Friday, April 17, 2009

I Was A Bastard for 22 Years

From my birth in 1945 until the Loving decision of 1967, as a mixed-blood Chinese-American, I was, legally speaking, a bastard in a number of American states. My father's father emigrated to the United States from China in 1868, so both his marriage in 1889 and my parents marriage in 1927 were not recognized by those states that still had legal injunctions against intermarriage (miscegenation).

It was only in 1967 that the United States Supreme Court finally struck down laws prohibiting marriage between "whites" and those of "other races." The "Loving v. Virginia Decision" of 1967 declared Virginia's "Racial Integrity Act of 1924" unconstitutional, thus voiding the miscegenation laws in all sixteen states that still prohibited intermarriage.

Does my story even begin to compare to the prejudice Blacks, women, and other oppressed minorities have been subjected to throughout America's history? No way, I wasn't even called "squinty eyes" in grammar school. Nonetheless, my background has fueled a fire within me to crusade for the legal rights and social acceptance of all Americans - Blacks, women, gays, and those who are currently most under attack, Arab-Americans, and Muslim-Americans.

While the fight against prejudice is a constant struggle, great progress has been made on behalf of Blacks and women. Even Gay rights appears to be gaining a stronger foothold in middle America, although, in a throwback to the days of miscegenation laws, we are embroiled in yet another battle-of-the-bedroom - the right of every American to choose who they marry.

Currently, the groups most under attack by prejudice are America's 3.5 million Arab-Americans, and one million Americans who are Muslim. Prejudice against these groups - which largely but not completely overlap - has recently taken a step backward to the crisis levels we experienced immediately after 9-11. These groups are victims of a renewed attack that is associated with the right wing backlash against the Barack Obama Presidency.

As far more than a casual bystander to this foolishness, I feel frustrated and unsure how to make a meaningful difference. Probably nothing will soften the hearts of those who have become so hardened to acceptance of their fellow humans. I can't even, in good conscience, advocate restricting the publication of hostile intolerance, as long as there is no incitement to physical harm.

Fortunately, history is on the side of progress. We no longer burn "witches" as we did 300 years ago. Women and Blacks at least have the vote. You can marry whoever you want (as long as they are of the right gender, and age, and you only marry one person at a time). We have come a long way - and we have a long way to go. I will attempt to balance patience and action.

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