Apartheid in Virginia

A very brief history: Europeans arrived in Virginia in the 17th century to find a bountiful land occupied by indigenous peoples. Upper class Caucasian males soon came to dominate the land and profited in an agrarian environment that depended on indentured servants and slaves. And white males were a major source of the intellectual and passionate force that arose to create American independence and found modern democracy.

Slavery, which helped to accrue power and wealth to upper class whites, was abolished only after a very bloody civil war, however this white class maneuvered second-class status to blacks economically, socially, and politically. Evangelical and fundamentalist Protestantism that had a distinct ingrained intolerance also heavily influenced Virginia’s culture.

Government mandated discrimination or segregation of the races was eventually dismantled by the courts in the 1960’s; however, white upper class males with a long legacy of superior education, hereditary wealth, and superior political skills remain to this day the dominant elite.

The combination of forced school integration and increased white class mobility in the 1960’s onward led to the exodus of whites from urban areas to newly developed suburban communities leaving the blacks, by demographics, to accrue urban political power.

However, this demographic segregation, misguided social programs, black cultural values, lack of resources, and poor education spawned generations of broken black families, broken neighborhoods, crime, drug trafficking and addiction, and despair.

Although some inroads have been made in women’s rights – especially suffrage, technology that freed women to take work outside the home, improved education, birth control, and women’s rights legislation - women remain a real minority, despite being a demographic majority, and have only limited political power as the composition of legislative bodies and corporate management clearly shows.

In recent decades religious tolerance is commonplace, however the state, especially in rural areas, still maintains rather unenlightened fundamentalist Protestant views and values. This is also evidenced in the clout that evangelicals have in the legislature and in their continuing insistence that homosexuals are a threat to the well being of society and thus they actively lobby to prevent gays from achieving parity in civil rights.

Virginia’s white heterosexual Protestant males retain their sense of superiority over women, non-Protestant religions and the unreligious, blacks, Hispanics and other races, northerners, foreigners, and homosexuals.

Certainly this is not apartheid in the South African sense – but it is, in my opinion, apartheid in Virginia in 2010 that should be an embarrassment and a call to action to every fair minded, enlightened, and conscientious Virginian to work for a future where all have an equal opportunity to achieve their potential, where all are ensured equal rights by their government, and where the diversity of Virginians is embraced.

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