THE BLOG

Have We Overcome?

12/25/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Isn't it ironic that as we're congratulating ourselves on our ability to elect a black president while we are simultaneously lamenting the passage of Proposition 8? We Americans have been quite pleased with ourselves because we were able to elect a black man to the highest office in the land. I would argue that we may have overcome something, but it is not bigotry. The day we will really know we have overcome bigotry is the day we elect a black, Atheist, lesbian -- that would be a feat.

Inherent in the post-election discussions of race and politics is the conclusion that because large segments of our population have moved away from open racism, we are beyond bigotry. Nothing could be further from the truth; we have simply traded one for another, or several others, as the case may be. And these latest forms of intolerance and discrimination are often made more palatable through religion, as open racism against blacks used to be.

Because of religion and its ever-encroaching move into the political spectrum, Americans were forced to live through an administration that would not allow medical research on single cells to help find cures for diseases in people who are alive right now. Because of religion, pro-life politicians gain support from citizens whose actual interests are ignored in favor of policies that benefit the extremely wealthy. Because of religion, all over the country laws like Proposition 8 proliferate.

In spite of Obama's election, what America has not given up and seems loathe to give up, regardless how far backward we move socially, morally, and legally, is religion. Why should it? Religion allows people to vilify those they don't understand. Simply claim that anything different from you is against your religion and you are protected by your God-given, inalienable right to believe.

It is truly a significant step in the right direction that a black man will be our president. It is evidence that progress is possible and that society is able to make changes that seemed impossible only decades earlier. Yet is seems to me that if we are ever able to really end bigotry, if we are ever able to end all forms of discrimination, we are going to have to take a cold, hard, honest look at religion and its role in the promulgation of hate and intolerance. Only then will we truly overcome.