I was raised by two parents who lived through, believed in, and were a part of the civil rights movement of the 1950s/1960s. I sang the songs, I walked the talk, I dreamed the dreams. I knew from a very early age that Rosa Parks wasn't just tired, she was part of a movement, she was sitting down to change the world.
But like the children I now teach, I also grew up thinking that civil rights was something that happened in the past, something that great people (including my mommy and daddy) had taken care of so that the children (me and my sister) could grow up in a world without hate, or at least *with* fair laws.
Of course, I got older, and I realized that the fight for civil rights is not over, and the road towards true tolerance and diversity and the ability to all live together and appreciate together....it's a long one.
But still, it never occurred to me until embarrassingly recently that I would have to fight for my own civil rights. As a Jew, I have a constantly evolving awareness of my own role in the dynamic equilibrium that is American cultural/racial/ethnic politics. I watch cultural/ethnic/racial/class diversity play itself out on the subway every day. But I never thought that *my* rights were an issue. Thankfully, my passport just says U.S.A. I always thought that as American Jews, my role (as my parents before me) would be as an ally, working to end the oppression of others.
But as it turns out, I am actually a member of a group that does not have the full spectrum of civil rights in the U.S.A. Not by choice. I am not sorry that I am "married" to the woman that I love, but I do not feel that I chose to love her any more than I chose to be born a female, or a Jew. And I find myself uncomfortable and even somewhat ashamed to be in a group (gay people) that is denied so much in this country. That surprises me because I do not think that any other group with civil rights problems should feel shame -- if anything, the lawmakers in this country should feel shame for not moving faster towards justice -- but there it is.
Strange stuff. The personal is political......