Difference defines our world. Race, gender, and sexuality are everywhere. They bounce recklessly back and forth in the American consciousness, creating a fog of confusion in which we all get lost. In an ideal world, difference would not matter. Yet our world is far from ideal, and so we must confront difference, regardless of how painful and complex this confrontation can be. Difference is difficult, and is often used to oppress and exploit. It is a labyrinth, though, in which we must necessarily get lost if we are to ever find our way to understanding. After all, Dorothy faced a lot of trouble along the yellow brick road, but that did not mean she stopped looking for the Wizard of Oz.
Difference has been the blight of the non-“white male” for hundreds of years. If you were black, you were a slave, a woman, you were a servant of the house--property of your respective man. If you were “plagued” by homosexuality, you lived a life of repression in the darkness of the closet. There was no room at the top for anyone but the white male, and the system of structural oppression made sure no one could even tried to get up. After all, different meant inferior. They had no business at the top. Stereotypical images and expectations helped to reinforce this power structure. Blacks were stupid and lazy. Women were too gentle, and must be thin and beautiful to succeed as a wife. Gays...they were just too embarrassing to even talk about. Power was where it belonged, claimed by those in power, and if you questioned it, it would crush you.
Still there are the few courageous men and women of history who stood against the tides of injustice. Then, more stood up and raised their voices, then more and more. Indeed, the struggle was never that simple. Thousands died in the name of progress, as injustice was seemingly everywhere, but they fought anyway. Difference would not be a curse, they shouted. “We are all human beings with inherent dignity, regardless of who we are or what we look like.” It was a simple premise, but one not so easy to achieve. Progress has come--slowly at best, but discrimination, prejudice, and oppressive stereotypes have, and continue to leave their bloody stains on humanities front door, God’s gift of difference has been twisted and coerced into a weighty burden onto which the beast of humanity has ridiculously placed upon its own yoke.
The images and stereotypes of prejudice, you see, have not died. Ronald Reagan invoked the image of the black woman as a lazy parasite when he preached the downfall of the "welfare queen," who, believe it or not, does not really exist. Pat Buchannan cried to the Republican Convention that "we must take our country back," meaning get it back into the hands of the rich and powerful white upper class. Millions of women suffer everyday trying to live up to falsities of standardized beauty, anorexia and bulimia are rampant. Many states have passed anti-gay rights amendments, while Charles Murray...