I acknowledge that my individual rights are guaranteed by the constitution; but that has not always been the case.
They have been won by struggles begun long before I was born.
But, about which of these rights am I speaking?
I am a woman. I am black. I am a senior citizen (although these days I have dubbed myself a “tweenior” because who wants to be old?). Each of these categories are covered by some law or other.
I can check also off several other boxes describing any number of other minority classifications: i.e. black coffee, no sugar, no cream; milk chocolate, not dark; indoor gym-no sweating outdoors; foreign cars versus American made, etc.
While I am not a member of any church, I am free to worship wherever I please – in America. I am sexual (thank God), and I happen to like having sex with men.
And that raises a question about minority preferences. Most of my personal choices are not protected under the law; nor should they be.
But these days, there are ‘minority’ groups, for instance, other people of color- Asians, Mexican Americans, some Arabs, to name a few, popping up every day with their demands for equal protection, under the law, and worse, they are borrowing tactics and language from the civil rights movement.
Excuse me, but some things ought to remain sacred.
There was controversy back in the 70s when the nascent women’s rights movement first borrowed from the 60s black power movement to promote their rights.
It worked, but not without a major push back from the black leaders who reminded the women- led mostly by whites- that they were riding on the coat tails of hard won gains by a minority; namely blacks, African-Americans.
Here we are, in 2014, and the civil rights lexicon is being used again in support of every other ‘minority’ group.
I feel very strongly that everyone should be able to exercise their natural birthright to pursue life, liberty and happiness as long as they behave as a responsible citizen- that is, they don’t trample on anyone else’s rights to the same.
In this modern live and let live society, I believe that we should all wake up each morning knowing that we are able to “live our best lives,” to quote Oprah Winfrey. That we can, each one of us, live beyond our accidental conditions of birth into a particular race, class, caste, gender assignment, sexual preference, mental or physical ability, and any limited expectations of others.
But, here’s the rub:
I think folk have become lazy and are taking short cuts when they continue to borrow from the Civil Rights movement to effect the changes for whatever minority group they’re advocating.
The civil rights gains that have inured to black-Americans is a unique benefit gained from the singular experience of being black in America.
A white woman cannot identify with that.
A gay man cannot identify with that. Not even a black gay man.
Asians, Mexicans and Arabs have their own hyphen.
Nor can the learning disabled, the physically different, the medically challenged, the gender questioning, nor any other minority group use the black experience as their own.
There is no stretch of comparison that can come near the unique quality of being black in America.
It is so unparalleled that even the President of the United States himself cannot enjoy being the premiere leader of the free world without first being labeled black. That label keeps us separate; it tells us apart; and, therefore it continues to enjoy a special category to be protected under the law of the land and enforced to the highest degree. And it shall not be watered down!
To all other ‘minority’ groups who are fighting for protection, I say go get your own movement in order, and start fresh!
I challenge you to come up with some fresh language, fresh ideas, and fresh approaches to winning what you rightfully deserve.
But leave my civil rights alone.
Antonia Williams-Gary is a consultant with Miami-based Savings and Grace Enterprise. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org