The Negro Motorist Green Book. That was the name of the guide for blacks trying to navigate America’s landscape during the era of Jim Crow. Back before the Civil Rights Era, a black family couldn’t just saunter on through Mr. White Hood’s Bistro and Bakery, the motto of which might have been white flour, white power! Back then, it was dangerous for blacks to travel the South unawares. They needed the Green Book to figure which restaurants they could eat at without getting lynched.
The Green Book was kind of like a pseudo-samizdat survivalist’s guide for black families.
And make no mistake, “survivalist” is the right word. Without knowing where they might misstep, the consequences for blacks could be fatal. Which sort of makes me wonder where the Green Book for “Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the gay couple who were denied a custom wedding cake by [Jack] Phillips in 2012,” is.
Because, to hear it coming from the anti-religious-liberty spout on the political spectrum, Masterpiece Cakeshop — the case argued on December 5, in which the Supreme Court will eventually rule on whether Colorado’s “public accommodations law … compel[s] [Jack Phillips] to create expression that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs”—represents a chance to fight an evil on par with the forced sub-humanity that blacks wore as a yoke of degradation during the Green Book’s heyday.
Yep, to hear Slate tell it, Masterpiece Cakeshop’s petitioner had this issue decided for him “more than 50 years ago, [when] John W. Mungin, a black Baptist minister, was threatened with deadly force and told to leave a famous South Carolina barbecue restaurant—all because its owner held to the belief that the races should be kept strictly separated.”
I’ve read the whole argument transcript for Masterpiece Cakeshop, and I can’t seem to find any mention of Jack Phillips’s attempt to chase a gay couple out of his cakery by the barrel-end of a gun, or his attorneys’ argument that he’d have the right to do so. There’s a big ol’ bunch of bakeries in Jack Phillips’s town of Lakewood, Colorado, too, so it’s hard to see how the couple would starve if they couldn’t get their cake. (Google, the idiot-Oracle of faux-factuality, counts more than thirty.)
Curiously conspicuous distinctions, no?
The Tuskegee Institute has collected data on lynching in the United States between 1882 and 1968. During that time, 3,446 blacks were lynched. Let me set that out in full form: 3,446 black people were lynched in America between 1882 and 1968. The exigent need of the Green Book was a response to what amounted to domestic warfare against black families. Sometimes it seemed like terrorism.
In today’s world, you’d have to go to Guatemala to find a country that was so similarly fond of extrajudicial hanging-by-the-neck. Yesteryear’s Ku Klux Crackers treated black Americans the way Guatemalans treat one another. Which is… well, it’s not a free sandwich and a foot rub, I can tell you that much.
This is all to the point that today’s civil rights crusaders are different. If you can call contemporary race hustlers and LGBT hysterics civil rights crusaders, which I would not, because it would mean, for instance, comparing Mr. Fried, Dyed & Laid to the Side to natural-law-loving clergy like Dr. King and sundry Shakespearean orators like A. Phillip Randolph.
Again, where is the Green Book for upper-middle class gay couples living in one of the top-20 income-earning states? Where’s the national guard escort to make sure their kids can attend school? They just aren’t fighting the same fight. It’s not like they’re Coptic Christians living in Egypt. I’m not saying that the discrimination-versus-liberty debate isn’t one to be had. But, you know, it’s just not what blacks went through. It’s not. It’s not. It’s just not.
This is perhaps the reason why Justice Kennedy responded to Colorado’s argument about the overriding importance of identity in deciding Masterpiece Cakeshop by saying “I think … your identity thing is just too facile.” And if Justice Kennedy is calling something facile, then jeez.
Not every battle is the Battle of Thermopylae, not every war is a World War, and not every cultural controversy that sets religious liberty in tension with allegations of discrimination is the Stonewall Riots.
Listen, we can have this argument. In fact, last week, the Supreme Court did. But, just… calm down, will you? And, please, don’t invite me to your wedding — straight or gay.
Alex Grass is the religion and law correspondent for The Media Project. His opinions are his own.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.