A Line in the Sand
I grew up in the Deep South in a family where equality and justice, forgiveness and love were taught to us from an early age. Born in 1954 and growing up through the turbulent 1960s in Alabama, I'm surprised, looking back from my vantage point now, that I was so naïve about the racism that existed in the culture around us.
I will never forget the first time I came face-to-face with the ideology of white supremacy. I was stunned and furious. The words a boy spoke to me about race opened my eyes to a kind of hate that I didn’t even know existed. I tried to argue with him, but he had been so deeply indoctrinated into the false beliefs of bigotry that he was incapable of hearing my words.
I am far from the naïve kid that I was way back then, but I am still stunned and furious about the events that have unfolded in this country in the wake of Charlottesville. I am appalled by our president’s inability to denounce the evil of white supremacists and Nazi thinking.
My brother John Archibald, in his recent column, for AL.com (The Birmingham News), “In America and the South, It's Time to Pick Sides,” wrote: “Hate is hate and racial supremacy is poison to this country and this world. The "alt right" is all wrong, and the name itself is nothing but a euphemism for white supremacy and hate. Simply calling it "alt right" is an effrontery, for it puts hatred on a political plane instead of a moral one, where it belongs.”*
The great experiment that is the United States of America was based on the idea of equality and respect for all people, and in the long arc of our history we have moved in a generally forward progression toward those ideals. Along the way, more than a million American soldiers have died fighting to protect the equality of all Americans. If we surrender that goal, we give up on the heart and soul of America. In an age of constant outrage, this is the line in the sand we cannot cross.
President Trump will never live up to his campaign slogan to “make America great again,” for he does not understand what makes America great in the first place.
Except for our Native American brothers and sisters, all of our families immigrated to our shores at some time in the past—some of their own volition, some not. However we got here, we are a people of immigrants, a microcosm of the planet’s people. We contain among us a rich heritage of world religions and nationalities, and that is our strength—as it is our history.
Our history teaches us that as a nation we have the tenacity to keep striving even when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles—and that we are at our best when we all rise together. Americans are creative and innovative, we are resilient, we are courageous—but right now, we are in desperate need of inspiration. We need a leader to heal the divisions among us, not fan the flames of hatred, bigotry, and partisan politics.
In recent years, CAMP Rehoboth and all organizations and people working for LGBTQ progress in our country, have had remarkable success that we barely dreamed possible a mere decade ago. Yet now, with the rise of hate groups, and a new transgender military ban from the White House, we are faced with the stark reminder that what was done can be undone.
Now we know, our work is not done—and may not be done in our lifetime. Ancient hatred—be it racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, or Islamophobia—does not go away simply because laws are passed to protect people from hate crimes. It hides in waiting until someone with power gives it a “wink wink nod nod” of approval, and then it comes creeping out of hiding to cast a long shadow on the earth.
In Charlottesville we have gotten a whiff of that ancient hatred, and I hope a call for all of us to stand strong against it.
CAMP Rehoboth was built on the idea of equality. At the time of its founding we sought to create a place at the table for the LGBTQ community. We did that by working to find the common ground we shared with the community around us, and to build a strong coalition of support. LGBTQ issues may be our core, but we stand with all people who are targets of hate and discrimination.
Whether we take time to think about it or not, the rainbow is more than just an LGBTQ symbol. It stands for equality among all the people of the earth. Our goal in the beginning of the gay rights movement was to celebrate our rightful place within the human spectrum. Now we must use it to celebrate the full spectrum of human diversity.
Sunlight contains all the colors of the rainbow. Now more than ever, we must protect the light of our nation. We will not go backward into a dark age of hate and discrimination.
We will not cross that line in the sand.
Murray Archibald, CAMP Co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach. Email Murray. *John Archibald’s column “In America and the South, it's Time to Pick Sides” is available on Murray Archibald’s Facebook page or at AL.com.