk the same way.

      I know it’ll never happen but I still wish it

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