In Arkansas, I was the first generation in my family to experience a lifetime of racially integrated schools. And even though I started school seventeen years after the Central High Crisis, many people I grew up with remained staunchly rooted in their belief that this integration compromised the quality of my education. My mother was dying in the hospital during the 25th anniversary of the Central High event. As the family sat in the hospital waiting room, my aunts and uncles discussed how integration had ended decent living for white folks.
Growing up, I was keenly aware of my family’s prevailing bigotries: their hate of black people and their hate of my homosexuality. So I was fairly shocked at the recent court ruling this past week to allow gay marriage within the state. Some part of me expected the state to be a final militant holdout. But when I saw this Arkansas Times article, it seemed more like the state I knew growing up.
Arkansans tend to take the law into their own hands, whatever the excuse. But that excuse is usually religion or decorum. It’s a quality that often goes unnoticed, but is sometimes rewarded. I know because my grandfather lived near the Governor’s mansion. Every Christmas, he would leave a bottle of moonshine, or homemade elderberry wine, on the mansion steps for the Clintons as a gift. Most years he got a thank-you note — and never a visit from the police.
The Arkansas Times article itself points to the larger systemic issue of re-defining marriage. The fact is, even though many of us are entitled to it now, the systems are not equipped, the people are not trained, and they may not like it. We know from history that a war can be won, but battles will still need to be fought. And we have won the war, but the battles are still ahead.
I hope all gays will handle these upcoming challenges with decorum. I want us to stand on the right side of history. Not just as a group that won their rights, but one who did it in a way that would make Dr. King proud. Because in the end, there is much more at stake than just our own rights, as Carina Kolondy so eloquently points out in this piece from The Huffington Post.