One thing I appreciated about the candidacy of Roy Moore, who ran for one of Alabama’s U.S. Senate seats and narrowly lost yesterday, is that it brought bigotry into the open. Mr. Moore thinks we’d be better off if we did away with all the amendments to the U.S. Constitution after the 10th amendment (i.e., do away with all except the Bill of Rights). Those amendments that Mr. Moore would ditch include ones that abolished slavery and gave women the right to vote. These comments weren’t merely a slip of the tongue on the part of Mr. Moore; they were entirely consistent with other comments he’s made over the years and during the campaign. Clearly, Mr. Moore would feel more comfortable living in pre-Civil War Alabama. Regardless of what I think about his views, I’m glad Mr. Moore shared so openly.
Of course, they’re not only his views. Of the 1,334,397 people who voted in Alabama yesterday, 650,436 (48.4 percent) voted for Mr. Moore. They thought he was O.K.; they wanted him to represent them in Congress. They not only thought his views were O.K., but also thought his character was acceptable. Mind you, in this 30s, Mr. Moore preyed on teenage girls. Yet he was only 0.75 percentage points away from winning a seat in Congress.
I’m glad for this particular election because it helps us recognize that such views are out there. Often, they’re kept undercover for fear of social ostracism. But they’ve been coming out in the open more lately, in part due to people like Mr. Moore and President Trump. But these men didn’t create the ideas; they’re merely legitimizing them and emboldening those who hold them.
It’s easy for those of us who have a comfortable middle-class life to dismiss or ignore the threats to equality and justice. It’s tempting to think those ideas have been discredited and the battle for justice and equality is over. But it isn’t. In fact, it will never be over.
Some people find support for such views in holy books, principally, the Christian Bible and the Koran. Others find it in tradition. Others find it in a longing for a highly structured society that would yield its principal economic benefits to them and “their kind of people.”
Regardless of motivation, these ideas are a force to be reckoned with. If left unchallenged, they will ascend in power once again. And whether they ascend or not, they are stronger today than most of us privileged white, urban people recognize or care to admit. Much work remains, that is, if equality and justice are guiding principles in your life.
The questions each of us answers, either overtly or passively through inaction, are:
- Should a person’s future be defined, in whole or in part, by their sex, skin color or ancestry?
- What are we O.K. with?
You may think the answer to the first question is obvious. You just have to remember that there are others who think the answer is obvious, too, but their answer is different from yours.
History tells us that humanity wasn’t given a playbook to follow. We create the rules for the society we envision and think is best for our particular situation and the values we embrace. It always comes down to, Who is writing the rules?
Quite a few Americans wanted to bestow Mr. Moore with the power to write rules. The question is, Are the rest of us O.K. with that? And, if not, what are we going to do about it?