The Fayetteville City Council met Tuesday, Aug. 5, to discuss a bill that would bring about true enforcement of civil rights in Fayetteville. Many people came out to the meeting to oppose the bill, citing everything from the way it infringed on First Amendment rights, with some saying they just didn’t see a need for such a measure in the city of Fayetteville.
The end of the meeting was somewhat derailed by an argument that broke out between alderman Sarah Marsh and members of the crowd.
Marsh said she was “ashamed that there is so much darkness in the heart of our community,” and was greeted by a chorus of boos in response. But what was she really saying? People took offense to that, but it sounds to me like she was just shocked that more supporters of a bill that ensures the rights of all people; no matter their color or creed; didn’t feel it was necessary to make themselves heard, instead leaving the floor to people who argued against the proposed bill. A majority of whom seem opposed to it on religious grounds.
This is a strange time to be a young person in America, and the South in particular. I was raised colorblind, and while many see that as something that is untrue or impossible; to me and many of my peers it just is. People have never been anything more than people. It doesn’t matter what race you are, or what your gender identity is, or if you’re gay or straight; in the end, people are all just people.
The proposed bill would not effect anything but to allow a platform for any discrimination that may happen to be dealt with. Is this not a time where humanity should come first and foremost, where race and sexuality should fade into the background? Is it that naive of me to want one whole, human race?
A revision was made so that churches could be exempt from the bill, which opens up an entirely different can of worms. They did this in order to ensure that any church that was opposed to same-sex marriage would never be obligated to perform one, but it seems to me that the people who demanded that missed a pretty glaringly obvious tidbit; any church that refuses to perform same-sex marriages is unlikely to be chosen as a wedding chapel by a same-sex couple. I’m not saying it wouldn’t happen, just that it would be unlikely.
I am not so much ashamed as I am shocked that this city that I grew up in, that I love so much that I’ve given up living everywhere else just to return to these; my mountains, is just now proposing this bill. If there is one thing I love most about Fayetteville, it is that we have always been an inherently diverse town; a diamond in the rough that is the state of Arkansas and the South in general.
Another fear people have is that the person appointed to oversee things won’t be able to differentiate false claims from legitimate ones, saying that ‘one person shouldn’t hold that position.’ I personally don’t mind if only one sole person holds that position. So long as they uphold it to a high enough standard, I believe that the urge to do what is right will overcome any dramatic tendencies one might have.
Again, I’m just surprised this wasn’t already a thing. My understanding of diversity and discrimination in Fayetteville is fairly limited to my former classmates, and people in my age group in general. Maybe I have more faith in my peers than I should, but I just don’t see discrimination coming from us. We just don’t care.
If more people could bring themselves to have as much apathy as our generation has toward race and sexuality, maybe things could actually change for the better, and Fayetteville could finally move into the 21st Century.