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Coerced Conformity

A timely hit-home incidence that didn’t necessarily involve me happened this morning when I was having coffee. An Asian man in his late 20s settled into the table next to mine and started reading his paper. Strangely, I noticed that he covered up the outside of what obviously seemed to be a Chinese newspaper with the San Francisco Chronicle. I kept my surveillance on him through the corner of my eye to ensure he deliberated the cover-up of his reading Chinese paper.

The incidence seems petty or even funny but it carries a serious undertow of a crisis: the invisible assault of our civil rights. My immediate reaction to his covering up of the Chinese paper is the insecurity of not fitting in. This coerced conformity has pervaded ethnic, sexual, and disability minorities. I hear Latino children badgering their parents to pack “American” lunch boxes; my Asian friends opt for the Abercrombie & Fitch look. The gays are told not to display public affection…

What used to be overt discrimination has now crept under people’s skin and become a more subtly form of stereotype. I don’t think we live in a liberal movement: just because we have the Constitution does not mean we all have equal civil rights. We live in a society that resists allowing full equality for gays by instead advocating conversion, passing as straight, and covering homosexuality, tactics similarly imposed on racial and other minorities.

Professor Yoshino argues about this coerced hiding of crucial aspects of one’s self in his book Covering, which is inspired by his gay status. I just started reading it and can see the struggle for equality for ethic minorities and gays from the broad perspective of civil-right movement.

One Response

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