8 August 2023 ~
Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about rainbows. Yes… I’m talking about the optical phenomenon that appears in the sky when sunlight reflects off the inside of water droplets causing colors that appear to bend in an arc formation. The issue: one group wants to “take back the rainbow” from another group as if this phenomenon of nature can be owned by anyone. But is it really about the rainbow?
The Rainbow State
While I am originally from the South… I had the privilege of living in Oahu, Hawaii for twelve years and am a graduate of the University of Hawaii Manoa. I’m Kama’aina forever. Hawaii is known as “The Rainbow State”. A person is practically guaranteed to see at least one bow a day in Hawaii. In fact, it is not unusual to see multiple rainbows in a day. On several occasions, I have seen “double bows” and at least once a “triple bow”.
Since 1923, the nickname of the University of Hawaii football team has been the Rainbow Warriors. Legend has it that the team earned the nickname when a rainbow appeared over the field during a victory against Oregon State. There are no rainbow controversies in either of those cases. To date, no one has called for boycotts of the university, or banned travel to Hawaii, and no group has rushed in to “take back the rainbow” from the state, so it must be okay for them.
Social Justice and Rainbows
The Rainbow Coalition is one of the first social justice groups to use the “rainbow” concept. Originally founded in 1969 by Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party, along with members of the Young Patriots Organization and the Young Lords in Chicago, the Rainbow Coalition served as an anti-racist, multi-cultural movement, working to bring together marginalized and disadvantaged people.
In 1984, the Rev. Jesse Jackson founded the National Rainbow Coalition, which merged with Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) in 1996, to become the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition (RPC). RPC continued to carry the torches raised by both Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., (Operation Breadbasket) and Fred Hampton (The Rainbow Coalition) as a movement for social justice, to defend those impacted by racism, discrimination, and subject to cultural and class divisions, including the LGBT community. In the history of social justice advocacy, there is no record of any group demanding to “take back the rainbow” from the Rainbow Coalition or the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.
Leprechauns and Rainbows
Irish folklore tells that during the Viking invasions of 795 CE, the Vikings were known to loot towns and bury stolen treasures. When the Vikings left Ireland, they left the treasure behind. As legend has it, leprechauns found the abandoned treasure and buried it again so that no human could ever find it. The myth that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is also wrapped in deception because science tells us that rainbows have no end. They are actually full circles – you just have to get at a high enough altitude to see them. Another deception is that rainbows move further away from us, the closer we get to them until they vanish. Impossible to touch. But in all of the magical folklore surrounding leprechauns and rainbows, there is no record of any group wanting to “take back the rainbow” from the leprechauns, or the Irish for that matter.
Taste the Rainbow
Skittles has made a fortune off the slogan “taste the rainbow” and has used some oftentimes very disturbing visuals to illustrate what a rainbow must taste like. Have you ever seen the commercial where everything the guy touches turns into Skittles? Or the one where the man is milking the giraffe and Skittles coming out? Dark humor… very dark humor. But even so, no group has told Mars, Inc or the Wrigley Company that they cannot use the rainbow regarding Skittles advertisements.
Around the world, June is PRIDE month. PRIDE month celebrates accomplishments made in the LGBT+ community, as well as addresses the struggles for civil rights and the ongoing pursuit of equal justice under the law. It is held in June as it is associated with the 1969 Stonewall demonstrations. The PRIDE rainbow flag was introduced in June 1978 and was designed by Gilbert Baker at the request of Harvey Milk, San Francisco’s first openly gay elected official. Milk was assassinated, along with Mayor George Moscone in City Hall, by a former colleague in November 1978.
On 26 May, leading into this year’s Pride month, the Ugandan government signed into law its Anti-Homosexuality Act, making a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity punishable with at least a decade in prison and the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality’… the death penalty.
Inclusion and Tolerance
Given the fact that the “take back the Rainbow” campaign is aimed at one particular group, let’s just call this what it is… an anti-LGBT campaign. And it is not the only campaign aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other gender-diverse people in the last sixty days. Budweiser, Coors, and Target have all been attacked for supporting inclusion. Parents are in department stores trying to make an argument that the rainbow on children’s clothing is code for something nefarious, and country music stars and NASCAR drivers are speaking up for their favorite brands. Garth Brooks even became a target when he took a stand for inclusion and tolerance.
It’s a rainbow. Not camouflage for someone to violate other people’s human rights. This type of practiced intolerance is actually illegal. Not only does it violate the very basic rights upheld by the US Constitution, but it also violates international human rights law. Sure, everyone is entitled to their opinions and views, and their 15 minutes of fame, if they want to claim it, but people also have the right to live free from persecution.
Consider this…trying to control or prevent the use of the rainbow, by any group, would be like the WWF telling the University of Alabama that it can no longer use the elephant costume as a mascot because elephants are endangered. See… it just does not make any sense.
With gratitude… Lara
Photo Credit: “Lucky we live in Hawaii” a spectacular “double bow” taken by Mike Decero and provided by my friend Jennifer Robbins, Chief Meteorologist at Hawaii News Now. Mahalo for the Rainbow, Jennifer, and Mike!
#thinkingoutloud #tol #rainbows #therainbowstate #rainbowwarriors #rainbowpush #rainbowcoalition #rainbowpride #leprechauns #Irishfolklore #skittles #tastetherainbow #takebacktherainbow #tolerance #humanrights #LGBT+ #genderequality