Promises to keep

Prejudice is an ugly thing. After decades of struggle to promote equality in these United States of America, we obviously have a more just society than the one we inherited from previous generations. But there is still plenty to be accomplished on the road to equality, despite unmistakable progress.

Prohibitions that would be unthinkable today were the law of the land not too long ago. Women were not allowed to vote in this country until the 19th Amendment to the Constitution became law in 1920. Forty years later the Voting Rights Act of 1965 extended that fundamental right to all citizens no matter the color of their skin or the state where they happened to live. In some states, men and women of different races were prohibited from marrying by laws that remained on the books until 1967.

Many of us look back on those laws with detachment as if that long-ago society has nothing to do with us. Future generations will no doubt take refuge in the same suspension of disbelief at the discrimination against gays and lesbians that is still deemed acceptable in some sectors of American society today. One day, that ugly prejudice will take its place in the dustbin of history alongside the other “unthinkable” prohibitions listed above. It is not a question of if but when.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., assassinated in 1968, was a man of his time; if he were alive today, Dr. King would be 83 years old – but the truths he embodied are timeless. He said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Justice demands equal treatment under the law regardless of your age, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual preference, and as Dr. King so accurately described, the arc is bending toward justice. The military policy called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been scrapped by President Obama as surely as President Truman integrated the Army with the stroke of a pen in 1948.

Using any religion to enforce bigotry is unacceptable. A brochure on the door of the Episcopal Chaplain’s office at Stanford University reads, “What did Jesus say about homosexuality?” When the brochure is opened the inside is completely blank.That is why the decision by Principal Thomas Amons to eliminate the adult cosmetology class at BISD’s Taylor Career Center rather than admit a student he thought was gay is so disturbing and just plain wrong. It is impossible to believe this bigoted decision will stand, and we believe Dr. Timothy Chargois, the new BISD superintendent, will step in and correct this injustice immediately.

If they want to keep Amons around after this shocking error in judgment, they can toss him a fig leaf and let him say it was all a misunderstanding. But Dr. Chargois must make clear to him and other district employees that such ugliness will not be tolerated in the district.

The fight to end prejudice continues and we all have promises to keep – and miles to go before we sleep.