More Equal Than Others

As is custom, media puts out recaps of the year past. The Washington Post gave us The Year According to Toles, a selection of editorial cartoons by Tom Toles. Meant to summarize 2008’s highest and lowest points, it includes illustrated comments on the bailout debacle, China’s clamp down during the Olympics, Hillary Clinton’s emotions, the McCain-Palin-America mismatch, Bush’s gross ineptitude and failure, and of course, the next president, the inspirational, the one and only Barack Obama.

This panel is right in the middle, where it ought to be, considering the nation’s turbulent and fraught history of race relations. The election of America’s first president of color is momentous and marvelous. However, it would be naive or disingenuous to claim that Obama’s ascendancy has ended racism and proved that all Americans are equal. Many citizens of color remain less equal than their White counterparts. Take income inequality, for instance. African Americans and Latinos earn less than White individuals. Women are paid less than men. Contrary to the myth of gay affluence, LGBT women and men have lower incomes. More so if they happen to be non-White.

Ah yes, the gays. As Toles sketched out a couple of days after the one above, homosexuals remain less equal than ever. Californians, by voting for Proposition 8, gave chickens the right to some comfort, while simultaneously stripping lesbians and gays of their fundamental rights. Recently, the president-elect himself, whom the gay community and its allies loyally and royally supported, did a Bill Clinton even before setting foot in the White House. While promising Change for LGBT Americans, Obama has already disappointed by palling with bigoted celebrity preachers and denying competent, willing and able gays a seat in his Cabinet. His cavalier attitude towards the outcry from gays, their allies and other fair-minded citizens is disheartening and reeks of hubris.

As we look back at 2008 and look forward to 2009, we do have cause to celebrate. The election of America’s first Black president forced a much needed paradigm shift towards equality for all minorities. But whether it be a seismic shift or a mere few inches remains to be seen.

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