Back it up, there, and let's take a look at that last one.
Two hundred and thirty-three years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, one hundred and forty-six years after the Emancipation Proclamation was decreed, ninety years after the Twentieth Amendment became law, forty-five years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed... After the writing and publication of all of these landmark documents, after all this time, are all Americans finally equal, in rights as well as in truth?
I'd say not.
Look at the treatment legal immigrants receive in this country, especially those of Arab descent; all too often they are greeted with suspicion. Look at the treatment gay and lesbian citizens receive, or disabled citizens, or minorities, or women; all too often they are greeted with disdain, or condescension, or even hatred... the list goes on and on. We've made progress toward equality, that's for sure- but just how far have we come?
Sure, the positions of power are no longer entirely occupied by old, white, rich men. President Obama is African-American; Speaker of the House Pelosi is a woman. And these facts reassure me a bit in that the old hierarchy is falling, slowly but surely (and, hey, if we want to break the rise-and-fall cycle all the empires have gone through, if we want to survive as a civilization, then we need to change something, so that's a good thing in more ways than one).
But when I stop and think about it, I'm astonished at just how similar everyday prejudices remain. Take pay rates, for one (and how important they are in these tough economic times!). Women still don't receive the same salaries as their male counterparts. President Obama, in his words upon signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 in January, acknowledged the inequalities that women in the workforce face: "Women across this country still [earn] just 78 cents for every dollar men earn-- women of color even less-- which means that today, in the year 2009, countless women are still losing thousands of dollars in salary, income and retirement savings over the course of a lifetime." And that piece of legislation- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first piece of legislation President Obama signed into law- should help to rectify that situation; but progress, as usual, is slow.
As always, I encourage you to think. Today let's ponder how equal we think we are in this day and age, and just how equal we actually are. I use women's pay as an example but there are countless prejudices still in place across the nation. And here's an important question: What can we do to fight those prejudices?
And here's an important answer: Let's live our lives without those prejudices, as best we can; let's challenge the pay gap between genders, or the automatic assumptions we make based on race or sexual orientation. Let's think about judgments we make about people based on the way they look or which socioeconomic category they fall in. Let's remove the casualness from these prejudices...
And move forward to a better day.