For those who value universal human rights and equal opportunity for all, the political developments of the past few years have been depressing.
Internationally, democracy and human rights are in retreat as autocrats crack down and become more entrenched; in Iraq a fledging democracy can barely keep the lid on a violent civil war. Domestically, the Bush Administration’s signature achievements have been tax cuts for the wealthy, pro-big business judges, and attacks on a wide range of civil liberties.
But underneath it all there are some silver linings.
As one example, the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down race-based affirmative action opened the door for economic status to serve as a substitute for race in admissions decisions. Numerous advocates including myself have often made the case that economic status is a superior metric for assessing opportunity or the lack thereof. Since ethnic minorities are often disproportionately poor, they would still benefit from a needs-based system (and such a system would likely be viewed much more favorably by the public). Such a shift is needed because it would begin to address the larger issue of class inequality that plagues America as much or more than racial discrimination.
In addition, despite years of a virulent anti-gay agenda by the Bush Administration, I was heartened to learn that gays persecuted abroad are increasingly winning asylum cases in America. I look forward to the day when gays will not face persecution anywhere, including in my own country; in the meantime these cases certainly represent a small step towards equal rights for gays, and they put America back on track as a refuge for the oppressed peoples of the world.
I have no doubt that a world community that fully respects human rights and promotes equal opportunity for all is in humanity’s future, despite whatever roadblocks the reactionaries and oppressors of the world put in the way.
In order to get there we need to think creatively and search for all possible avenues. When some doors are closed, often many more are opened.