That’s the title of Jesse Bering’s angry, honest, must-read Slate essay:
There was a time, not so very long ago, when business owners in Southern states proudly poured their riches into segregationist causes. These investment strategies (and the political fruits they bore) helped keep “Negroes” in their place as second-class citizens. And just as we’ve been seeing with the enthusiastic support for Chick-fil-A by the “moral majority,” the racist business models of those segregationists rallied local social conservatives. Like the WinShape Foundation’s shameless use of Chick-fil-A proceeds to support the efforts of the Family Research Council, as well as many other anti-gay outlets designated as official hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a wealthy white citizen’s public segregationist stance back in, say, 1960 Mississippi or Tennessee, and his decision to put his company’s proceeds into racist political causes, was not only perfectly legal but hailed by most of his customer base. After all, just as same-sex marriage is today, the rights of blacks were a “political issue.” People spoke of “personal beliefs” about whether blacks should vote, marry outside their race, drink at public water fountains, swim in public pools, attend schools with white students, or sit in the front of the bus. Those whose “personal belief” was that blacks should be socially quarantined from whites felt absolutely no reason to apologize. People were “entitled to their opinions.”
Fortunately for African-Americans, the U.S. government, which grows sluggishly, if incrementally, in its social conscience, eventually joined them and threw its weight into their tireless crusade against bigotry and prejudice. Federal civil rights laws effectively obviated the “personal beliefs” of those who continued to view blacks as lesser beings, making these people’s “opinions” completely irrelevant as to what African-Americans should or shouldn’t do in our society. In other words, the racists were stripped of their democratic voices—and a very good thing that was, too, as it’s clear even today that many white Americans remain of the opinion that blacks are inherently inferior to them. Racism persists, but at least racists have been formally politically defanged. Homophobes, meanwhile, have not.