The Rights Revolutions Erase Their Victories

The Rights Revolutions have another curious legacy. Because they are propelled by an escalating sensitivity to new forms of harm, they erase their own tracks and leave us amnesic about their successes. As we shall see, the revolutions have brought us measurable and substantial declines in many categories of violence. But many people resist acknowledging the victories, partly out of ignorance of the statistics, partly because of a mission creep that encourages activists to keep up the pressure by denying that progress has been made. The racial oppression that inspired the first generations of the civil rights movement was played out in lynchings, night raids, antiblack pogroms, and physical intimidation at the ballot box. In a typical battle of today, it may consist of African American drivers being pulled over more often on the highways. (When Clarence Thomas described his successful but contentious 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearing as a “high-tech lynching,” it was the epitome of tastelessness but also a sign of how far we have come.) The oppression of women used to include laws that allowed husbands to rape, beat, and confine their wives; today it is applied to elite universities whose engineering departments do not have a fifty-fifty ratio of male and female professors. The battle for gay rights has progressed from repealing laws that execute, mutilate, or imprison homosexual men to repealing laws that define marriage as a contract between a man and a woman. None of this means we should be satisfied with the status quo or disparage the efforts to combat remaining discrimination and mistreatment. It’s just to remind us that the first goal of any rights movement is to protect its beneficiaries from being assaulted or killed. These victories, even if partial, are moments we should acknowledge, savor, and seek to understand.


Folksonomies: civil rights social justice

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/law, govt and politics/legal issues/human rights (0.214500)

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 The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Pinker, Steven (2011-10-04), The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Penguin, Retrieved on 2015-05-29
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  • Folksonomies: enlightenment culture ethics violence