Kelly Bartlett / January 20, 2014

Ode to Joy and Martin Luther King Jr.

I grew up in a predominately white suburb in Connecticut. Our school was so monochromatic that the powers-that-be decided to bus in blacks from Hartford.

One of the blacks that got off the bus at my school was Joy, with her fluffy side ponytail and glorious smile. Joy said things I never heard spoken out loud before such as, “Lordy, Lordy” in our English class. The black girls taught me Double Dutch jump rope, after which there’s no going back to single. And at our school dances, we were all awed by the skill and grace of the African Americans; even the guys could bust a move.

At graduation Joy signed my yearbook: “To Kelly, one girl in this school that I really do like. Because you’re the only one that really talks to me…” Actually, she did most of the chatting and I did the listening because I wasn’t much of a talker, and she fascinated me.

As an adult I look back and realize they didn’t bus blacks in just to give our school an upgrade on the diversity scale or to improve our dance skills. There were more powerful and important forces at play. Only now do I appreciate the sacrifice and courage it took for those kids to get on the tedious bus and spend six hours a day at a white school, as well as for their parents to support that decision. No doubt one goal was to get inner city kids into better schools. “Separate but equal” had been debunked and desegregation was an important component of the civil rights movement.

Every year at this time we honor a major player in peaceful desegregation: Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream of freedom and unity. Inspired by MLK’s powerful message of equality, many perceive their mission to redefine marriage as the New Civil Rights Movement. In fact, the website with this title is devoted to “gay rights and marriage equality.”

As I look ahead at the trend towards same sex marriage in America, I also dream of unity, but I keep seeing segregation. The difference now is that we aren’t separating schools by race. We are segregating families by gender.

Same sex marriage is based on the premise that sexual diversity is more important than gender diversity for marriage, children and society.

But is it?

Why should the love shared by two adult men override the love between a child and his mother? How does excluding a wife, femininity and motherhood from families benefit children and our culture? This is not the dream of liberation. This is sexism.

If we legalize gender segregation in marriage now, in the future will we need to desegregate by busing in women to spend six hours a day with children growing up in male-only households?

Yeah, I’m kidding about the busing.

Although there is the case of pop star Elton John and his partner who had breast milk delivered daily to their home for their baby. Bused in, you might say. Apparently these guys consider it more important for their son to have an ongoing loving relationship with fresh breast milk than with the woman who provides it – his mom.

Excluding mothers from families simply because of their sex is no joke. Depriving children of their mother because she’s female, is not a man’s new civil right.

More than race or sexual orientation, gender is the most foundational diversity on earth, powerful enough to create new life. Even if we didn’t value gender diversity for its own particular beauty, scientifically we acknowledge it is essential to replace ourselves. Without the integration of genders, humanity would quite literally die out in one generation.

As much as I appreciate black culture and was captivated by her ethnic beauty, I realize that if it weren’t for both her father and her mother, Joy wouldn’t even exist.

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