Tyranny of the Majority: Correcting the Narrative

Know why diversity’s so important?  It’s about more than just adding another feminine, Black, or gay face at the table, you know.

There are those proverbs that talk about the victor having the spoils, and about history being the victor’s nonobjective story — HIStory.  And there was an African proverb I ran across yesterday that read:  Until the lion has a chance to tell its story, the hunter will be glorified.

My purpose here isn’t to shade victory.  It is survival of the fittest out this mug.  And our very existence is predicated on the theory that only the strong survive.  What I mean to suggest, then, is that one of the privileges of winning, nay, the best privilege of winning is controlling the narrative.  And thus, controlling, massaging, and/or revising the truth.  Because “the truth” and one’s perception of it aren’t always the same.

Take 3 recent examples:  President Obama vs. Religious Freedom, Roland Martin sticking his foot in his mouth on behalf of “real bruhs,” and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals kicking discrimination in the nuts by clipping Proposition H8’s wings.

In the middle of January, the Health and Human Services Department mandated that, under President Obama’s Healthcare Affordability Act, all employers and organizations who provide healthcare insurance must also cover contraceptive care, aka birth control pills, for example, as part of that package.  The phony furor that’s erupted over the last week has to do with religious organizations (particularly the Catholic church) being “forced” to indirectly participate in a practice to which it is principally opposed — the prevention of pregnancy.

As a result, the airwaves are awash with characterizations of the Obama Administration as anti-religion, anti-First Amendment, anti-freedom, and anti-American!  If I jumped the gun on the last two, I merely jumped the gun.  I suspect this phase of the game will show its pasty face sooner or later.  There’s no harm in being ready for it.

At any rate, Rachel Maddow was excellent last night in providing a different perspective on this issue:  the woman’s perspective —  based in real female behavior, and not religious proscriptions for female behavior.  Maddow pointed out that something like 99% of women who have sex use birth control.  And something like 98% of Catholic women use birth control.  Moreover, nearly 6 in 10 Catholics recently polled agreed that “all employers should be required to provide their employees with healthcare plans that cover contraception or birth control at no cost. “

What this says to me is that churches might want women to bear litters of children like they did a century ago.  But seeing as though Mrs. Duggar appears to be the only sista signed up for baby factory duty, then the HHS decision doesn’t strike me as trampling on religious “freedom”.  Instead, it ‘s protecting reproductive freedom from religious dictates that aren’t based in reality.  This probably wasn’t the fight to pick in an election year because it requires some critical analysis, and we know Americans aren’t very comfortable with nuance and context.  It was a ballsy decision nonetheless.

Also not based in reality are Roland Martin’s attempts to clean up his uncompromisingly lame joke (at best) and homophobic (at worst) tweets from Superbowl Sunday.  Martin tweeted that “real bruhs” wouldn’t rush to H&M to buy some underroos based on an advertisement featuring a half-naked David Beckham.  The implication here is that “real bruhs” are heterosexual men, and thus, gay men (who might also not be interested in buying men’s underwear just because a presumably attractive man is wearing them, might I add) aren’t “real” men.  I had the pleasure of meeting a woman a few months ago who recently penned a piece on this issue that hits the nail squarely on its head.  Take a look:  An Open Letter to Roland Martin by Ms. Samantha Master.

Only from within the bubble of majority privilege and story-telling can one not see the danger of advocating that “real bruhs” should “smack the ish” out of he who exhibits what Roland Martin has arbitrarily decided is unacceptable “real” man behavior.  Folks were right to call Martin out for his remarks.  And, just to be messy, can a brother wearing a paisley Ascot really talk shit about what is and isn’t considered manly?

Finally, yesterday the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dealt a considerable blow to a 21st century tyranny of the majority when it declared California’s ban on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8, un-fucking-constitutional.  Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote the opinion, asserting that Prop 8:

…serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.

In America, we’ve ascribed to the institution of marriage more than religious and cultural traditions.  The special bond between individuals in a modern world is socially recognized and legitimized by the tradition of marriage.  In the modern world, sure you still sit in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.  But quiet as it’s kept, love, marriage, and baby carriage are all a toss-up as to which comes first.

The prevailing narrative is that society is based in the tradition of one man, one  woman “marriage”.  And defining “marriage” as something other than that destroys the bedrock foundation of society.  This is preposterous.  Yes, preposterous.  I would argue that the foundations of society are the various incarnations of family and cooperation.  “Tribal” and “civilized” societies alike have toyed with what family looks like — polygamous, nuclear, extended, polyamorous.  But what they’ve had in common is the notion that whether I’m your only wife or your third of three wives, my commitment is to helping our family prosper; my commitment is to raising well-adjusted children with diverse perspectives and unique stories who will grow into productive members of a global society and pass on a legacy of respect for difference, and optimism for cooperation based on the values we – as human beings – share.

When Civil Rights legislation hung in the balance during the 1950s and 60s, the overwhelming majority opposed racial equality then too.  The ratio was something like 3 to 1.  This is the exact same fight … because I know you know Civil Rights aren’t synonymous with Black people rights…I don’t have to tell you that, right?  The majority was wrong then, and it is wrong now.

As a Black woman with a gorgeous girlfriend whom I plan to marry, I’m grateful for “activist” judges who understand that just because many people agree doesn’t mean they’re all “right.”  I’m grateful that judicial activism exists to rescue us from a tyranny of the majority.  As Maddow put it, speaking about the contraception issue, ” I realize that a lot of 60-something male pundits look at this issue and think, ‘hmm…bad politics for the democrats on the catholic side.’  There is another way to look at it.”

That’s what I mean by correcting the narrative.