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Article encourages Oppression Olympics: ‘Gays May Diverge From Blacks as Top Court Reshapes Rights’

Civil rights aren’t a zero sum game, yet a Greg Stohr, in a Bloomberg News article, seemed hell-bent on crafting a piece that pits LGBT rights against the rights of people of color. And the needlessly divisive piece starts with it right out of the box:

The legal fortunes of gays and racial minorities may move in opposite directions when the U.S. Supreme Court’s term reaches its climax in late June.

In agreeing last week to consider two gay-marriage cases, including a fight over California’s ban, the justices ensured that the coming months will be pivotal for U.S. civil rights.

Gays are looking to gain new legal safeguards just as racial minorities may lose some of theirs. Even as the court weighs gay marriage rights, it will consider ending decades-old protections for blacks and Hispanics in cases involving voting rights and university affirmative action. In each case, the deciding vote may belong to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is both a skeptic of racial preferences and a backer of gay rights.

“It would be deeply unfortunate if the court moved forward with equality for gay men and lesbians at the same time it moved backward in terms of progress on racial equality,” said Doug Kendall, president of the Washington-based Constitutional Accountability Center, which backs gay marriage and legal protections for racial minorities.

I guess it’s time to repeat the tiresome fact that there are some of us out there who inhabit multiple worlds — minority and LGBT — how are my rights as a lesbian moving forward at the expense of my blackness? My friend Scott Wooledge hit the nail on the head:

Should Olsen and Boies and ACLU withdraw the marriage cases so we don’t risk winning in the same SCOTUS session that racial minorities might lose?

There is no need for Oppression Olympics.

People who participate in Oppression Olympics tend to ignore the fact that it’s possible for multiple groups to be oppressed, and necessary to address all those problems, without choosing a single group to get all the anti-oppression activism. Oppression Olympics also tends to ignore Intersectionality, except where the existence of multiple degrees of oppression can help an individual participant “win”.

SCOTUS will weigh these cases and yes, we may not find there are clear “winners” or “losers.” What is not true is that the cases are in competition with one another. Why not begin with the idea that you can practice good journalism without trying to pit one side against another when it isn’t about any side at all?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding