Today is the 50th anniversary of the march to Selma, Alabama, and International Women’s Day. Everyone is celebrating how far we’ve come. But I wonder… have we? Have we really made progress in racial and gender equality?
Let’s review some things here.
We don’t know how many people are shot by police every year. We do know that black men are disproportionately affected.
Immigration reform is still controversial. Apart from the fact that we are a nation of immigrants (only 1.2% of the U.S. population is Native American), what is controversial about giving people the chance for a better life? Even more importantly, why are we considering turning kids away? KIDS!
Middle- and upper-class white men are still the only people mostly unencumbered by voting laws. Women, people of color, and poor people have to jump through additional hoops in order to vote in many states, mostly in the south.
Sexual orientation has become less of a big deal legally, but socially? LGB youth are still 3-4 times more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth. What about gender-nonconforming and transgender people? 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide, well above the national average.
This is to say nothing of disabilities, physical differences, religions, political beliefs, worldviews, or any other drivers of the hate crimes, the systematic discrimination, and the hotspots of so-called conservatism that I call bubbles of hate-fear.
We would like to say that we have made progress from fifty years from now. In some places, I believe we have. There are many places in the country where, although true equality has not been achieved, it is much closer than it was. In other areas, though, it is just as bad. Perhaps it is even worse, because it is not so visible. So while we huddle together and pretend everything is different now, in truth it is not. We are not. We have not made progress as a nation.
We are a country with ideals of individualism, but we have gotten to where we are today through cooperation, collaboration, and community spirit. Loud voices and violence will not get us anywhere; it will only drive us further apart, into our own bubbles of fear. It is soft voices, reasonable conversation, a true exchange of ideas and values and emotions, and an understanding of those who are different from ourselves that will allow us to be on the inside the nation we present to the outside. Then we will have made progress.