Guess who’s coming to dinner

I had this great epiphany last night. I watched this wonderful movie from 1967 called Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. I’d heard about this movie in the past, referenced in pop culture, and I luckily happened upon it in between watching episodes of season 5 of Babylon 5 on DVD. I continued to watch the movie while running on the treadmill and I felt really invigorated.

Why? This movie is about a young interracial couple who have decided to get married and how they have to deal with their respective families. At first, I was rolling my eyes at the very overt racist reactions of the young woman’s parents very early on in the film. I was thinking, “Pullleease? Would parents really get so bent out of shape?” I was more worried about the woman in the film, were I her parents, because she fell in love with the man while on a vacation in Hawaii. After just a week together, they were deciding to get married and that seemed nuts to me, not the fact that the woman was white and the guy was black.

And then I realized something: this was 1967. Racism was still so mainstream. It was only a decade since desegregation in the US. Back then, a black person and a white person marrying was radical. It was unheard of. It was illegal in most states. Yeah. There were actually state laws prohibiting interracial marriage! Today, no one bats an eye when they see an interracial couple. In fact, children of interracial marriages are often admired for their outstanding beauty (i.e., Halle Berry). Back in 1967, however, people would stare.

So my epiphany occurred halfway through the movie amidst all the speeches being delivered by the young woman’s mother and, later, by the young man himself. Right now, gay marriage is considered an abomination in much the same way mixed marriage was considered grotesque in the past. Gay marriage is being deemed illegal right now, at this moment, all over the US as a knee-jerk reactionary response. But, this time will pass. I’m certain of it. Civil rights will eventually win and people will finally come to the side of love and let this go.

Why do I say this? Check out the video included at the bottom of this post. This is a message from a group calling themselves California Faith for Equality and it’s comprised of religious leaders from several different faiths (including UUyay!!). This video, along with the movie last night, has restored my faith in humanity. Change sometimes takes a long time, but it is inevitable. It will come to pass that homosexual and transgendered people who seek to pledge themselves into committed, loving relationship will be allowed to marry. I just know it. It may be a long struggle, but the struggle will not go away and it will certainly not go away just because states in their hatred of gays and transgender people make these committed relationships illegal. This is just the start of the battle. The fact that states are becoming so reactionary just indicates to me that the bough is about to break. This culture who has been largely suppressed since the founding of America will finally burst forth and take what is their right as citizens. And I know I’m going to live to see the day when homosexual and transgender rights come to the forefront of our culture because I’m going to fight with my last breath as a friend to the community to do what is right for all people.

Love, my friends, is a precious thing. It’s rare–a lot rarer than people realize. In the words of the UU minister Forrest Church, love is the only thing worth living for, love is what gives your life meaning. If one truly believes that love is a gift from God, then we have no right to deny people the right to pledge their love to others nor do we have the right to deny them the privileges heterosexual couples are innately given. Love, to me, is a beautiful gift. And when I see two people who love each other, expressing their love for one another–no matter what gender they are–I’m filled with hope and promise for our future. Love makes us better people. Love only begets love while hate just incinerates the soul and destroys the best part of us.

I stand on the side of love. I will always stand on the side of love. Sometimes it’s hard to put prejudice aside and become more open to possibilities–I’ve had to work very hard to beat my own natural tendencies towards racism, sexism, ageism, every “ism” under the sun. Being a civilized human being means overcoming the negative input from society around you and deciding, rationally, to chose the path of love even when sometimes the path to this enlightenment is filled with your own personal stumbling blocks. I try continuously to be a loving person to my fellow man.

I think someday, in the future, perhaps when I have children (if I have children), no one will bat an eye at a homosexual couple holding hands in a public place. It changed for interracial couples throughout the years; it will change for the LGBT community as well. Maybe I’m a hopeless optimist, but watching Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner from the perspective of 2008, as well as a girl who grew up in the 1980s with a very liberal mother leading her, I realized that the norm has changed drastically. Back in 1967, this movie was probably revolutionary. It was probably scary and weird for a lot of people, the way the general public views gay marriage today. The young woman in the movie’s father kept declaring that the marriage between his daughter and this black man (a doctor with great credentials, mind you), was just “not right” without any solid base for this conclusion, despite the fact that he had raised his daughter to not be prejudice and to treat all people equally. This is the sentiment I hear quite often from anti-gay marriage proponents, this lame response of, “I don’t know… it’s just not right.”

It’s not right because it hasn’t been a cultural norm up until now. When people can’t back what they are saying solidly, when to them it’s just a clash of the senses, it indicates a stone wall in the person built from years of a suppressive society telling them what’s right and wrong… People can either take a hammer to this wall to attempt to be more understanding, or they can let the wall stop them. Either way, society will change because the next generation is growing up in a time when being gay is less of a taboo than it was years ago, even in the 1980s. They are finding friends, as I did in college, who are gay or transgendered, and they learning that these people are just like everyone else in their basic human desires. The next generation will not have these walls within them (well, for the most part). As the character of Dr. John Prentice (the black man in the movie) says (which was my favorite line in the movie), “You and your whole lousy generation believes the way it was for you is the way it’s got to be. And not until your whole generation has lain down and died will the dead weight of you be off our backs!”

Yay! This is what I’ve been saying for years. If I have children, I will teach them to be welcoming, inclusive, and to treat all people as equals. I will tell my children, as my mother did, that if they are gay, they shouldn’t be afraid to tell me because I will love them for whoever they are. I will raise my children in the UU church and I will teach them to stand on the side of love, always. I see such promise in the young children of my church and I envy them for the upbringing they are getting in our community. How I would have benefited from such an open-minded church experience! It’s a good thing my mother has always, without knowing it, stood to the UU principles in teaching her children to be kind human beings.

I will do my part to get rid of hate and prejudice by raising my own children to be good people. Hopefully, if I do ever have children, they will become adults in a world less restrictive and suppressive. I wish that they would see the day when they can look back on today’s world and wonder why people were so up-in-arms about gay marriage and the whole LGBT community. If they could look back in mild amusement at this time, the way I did while watching Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, then we’ve done our part to rid the world of another prejudice.

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