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North Carolina and Southern Politics

Political change and cultural backlash

It was less than 8 years ago when voters in my home state of California passed Proposition 8. In one of the most liberal states in the country, voters decided that LGBTQ citizens did not deserve the same right to marry that heterosexual couples have.

It wasn’t until late 2014 that the Supreme Court voted to protect the marriage rights of queer people in every state.

While oppressive laws have changed rapidly over the last 10 years, culture changes more slowly. Queer people have experienced oppression and violence in this country for centuries, and the expansion of our legal rights has been met with an unsurprising political backlash.

In North Carolina, this has come in the form of a bill legalizing discrimination against LGBTQ people. HB2 was passed amid widespread fear mongering about trans people using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. The new law comes as a slap in the face to queer people who expect discrimination, particularly (pdf) trans people of color. — Evidence of discrimination persists even in states with legal protections.

However, it’s not just North Carolina that’s experiencing backlash against a new and more progressive era. Republican front-runner Donald Trump has become the center of media and social attention for his inflammatory and hateful comments about women, people of color and LGBTQ people. Yet, polling shows that most Trump fans’ top reason for supporting him is because he “speaks his mind.”

Trump and HB2 aren’t isolated political events; they’re a reflection of American cultural backlash. And it’s not just Trump either. Ted Cruz, the Republican trailing behind him, has made equally frightening and hateful comments. Both use oppressive language towards minority groups after an era when queer peoples’ rights expanded and America had its first black president.

Trump and others are, in effect, “speaking their mind” for Americans who are resentful of expanded rights and power for oppressed groups.

Bronwen Wade, from Oakland, Calif., is a first-year Master’s of Public Policy student at Duke.


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