A Little Hope for the Future

This week, Texas lawmakers passed a law that will force all but five of the state’s abortion clinics to close, severely restricting women’s reproductive freedom and ability to exercise their constitutional rights.  Despite the protests of thousands of women nationwide and a heroic filibuster by Wendy Davis, the Texas legislature is going through with this unnecessary law and will undo years of progress in the fight for gender equality.

Also, George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the murder of Trayvon Martin.  Although it seems that the jury made the right decision legally (the prosecution was not able to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt), the country does not believe that justice has been served.  No matter how you feel about this verdict, the case raises some serious questions about racial equality and the fairness of Florida law.  Would Zimmerman have reacted differently if Trayvon were white?  Would the jury have been so sympathetic towards Zimmerman is he were black?  How can we be sure that our racial biases are not affecting our justice system?

If you’re like me, you’re probably frustrated that in 2013 we are still battling the same issues that our grandparents dealt with. Despite the enormous progress that has been made, our lives are still in many ways determined by our race and gender.  Women are still fighting for their right to reproductive autonomy and a young black boy in a hoodie is still mistaken for a criminal. When will racial and gender inequality FINALLY be problems of the past?  Despite these frustrating developments, I found two great videos this week that helped restore my hope for the future.  Today’s world may still be divided by race and gender, but I believe that the next generation will have a different outlook.

Ali Ahmed is an Egyptian middle school student who is better informed than most adults in this country.  In this video, Ali explains the current situation in Egypt so eloquently that his interviewer couldn’t help but ask, “Who taught you all this?”  This video makes me hopeful that our children will not simply accept tradition, but will question the practices that dictate our lives.  By reading on the internet and using his “own brain” as he says, Ali understands that some traditions do not work in a modern society and cannot continue.  Tradition and religious beliefs are incredibly hard things to question and overcome, but Ali rejects the role that Islamic law plays in the Egyptian government.  He explains,

Ali: “They say women are equal to men in all matters, except in matters that contradict Islamic law. But then Islamic law allows men to discipline their wives. This can’t work in society”

Interviewer: “Why not? What’s the problem?

Ali: “The problem is that it’s outrageous. I can’t beat my wife and almost kill her, and then tell you this is discipline.  This is not discipline, this is abuse and insanity.”

To most Americans, I would say that this is common knowledge.  The behavior that Ali describes is abuse and it isoutrageous.  But generations that came before Ali didn’t question this practice because it was culturally accepted and allowed by Islamic law.  Ali Ahmed makes me really hopeful for the next generation because he is able to see past tradition and think for himself.  Although he has seen generations before him abide by Islamic law, his knowledge of the world allows him to see the difference between the way the world is and the way the world should be.

Young people like Ali are able to become so well-informed because they now have access to the internet.  The internet allows us to hear perspectives from people around the world that may conflict from what we hear from our parents and neighbors. In the past, children grew up accepting the views and beliefs of their parents, simply because that is all they were exposed to.  If everyone was as well-informed as Ali and willing to question society, we can overcome racial and gender inequality.

Watch the entire video here:

The second video that restored my faith in humanity relates to racial equality.  This video is a study of children’s reactions to the “controversial” Cheerios commercial.  This commercial is a normal cereal commercial, except the family is biracial.  Many who saw this commercial were offended, so offended that they felt the need to leave hateful comments on the YouTube. The comments got so bad that YouTube had to block users from leaving any future comments on this video.

In this video, the children were shown the Cheerios commercial and are asked to respond to what they saw.  Their reactions are both adorable and interesting, because they seem genuinely shocked that this commercial had such a negative response.  The children were unable to identify why people were offended by this commercial.  When they were told that the biracial family was the caused of the controversy, they were all appalled and confused.

A little girl said, “It’s just the color of their skin, what matters is if they are nice or mean.” Another remarked, “I thought Martin Luther King spoke against this and fixed this already?”  One boy explained, “We are all the same.  Underneath it, you’re literally the same.  You have organs and a heart!”  One young girl actually started crying because she is so upset that people would be judged and looked down upon because of who they love.

The children in the video are basically colorblind. The idea of a family with a white mother and a black father was not seen as progressive or controversial to them – it was perceived as normal.  The fact that these children were shocked by the controversy the commercial caused says a lot about their overall perception of the world and people of different races.

It’s true that these children have very little life experience and they may be blind to race because they have not experienced racism in their lives yet.  Their naiveté doesn’t negate the fact that they seem to have a perspective unique from previous generations. I imagine that fifty years ago, even young children the same age would notice that this family is different in some way.  The fact that these children were so shocked is a great sign for the future of race relations in this country in my opinion.

Watch the video here:

So – the world may not be at the point we’d hope by 2013, but it seems that the future is in well-informed and open minded hands.  The people like me, who want to see real change in the world, might not be satisfied with this, but it makes me feel a little bit better.  I can only imagine the progress that could be made if the country were run by people with views like the young people shown in these video – I felt better knowing that someday it will be.

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