The (Zigzagged) Arc of History

Every one of us debating inequality over our coffees in the morning has been granted a rare opportunity to change what it is those future grandchildren will read about.
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The morning after the Prop 8 decision, I woke up in a house of a special legal class. The telltale signs of being in such a home might at first be hard to discern. There was coffee and tea being made. There was morning chitchat occurring. But there were also competing laptops playing news coverage of the protests held the night before. There were formal wedding photos of two women on the fireplace mantel. That morning chitchat included discussion of survivors guilt and the realization that the folks who live next door could not access the same rights, due simply to their not rushing to the altar, or to a City Hall, before November's vote.

The Prop 8 news was watched largely via online videos due to the television news that morning being dominated by continued coverage of another story about justice. In this new America, there we saw President Barack Obama standing next to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, nominating her to the Supreme Court. The cameras showed Sotomayor standing there, as a smart and talented woman who rose from the South Bronx to thrive in the Ivy League and then on the bench, making history as well. The arc of history is indeed long, and bent towards justice in a rather zigzag pattern this week.

Since my friends and hostesses got married, they were told that other same-sex couples in California were not allowed to, and then told the court would ultimately decide on the future of their marriage, and then were informed of the four other states that moved to allow marriage equality, before eventually being told that they could remain married, but others would not be granted such a right. All of this has occurred, and yet their wedding cake is still in the freezer, waiting to be eaten on the one-year anniversary of the legal ceremony they barely were able to organize in time before the deadline.

There is something to be said about the rare occurrences where history is being lived, and yet time has paced itself so slowly that the participants are granted awareness of this history-making in action. That feeling was in the air the night of the Iowa Caucus. Many of us felt that in the build up to President Obama's election. We are experiencing that now in the fight for equal rights.

A theme I come back to regularly in these times is: May history judge us all kind. May the clergy members who were arrested in the streets of San Francisco this week be more than a footnote in history. May the existence of this "special legal class" of 18,000 married LGBT couples in California be looked back upon as the faces of this inequality's senseless differentiation between those who can have justice and those who cannot. May all of those who have taken to the streets -- gay and straight alike -- be hailed as the fighters for justice that they are.

The thing about history books is that they often do not show all of the detailed setbacks and gains in a historical movement. You do not see the conversations Gandhi, or Harvey Milk, or Martin Luther King Jr. had over coffee the morning after a defeat. And yet history is altered by those who rise all of those mornings, take stock of the fight for equality, restrategize, and then keep moving towards justice. There are the nights and the mornings where we win, which the books and camera crews will document. And then there are the many nights and mornings where we just keep going, keep working, and keep engaging the larger public on why equality must be had now.

We are in this rare moment of history-creation; where the arc bending towards justice seems a bit more zigzaged then our grandchildren might read it to be. And yet it is in these moments where every action matters. Potential and the power of possibility are laid out before us all right now. Every one of us debating inequality over our coffees in the morning has been granted a rare opportunity to change what it is those future grandchildren will read about. We all have the opportunity now to add our names and faces to the history of this movement, to join with others in the streets, online, in conversations with our neighbors, and anywhere else we can go to continue seeking equality. I look forward to seeing many of you out there, doing the work side by side with so many others who have come before us and all of those who will follow. May history judge us all kind.

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