I Am Optimistic

I have grown up in what some may consider a diverse family. My mother is Greek Orthodox and my father is Jewish. My aunt is Caucasian and my uncle is Trinidadian. My cousin is gay and is married to his partner of 15 years. This is not to say I have the most diverse family dynamic, but I have definitely been introduced to adversary. Presented with this blog prompt, I came to the realization that in spite of those around me going against the grain of society, I have not once experienced or observed an act of prejudice towards them.

There is a lesson to be learned here. I personally think society as a whole is improving in regards to accepting others that are different from us. That may sound ignorant or naïve, but I believe America has made remarkable progress on reevaluating our past judgments. This is not to say that everyone is politically correct and that racism and discrimination no longer exists, but American’s have been making substantial steps towards acceptance.

Tangible evidence can support my optimism. In the following article, a poll found that public attitude on same sex marriage has moved consistently in favor of same sex marriage. The survey finds a continuing rise in support for same-sex marriage since 2009. Currently, 45% say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally while 46% are opposed. In Pew Research surveys conducted in 2010, 42% favored and 48% opposed gay marriage and in 2009, just 37% backed same-sex marriage while 54% were opposed. That’s quite a dramatic shift over a period of 22 years, especially considering that during a portion of that time the gay rights movement had several major setbacks such as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the wave of state Constitutional Amendments barring same-sex marriage and civil unions that swept much of the nation during the early 2000′s.

The article than poses the question: So, what accounts for the dramatic change in public attitudes over the past two decades? Partly, of course, is the fact that these numbers are reflecting the views of younger Americans, among whom issues like homosexuality have largely become a matter of everyday life. For many members of  this generation, the idea that two people who care about each other can’t form a legal relationship is likely a pretty foreign concept.

I would go as far as saying that the younger generation is paving a road for national acceptance in regards to all form of prejudice, not solely same-sex marriage. I believe that with education and a new dynamic society, we have become more accepting, people have come to realize that the stereotypes and stigma that our elders were taught to believe are no longer applicable, and that those of different races, ethnicities, etc., are no different than the rest of us.

A Pew study shows that all generations over time have improved in their views on race. However, it is reasonable to assume that Millennials increased experience and willingness to engage with diverse cultures will allow them to be in a better position to deal with some of the lingering racial and ethnic disparities we still face. For that reason, I am optimistic about the future of prejudice and acceptance among all people.



3 responses to “I Am Optimistic

  1. I definitely agree that we have come a long way in terms of acceptance. For all the slack that society gets for still being racist and prejudiced against groups of people, we have come leaps and bounds from where we used to be. However, we still have a long way to go, especially in conservative regions of America (i.e. parts of the South). I can only hope that our children will be taught to learn that prejudice is NOT okay.

  2. It is important to see how far our society has come in terms of accepting minorities of race and sexual orientation. I think it is important to look at the progress because it only encourages more people to change. To me same sex marriage and same sex acceptance in society feels normal. The world is always improving and becoming more accepting and should be celebrated.

  3. Great finds. It is fascinating to think about the paradoxical conclusions. Attitudes towards tolerance of identity differences do increase. At the same time, incidents of race hate crimes are up since Obama was elected (and were higher when Clinton was in office). The political debates around women and birth control this election cycle seemed like a step backwards of 60 years or so. The lives of poor kids, including white kids, but more so black and brown, seem more restricted and bleak as education continues to lag, incarceration rates and lengths attached to the war on drugs are up, unemployment is higher for those groups, and so on.

    So, maybe optimism is merited for a culture of tolerance. But there continue to be problems of a deep and structural nature.

    And much of White America, it seems to me, has decided that the problems of race and prejudice are in the bad old “dark times” and now we have a free society where anyone who is not successful must be so due to their failings as a person and not for any reasons having to do with where one starts the race of life: on the starting line, or ten steps back?

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