Stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their age is no better than discriminating against someone because of their gender, sexual orientation, race or economic status.
For a long time we as a nation have made strides in the right direction towards defeating discrimination in its many forms. Though some of those forms have no current solution, the point is we have recognized this discrimination and have decided to make changes in our actions in order to protect those who were, or still are, at the mercy of a major form of discrimination.
Unfortunately, ageism has not been tackled as aggressively as it could be. For instance, we have organizations that fight for women’s rights, race equality, LGBT social justice — the list goes on. But organizations like Gray Panthers Twin Cities and American Bar both focus on ageism and the preservation of justice toward the topic. The fact is, neither are given the recognition they deserve. It could be because they’re not the most popular resources, or people just aren’t receptive to the struggles of ageism at all.
A little over a week ago I found myself discriminating based on someone’s age in reference to a position they may or may not have been fit for. I did this and immediately knew it was wrong. It didn’t feel good and it’s something I should not have done. To that person I am sorry, but is it truly my fault? Or is it the fault of the society we have grown up in?
We associate a lot of things with age in our nation: knowledge, work experience, ability to drive, drinking, etc., and no matter what the circumstance, we rarely discuss ageism and the effects it may impose on people.
We are living in a day and age where some people don’t even know ageism is working against them. It should go without saying, but for the most part people associate older age with wisdom. On the other hand younger individuals are associated with curiosity and a lack of life experience.
No one should have the authority to tell someone they can or cannot do something simply on the basis of age. The same goes for holding a preconception of someone’s character or skills based on age. When we look at an issue like this, it’s easy to think that maybe it’s not a big deal or that we can deal with it later, but that is nonsense. The fact is, there’s no logic behind discriminating against someone due to their age. One cannot attribute self worth to age.
If we don’t tackle this form of discrimination now, it may never be addressed and holds the potential to impede the progress America has made regarding other forms of stereotyping and discrimination. Let’s bring light to organizations that are standing up for age equality, come together, and come up with solutions on how we can solve ageism and make a dent on its prominence in our country.
Terrance J. Bynum studies journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.