Adam, writing at The Plum Line, derides former Republican governor Tim Pawlenty’s suggestion that defunding the don’t ask don’t tell repeal would be “reasonable” in order to pay deference to the “sentiments” of combat troops:
Either Pawlenty sincerely believes, against all available empirical and real world evidence, that DADT repeal will harm military effectiveness and that it must urgently be reinstated, or he’s just trying to signal disdain for gays and lesbians, including those willing to give their lives in service to their country, to homophobes in the Republican base. Possibly both.
Comparing struggles is really only useful up to a point, but I can’t help but be struck by the similarity Pawlenty’s objection to gays serving openly in the military has to the Army’s arguments for racial segregation in the 1930s and ’40s. I finished Koerner’s Now The Hell Will Start last night, and one narrative that runs through the book is the ironic result of deferring to the white troops. To do so, the Army segregated blood banks, barracks, and mess halls. Black soldiers ate worse food, and were almost always assigned to jobs as cooks or ‘engineers’ (in other words, they shoveled dirt and carried things). They reported to racist, or at best, insensitive, white commanding officers.
Shockingly, despite the care and deference given to whites who wanted government approval to continue to treat blacks as subhuman, race riots regularly broke out.
It’s a small point in this much larger mess — and it’s one that could similarly be made about letting women serve — but I think it bears repeating that ‘deferring’ to people who are racist or sexist or antigay instead of protecting the rights of underprivileged minorities is always the argument conservatives make, and it’s always wrong. And in the case of DADT, it’s doubly wrong, since the majority of troops and Americans think the law was overdue for the trash heap.