i am visiting New York where I am staying with my son, Josh, at his apartment in Harlem. This morning I went across the street to get a coffee at Starbuck’s. Just ahead of me in line was a lesbian couple, one African-American and the other Latina-American clearly behaving like a couple. Let’s parse this.
1 – My son has an apartment in Harlem.
2 – There is a Starbuck’s across the street.
3 – an openly lesbian inter-racial couple
Not so long ago none of this would have been possible. Harlem was a largely Jewish area of the City a long time ago, but the Harlem of my lifetime used to be a racial enclave known for urban blight and violence. A business like Starbuck’s would never have opened here. Until not so long ago most GLBT people stayed in the closet and certainly were not openly affectionate in public. Inter- racial couples were not often seen, especially homosexual couples.
My first thought was that all the activism of the past sixty years has achieved a great deal. I felt everything I have done has borne fruit. The harassment and abuse I have suffered, especially speaking out from the pulpit, has been worth it.
Then I looked at the morning paper and realized how far there is to go. A U. Of Cincinatti campus cop has been indicted for murdering a motorist stopped for a missing license plate. A black woman died after three days in jail in a Texas county with a history of racist violence. Her offense was failing to use a turn signal when she changed lanes. True, she did Not behave wisely when stopped but a policeman is supposed to be a professional and should have been trained in calming people down in tense situations. I have not only observed policemen in New York and in my small town of Hendersonville doing just that, but I was trained by the NYPD to intervene when observing bad behavior on a policeman’s part (I am using a gender-specific term but am referring to anyone of either gender wearing a badge and I should not have to say that). Racism is still a big problem despite the great progress and despite the denials of conservatives. There is still much to do, which is why I am active with Moral Mondays.
I have been active in environmental concerns for almost half a century and now see legislatures rolling back essential regulations to please their corporate sponsors, the ones that pay for their electoral campaigns. The Senate has put that ignorant clodhoppers, James Inhofe, in charge of climate change issues. Despite a great deal of progress in that area there is not only a long way to go, but it is necessary to oppose those who seek to go backwards.
Nuclear proliferation has largely ended with no new members of the nuclear cllub except North Korea for some time. Throughout the history of nuclear arms there have been negotiations towards arms limitations treaties. Many believe Iran is working towards becoming a member of that club and there has been concern about this for about a quarter century. Now an agreement has been negotiated which will deny Iran the possibility of going nuclear and this entirecdeal is endangered by Congress. I have read and heard the objections and none of them convince me of anything except political grandstanding. That goes double for Israel’s demagogic Prime Minister Bibi Netsnyaho who has been beating that drum since 1992.
A couple of weeks ago I joined the Moral Monday rally in Winston-Salem protesting our state’s voter suppression law. I marched for voting rights in Selma. Why do I still have to march for voting rights?
I could go on and on about what still needs doing. I would love to enjoy a retirement of study, friendship, and enjoyment of my life. I intend to do those things, but I cannot spend all of my time and energy on those things. There is still too much that needs to be done to fix the world.
As Rabbi Tarfon said, “you are not required to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from the work.”