Below the RadarHow Silence Can Save Civil Rights

Below the RadarHow Silence Can Save Civil Rights

Alison L. Gash

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780190201159

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Abstract

Scholars and pundits have come to expect backlash to civil rights battles, especially when courts are involved. From white backlash to Roe rage, American history is replete with stories of unpopular minorities attempting to secure rights and opponents rising up to impede them. Yet there are instances when minority rights efforts escape the opposition politics so familiar in US civil rights policy debates. Backlash, while a specter in many contentious political battles, is neither inevitable nor invulnerable. One key factor, this book argues, is visibility. Drawing from interviews with advocates and opponents, the book introduces readers to two sets of civil rights battles in which advocates devised strategies to remain “under the radar” and away from the prying eyes of a volatile public. In so doing they diminished both the incidence and influence of backlash. Advocates working on behalf of lesbian and gay parents relied on lower court rulings, family law, and less polarizing frames to advance custody and co-parenting requests without attracting the attention of the “family values” groups and voters who had swiftly barred marriage equality. Those working on behalf of individuals with disabilities hoping to live in community-based group housing delayed notifying zoning boards and neighbors of their intention to reside in single-family neighborhoods until after their property was secured in order to minimize NIMBY-induced housing impediments. This study of low-visibility advocacy offers a lens on an underexplored and underestimated source of policy reform.