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Intolerance In America


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I Can't Stand Intolerance In America (But Should I?)

Imagine you are in rural America in the late 1950's/early 1960's. Slavery has been abolished for one hundred years and all American citizens are now seen as equals under the Constitution of the United States of America. In a perfect world, this would mean that all feelings of hate, racism, and intolerance that once existed no longer were found in society. However, the world is anything but perfect, and all around you violent, racially motivated crimes and injustice are occurring. Blacks are not allowed to drink near whites, go to school with whites, enjoy any recreational activity with whites, or in any way associate with the white population. Instead, blacks are being forced to march for basic freedoms that should already be a given. The country is split. The intolerance, hatred, and pure ignorance that once existed in the very beginning of the country's creation, that had been scoffed at and ridiculed throughout the years, still existed.

Fast forward fifty or so years to today, and you'll begin to notice an alarming pattern. Is intolerance still around in America today? The answer is yes, without a doubt. Even after everything that has transpired in since the 1960's, especially the passing of several monumental civil rights bills, as a country we have not significantly changed. Sure, we no longer as a whole accept racism as being 'alright', or believe that slavery should be reinstated, but we have our own problems that have come along with our rapidly growing society. Today topics such as immigration and gay rights top the charts. We are still just as torn as we always have been. To be blunt, it's the same sh**, but a different day.

Should intolerance even be an issue in America today? The answer is obviously no. Today we are so often taught that hate is wrong, and that bullying of any sort is absolutely unacceptable. Somehow though, there is an equal amount of intolerance occurring nationwide as there ever has been. Throughout the history of the United States, large instances of intolerance and even oppression due to discrimination and prejudice have set the country back. It is no coincidence that the shining moments in American History are those that revolve around the liberation of hatred and the oppression from undeserving human beings. How different would our country be today if intolerance wasn't an issue? If wars over religion or the color of one's skin no longer were even a thought?

According to a poll conducted by CNN in late 2011, they asked the country whether or not they believed the relations between blacks and whites in America would always be a problem, and about 44% of whites believed that yes, in fact they would be. The black population voted about 55% towards yes, the relations would always have problems. These numbers are one a rise since the last time the poll was taken in 2008.

In a recent poll taken at Woodland Park High School, I asked forty people four different questions about intolerance, ignorance, racism, and hate in America. In this study 75% of the people believe that on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being very prevalent, that the amount of racism in America today would be around a 3. However, when asked to evaluate on a scale of 1-10 the correctness of the following statement, with 1 being completely incorrect,

"All groups of people in the United States have equal rights."
over 80% answered with a 4 or below. When these two are juxtaposed, there is an obvious contradiction. If over 75% of people say that racism doesn't exist anymore, but 80% say that not all groups share equal rights, there must be a certain demographic that is being thought of.

The answer is gays and lesbians and the entire LGBT community in the United States. Historically, this demographic has received almost no recognition at all, let alone equal rights. As we have moved towards a more and more advanced society however, they have been thrown into the spotlight. Advancements in science and medicine have helped shed light on this controversial group, and sparked socio and political revolutions. While gay marriage has still not been touched on by the federal government, frequently more and more states are beginning to allow this act. With 14 states having now legalized gay marriage, the conversation surrounding this demographic is in full swing. Both sides have their set opinions, as in any argument, but in the past four years alone, there has been almost a 15% increase nationally in support of gay marriage, with over half the country now saying that gays should be allowed to be married under federal law. My class survey went right along with this trend, as 26 of the 40 people checked yes, while 5 checked maybe in regards to gays being allowed to marry.

Legalizing gay marriage federally is the next step towards abolishing intolerance in America. While it may take time as a country to accept this new idea, we have done it time and time before. We are growing as a country faster than ever in terms of acceptance. If this trend continues, it is possible we may one day see a hate free America.

When the Pilgrims came to America on the Mayflower those many years ago, they were simply attempting to escape a life full of oppression. As they settled, and the United States slowly grew into a country, this idea, that of freedom, was the basic building block for what the founding fathers based our Constitution on. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson himself wrote that "All Men Are Created Equal." Yet, for the hundreds of years that followed to birth of the country, racism, prejudice, ignorance, and intolerance were clearly abundant. Starting with slavery, racial inequality has been here since day one. After a hundred years or so, slavery was finally abolished, but the hateful mindsets that were around in the Civil War time were still present. Even after years of violence and heartache, federal action could only slowly start the reversal process. After the Civil Rights movements, intolerance of foreigners, and even of our own government took over. Today, issues such as gay marriage and immigration attract the most hate. Intolerance has never left, but merely changed shapes and disguised itself throughout the years.

Intolerance has always existed in the United States. To become a better country, and to leave behind many of the problems we are facing today, America needs to learn to be more accepting. As a society, the hate and prejudice that is seemingly an everyday occurrence has to be gone away with.
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