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[personal profile] erinlefey
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It gets better.

250 years ago, the majority of the American colonies thought that people with certain skin colors were barely human at all. In fact, the upcoming Constitution actually specified that they were worth three fifths of other people. Women were regarded as little more than property, and had no say in the world other than the influence they might have over men in their personal lives. Homosexuality was hidden and shamed, not to mention a criminal act.

It gets better.

200 years ago, the new United States of America was divided over the issue of slavery, which would fester into a civil war. Women were still unable to vote. Homosexuality was still shamed into hiding and illegal.

It gets better.

150 years ago, the United States was recovering from the civil war. Slavery was abolished by presidential order, although the lives of the former slaves were little different than the way they had been before. (Slavery would still be constitutionally legal for another five years, and black people still could not vote.) Women were becoming more vocal and outspoken in the public sphere. Women's Rights conventions were being held. Homosexuality was becoming more common, but still hidden and shamed.

It gets better.

100 years ago, black Americans were legally allowed to vote nationwide, although they were pressured in many areas not to do so. Dozens of black Americans were lynched every year. Women were able to vote legally in many states, but not all. Birth control information was legally classified as obscene. Homosexuality was still in the shadows, with the first gay rights organization still 14 years away.

It gets better.

50 years ago, Rosa Parks was only recently told to move to the back of the bus. Segregation was common, with "Coloreds Only" bathrooms and water fountains. Sit-ins were common to challenge segregation in businesses. Laws forbidding interracial marriage were common. Women had gained the right to vote, but still experienced common discrimination. Birth control pills were approved by the FDA. The first national gay rights organization had been formed. No state had yet decriminalized homosexual acts between consenting adults in private. Homosexuality is listed as a mental disorder.

It gets better.

Today, women can vote and control their own bodies. There are still acts of discrimination against women, but they are more rare than they have ever been. The President of the United States is an African-American, with a white mother and black father. Discrimination against people of color still occurs, but is denounced when it happens. Homosexual behavior is no longer a crime, nor a mental disorder. Several states allow same-sex marriage.

Never doubt that things get better. No one vote, no one person, makes the difference, any more than one drop of water carves a canyon. But over time, all of us together, form a raging river that the rocks of intolerance cannot resist.

It gets better.
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erinlefey

March 2011

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