Ah, the glory of victimhood.
Bard College professor Omar G. Encarnacion penned an op-ed in The New York Times in which he makes the case for gay reparations. He believes the U.S. should take action, as many European countries already have, to atone for our shameful treatment of gays.
The New York Police Department apologized last week to the gay community for the 1969 raid of the Stonewall Inn, the fallout of which is widely credited with spurring the contemporary gay rights movement at home and abroad. Timed to coincide with Stonewall’s 50th anniversary, the statement by Commissioner James P. O’Neill said in part: “The actions taken by the N.Y.P.D. were wrong — plain and simple” and “the actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize.” The apology is the culmination of a decades-old struggle by gay activists for recognition of wrongdoing on the part of the police — one that few activists thought could ever become a reality.
He believes that we should follow in the footsteps of our European allies. After all, President Eisenhower issued an executive order in 1953 which “called for the expulsion of homosexuals from all levels of the federal government” and led to the “Lavender Scare.” He reminds us of Anita Bryant’s 1977 “Save Our Children” campaign (that was ridiculous) and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He also argues that the “Trump administration has displayed a keen hostility toward the gay community.”
Early on, all references to L.G.B.T. people were erased from government websites, including the 2017 apology issued by Secretary of State John Kerry for “decades of prejudice” toward gay and lesbians at the State Department. This month, the Trump administration rejected requests to fly the rainbow flag, a symbol of gay pride, at American embassies during the month of June, a practice begun by the Obama administration as a sign of America’s support for L.G.B.T. rights.
Encarnacion argues that “it would be a useful tool for restoring dignity for those victimized by discriminatory policies and for allowing countries to close long and painful chapters of homosexual repression.”
There are so many reasons why this is a terrible idea, but there’s no telling where it would stop. To what group should we atone for our shameful behavior next? The obese, the disfigured, the disabled, the short, the bald? Should women seek reparations from men? Migrants who weren’t treated kindly when they tried to enter the U.S. illegally? Or the really smart Asians who were rejected from Harvard?
What if someone is both black and gay? Will they receive double reparations?
Life is unfair, Mr. Encarnacion. Each one of us has faced struggle and shame.
Through no fault of our own, we are thrust into whatever the societal norms of the time happen to be.
Fortunately, we have evolved. To hold the country financially accountable now for what were widely held beliefs and attitudes at any given point in history is as preposterous as it is impractical. And it will also create further division in the country.
Let’s move on from this victimhood mentality.