What could be more innocent and more reflective of basic American values than a program that encourages school children to have lunch with kids with whom they usually don’t associate? It’s a wonderful way to encourage children to learn about people outside their small circle of friends, who might come from a different ethnic or economic background, or maybe even have a disability.
This national program is called Mix It Up at Lunch Day and is sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a long-time civil rights organization known primarily for its work on behalf of African-Americans, but which in recent years has gotten involved in rights issues for gays, immigrants and others. According to SPLC, Mix It Up “encourages students across the nation to challenge and cross social and racial boundaries by sitting with someone new in the cafeteria for just one day.” SPLC says that more than one million students across the nation took part in Mix It Up last year.
It reminds me of the middle school my son attended, which assigned kids to lunch tables and changed the assignments every six weeks. By the end of the year, every child had sat at lunch with every other child in his or her grade, a great way to slow down the formation of cliques.
Mix it Up at Lunch Day sounds like an idea that everyone from all points of the political spectrum can get behind.
But not the ultra- right-wing American Family Association (AFA), which has launched a campaign to have parents keep their children home from school on this year’s Mix It Up day, set for October 30.
What could AFA’s objection possibly be?
As reported in the New York Times, AFA claims that the event is “a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in America.”
The Times gives us this quote from Bryan Fisher, who works for AFA: “Anti-bullying legislation is exactly the same,” Mr. Fischer said. “It’s just another thinly veiled attempt to promote the homosexual agenda. No one is in favor of anyone getting bullied for any reason, but these anti-bullying policies become a mechanism for punishing Christian students who believe that homosexual behavior is not something that should be normalized.”
The only way that this statement makes any sense is if Fisher is saying that AFA dislikes Mix It Up and anti-bullying policies because both discourage kids from beating up gays. What else could AFA possibly mean by “punishing Christian students who believe that homosexual behavior should not be normalized” in the context of anti-bullying initiatives?
Beyond this convoluted justification for literally bashing GLBT students, is the illogical inference that Mix It Up has a special gay agenda. There is no special mention of GBLT as a group in the Mix It Up material I saw, and quite a lot about racial and ethnic groups like African-Americans and Latinos. I also saw an emphasis on encouraging kids from different socioeconomic groups to get together. There can be no doubt that Mix It Up is meant to include people of differing sexual orientations (as it should), but their inclusion is not explicitly stated. To say that the program has a special gay orientation is nothing more than a lie.
Moreover, Mix It Up promotes tolerance for differences—be it racial, social, sexual, whatever— and does nothing to promote any given lifestyle or ethnic group.
What’s more, most people would only connect SPLC with the civil rights movement for African-Americans. I understand that the AFA boycott may partially be in retaliation for SPLC putting the right-wing group on its list of hate groups. So maybe, all we have here is a tit-for-tat maneuver that is unfortunately based on a big lie and AFA’s ugly viewpoint regarding sexual minorities.
That’s pretty bad in and of itself, but I keep having this gnawing feeling that something else is going on. Let’s add one and one together: The first one is the fact that Mix It Up Day focuses on race and ethnicity. The second one is the fact that SPLC is known for its stand on race issues. When I add those two “ones” together, the two I get is that behind the attack on gays by AFA is a veiled racist attack against minorities.