In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed that outlawed the segregation of drinking fountains. Think about that for a minute. That was only 59 years ago!
If you talk to someone who is old enough to remember when this was passed, particularly Women or Black people or Indigegousness people, even despite setbacks many will say that society is moving in the right direction than it was just one generation ago. We are still far from the mark of equality today–no doubt there is way too big of a gap between the rich and the poor and too many toxic phobias remain in our culture. Basic human rights such as healthcare are still not met. And the voiceless are only finally getting a chance to speak up for the first time. There are still so many challenges. Yet, the ones who I often hear complain about the “degradation of our society” are not looking at life through a historical lens but through a system of caste. These are people that remember a world where they had power, they had status, and controlled resources and feel a sort of loss of the way things used to be. They feel the ground shrinking beneath their feet. As a result, continue to blame others for these problems instead of looking in the mirror.
For a moment, imagine living in the South during slavery, the Reconstruction era, or under Jim Crowe Laws. What would it be like to not have the right to vote because of your sex or skin color and to let other people decide your fate? What was it like for Indigenous people after settlers came to the New World? Many of these problems are still not resolved today. These are thought exercises but important to point out that the road has been violent to get here. Yet, statistically speaking, we are in a period of relative peace, we have had economic prosperity, welfare and child insecurity are in overall decline, and people have more access to more information and comforts than ever before. So if the data says that the arrow of society, despite the challenges ahead, is pointing up–What are people with this worldview talking about?
“If you white folks want to be treated the way blacks are in this society–stand! Nobody is standing here. That says very plainly that you know what’s happening. You know you don’t want it for you. I want to know why you are so willing to accept it or to allow it to happen for others.” – Jane Elliot