In today’s society, should attorneys, even those in Mississippi, be held to a higher standard? The answer is ‘Yes!’ While everyone is entitled to their ignorance, there is a reason for higher standards. Attorneys, and others in influential positions, do not simply comment among themselves. With the media these days, especially the Internet, comments are there for everyone to see.
Mississippi attorney Macy Hanson made some outrageous remarks recently. Commenting on “the party of black people, other minorities, and, worst of all, the gays,” Hanson made something perfectly clear: no matter how far we have come with equal rights under the law, as for attitudes of equality ‘We are not there yet.’
And what happens when this occurs? Too many people are influenced by ignorant comments they read in the media. Individuals who already carry racism and bigotry can feel their prejudices are valid. They can believe if a person in a higher position has opinions similar to their own, those opinions must be accurate, truthful, and right.
In contrast, individuals who do not yet have prejudices may start to form these beliefs, based solely on comments from an influential person. This is especially distressing when we consider how many young adults and teenagers read the news every day. Young people who are forming their own sets of values do not need to hear that some people are ‘less equal’ than others despite what the ambulance chasing attorney in the deep south thinks.
Some of this nation’s original documents mentioned equality. It took centuries for laws to start catching up. Until a few decades ago, basic rights such as voting, housing, and education were not equal for everybody. Until a few years ago, gays did not have the right to marry.
We can look at this as steps in the right direction. Although it has taken far too long for some to achieve full equality under the law, progress has occurred. No one can be denied a home, an education, a seat on a jury, or a marriage license because of his or her race or sexual orientation.
But we are still not there yet. While Americans are guaranteed freedom of speech and expression, these rights must be used responsibly. And for individuals like Macy Hanson to use the media as his platform to express his prejudices, is not using these rights responsibly at all. With the media, it is as if the words came from a national leader or a popular celebrity: people are listening, people are absorbing it.
Although we do not have the power to silence individuals like Hanson due to freedom of speech that we must allow, we must take a stand to let Macy Hanson and others know their dislike for gays and blacks and liberals is not alright. In the 21st century, we cannot afford the voice of equality to be drowned out by the ever-present voice of ignorance.
Perhaps we are not there yet, but we have come a long distance. We need to continue both the vision and the reality proceeding in the right direction. This direction does not include looking backward, to when viewpoints like Mississippi attorney Hanson’s were commonplace.
The direction we must be headed in is the direction of the future. When more and more of us stand up for equality, and demand it for all persons in this country, voices like Hanson’s will be left behind. Perhaps Martin Luther King’s dream of brotherhood can be a reality, and perhaps it can occur within our lifetime.
In the meanwhile, we must continue to assert that prejudices are not acceptable. It is not acceptable in practice, nor in attitude. For this country, full equality is the goal. And that includes “blacks, other minorities, and gays.”
Side Note: If you have experienced homophobia or racism please speak up and warn others to help put an end to these negative attitudes and perspectives.