We're Not There Yet: Why Equality Depends On Our Younger Generations

by Macie Berlin

The Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage is a huge step toward equality.

The youngest generation gets to be influenced by celebratory images and articles that depict a right being given, rather than rights being taken away. Perhaps, this is the best form of hope we have for our future to be poignant, accepting and open-minded.

But, let's be clear: Equality, in its purest and realest form, does not exist yet.

Much of the progressive decisions, movements and actions leading toward extraordinary changes, such as same-sex marriage, are simply undoing the decades worth of discrimination that preceded these changes.

We are handing out rights and laws to certain classifications of citizens that already exist for others.

The action is bold and beautiful, but the reason is due to years of injustice.

Title IX, women's suffrage and integration are all equalizing gestures to instill opportunity and rights for those who were denied them at one point.

We are moving forward now more than ever, but to be satisfied is to be ignorant; we still have a long way to go.

The recent Supreme Court ruling is genuinely fantastic.

Saying we are still fighting to reach equality does not mean we are diminishing the steps we have taken; it means we have yet to reach a point where every human has access to the same basic rights.

Will there ever be a day when race, gender, sexual orientation and religion do not keep people from opportunity? I'm not sure, but if we don't start talking about it, we don't stand a chance.

The rate at which an American citizen can obtain, absorb and regurgitate information today is insanely fast.

It begins at a younger age, which means our youth are full of answers to questions they may not even have known they had.

There are 9-year-old girls in elementary school bathrooms talking about juice cleanses; there are kids declaring a major before they have even hit puberty; there are children telling other children they cannot interact with one another because of race, gender, sexual orientation and/or religion.

Why? Because they heard it from the adults in their lives.

The accessibility of information is efficient, but the influence of the elders dictates the type of information that is sought out.

If we don't have conversations about acceptance, positive relationships and equality, how can we expect our nation to raise kids who care deeply about these issues?

Waiting until our legal system addresses an issue is still too slow; utilizing the rate of discovery for our young ones can allow them to act, influence and stand up for their beliefs.

We don't need to push our children into molding their hopes and dreams into our own, but we do need to allow them the space to question the way things are.

If they believe color, gender and other intersectional factors split people into different tiers, is it because we are too afraid to address these touchy subjects with them?

The longer we let naivety set in, the longer we leave our youth out of gaining the power to ban together.

Can they ask about same-sex marriage openly? Or, is that stored away for a rainy day, along with the birds and the bees talk?

I have faith our country will continue to make other progressive moves, as is proof with our Supreme Court decision just last week.

But, in order to truly move toward equality, we need a generation that is unafraid to address the issues packed with past prejudices, hurt and discrimination.

Imagine the type of role models this creates for the generation after theirs.

Without involving the young ones, we cannot break the cycle.

So let's celebrate same-sex marriage. Let's celebrate being allies.

But, let's not forget to talk about the issues that still exist and segregate certain citizens from others.

Let's ask uncomfortable questions and be unafraid to admit we may not know the answers.

Let's give our youth more credit, instead of protecting them from difficulties that linger.

Let's explore the gray area of discussions rather than force people into one side or the other. Let's talk, but let's not forget to listen.

The learning curve has deepened significantly due to how quickly information travels.

If we pretend we live in a country where equality is the norm, we risk losing another generation to fear of conversing, questioning and fighting.

We don't need radical change; we just need acknowledgment of the need for change.

Three cheers for same-sex marriage. Let's not stop there. Keep talking, our youngest audience is listening.