The 2010’s have been an era of rapid social progress, the acceptance of minorities has been on the uprise for quite some time. And although tolerance is much easier to come across nowadays, in the last few years we have experienced major backslides in progression with respect to gender equality, immigration and LGBT rights. Xenophobic ideology and rhetoric have cast a shadow over the nation and reintroduced minority populations to a fear that we thought was lost to a bygone era.
My generation is rather socially liberal; we take great pride in our tolerance and harbor great disdain for those who have none. It is frightening to see the entitled and privileged normalizing, and even adopting the discourse of radically conservative social policy. As a woman and member of the LGBT community I have gone to great lengths to surround myself with open-minded people, and being from a city as large and diverse as Houston, that certainly wasn’t difficult.
I have always enjoyed living in a mixed bag of racial, sexual and gender identities. I couldn’t imagine living in a monochromatic world, void of the distinctions that mark us all as unique persons. Recently—and by that I mean for the past two or so years—I have witnessed an increase in the persecution of the marginalized. Perhaps the majority feels threatened by the growing numbers and self confidence of the minority, and so they place the politics of inclusion under heavy fire.
A study by Yale psychologist Jennifer Richeson has proven that when one group of people with similar identities—race being the focus of this particular study—hear about the rise of one group, they immediately feel that means there will be a decline in their own. Richeson and her constituents in the study concluded that such a mode of thinking suggests that there is some kind of “zero-sum competition” enacted between groups. Herein lies the problem: divisive rhetoric, whether it be nationalistic or racially motivated or sexually inspired, builds up illusory barriers between demographic groups, and the more we separate and label others as contemptible or deplorable because of these differences, the more prejudice we inspire.
When allowed to believe that our differences make us less moral or less worthy than another bracket of humanity a fear of outsiders can be instilled in us all; this ideology also works in reverse. An prime example would be President Trump labeling undocumented mexican immigrants and people from predominantly Muslim countries as dangerous, thus inciting panic in the general white-American populus. The exploitation of this fear creates the divisions we see today in people calling for literal bars to entry from America, in people attacking one another in the streets just for expressing a lifestyle that doesn’t fit what one might consider “normal.”
I am not saying that everyone in the majority is possessed with enmity for marginalized groups, because that is not the case. My point is that when presented with the possibility of a decline in social status, those who have it tend to feel as if they’ve been backed into a corner, so they resort to a primitive state of lashing out with tooth and nail to defend themselves. But the fact of the matter is that all people, regardless of race, sexuality, gender or creed should be held to the same level of esteem. However platitudinous it may seem, we are all human, and we all have the right to equal treatment. Our identities may diversify us, but we should not allow them to divide us because of skewed statistics and schismatic rhetoric.
I have hope that with the proper guidance, my generation will be able to overcome the sociopolitical barriers that divide us and learn to accept each other at face value. Some of us are on the right path, and while some of us have wandered off into darker places, there is still a chance for them to right themselves and return to the avenue of tolerance that we all must follow to reach a place of coaction.
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