Robert Lynn Green
- I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Why Sally Did Wrong
Rep. Sally Kern’s recent recorded condemnation of the so-called “gay threat” has attracted nation-wide attention due to the fact that, unbeknownst to her, someone recorded it and made it a popular Internet download. Many have condemned the speech, and others have wondered what the big deal is all about. After all, wasn’t Sally simply exercising her right to free speech by expressing a personal opinion?
In order to understand problem with Sally Kern's speech; let's put the shoe on the other foot for a second. Suppose a gay politician got up and said that the "straight agenda" was a greater threat to America than terrorism. Or that "straight people are trying to "indoctrinate" our two year olds. Or straights had "infiltrated" our city councils. Surely, people would think that they are listening to a nut who deserves to be ignored and certainly should never be trusted with a public office. Well, now may know how gay people feel when someone sees them as a "threat" for asking for the same human rights we all enjoy.
One might say, though, that while the speech might be offensive, it would not constitute threatening "hate speech." Straight people might be insulted or angered by such talk, but certainly not threatened. True, but then again straights are in the majority in our society. So let's change our hypothetical situation a bit.
Now imagine that a white couple, living in some country where they are a definite minority, say some place like Zimbabwe, were to hear a recording of a black politician from that country expressing similar views to Kern's. However, this time instead of using the words "gay" or "homosexual", he uses the word "white." Now "white people are greater threats than terrorists" and "white people must not be allowed to indoctrinate our children" or "the white agenda" must be rooted out and opposed by all available means. Wouldn't in this case the reaction go beyond merely being offended? Wouldn't the fact that these words might incite someone take direct action against this "threat" cause the white couple to feel what gay Americans feel when they hear a politician in Oklahoma make these statements?
I think they would, and this is why Rep. Kern should realize that words have consequences, especially when they come from someone involved in serving all the people.