The Majority Report

BY Jonathan Rauch

November 19 2010 5:00 AM ET

 For any minority rights movement, the turn to majority status is very easy to miss. With little or no warning, tactics that make sense for an insurgent minority stop working. Militant activists find themselves at sea, their messages no longer resonating, their styles antiquated. In the African-American civil rights movement, the activist vanguard lost its way in the thickets of Black Power and “by any means necessary.” Movement feminism likewise missed the turn, dead-ended at the minority-minded Equal Rights Amendment, and faded away.

The gay rights movement will have to show unusual foresight to be an exception. Our every instinct will be to press our advantage, exploit our momentum, and drive the other side into the sea. The straight world has ginned up any and every shabby excuse to hurt gay people, with organized religion often leading the way. And now we’re supposed to be tolerant?

Well, yes. As gays become a majority, the burden of toleration—and it is a burden—shifts to us. This is the most difficult adjustment a minority rights movement can make. Our opponents are betting we will fail to make it. In fact, that is now pretty much their entire strategy.

Gay Americans and our allies are not ready to think of ourselves as a majority. And we are not fully there yet, certainly not solidly. But the benefits and, yes, burdens of majority status are descending with wonderful speed. We will miss the turn if we don’t start braking now.





Tags: Commentary

AddThis

READER COMMENTS ()

Quantcast