The next frontier for social issues?

“That kind of thing was everywhere around us then,” my grandmother said to me recently. “We just didn’t see it.”

We were talking about racial prejudice that my grandmother saw when she was growing up. Although her parents were quite progressive in their day and never allowed her to use any derogatory terms to describe a social group, racial prejudice was still widely practiced and expected in the surrounding white American culture.

I had been telling my grandmother that I had just watched “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” with my African-American literature class, a movie made in the ’60s with the provocative theme of inter-racial marriage.  My grandmother and I also talked about “The Help,” which we both recently finished. As I read the book, it astounded me that such flagrant oppression took place only 50 years ago. It was everywhere, as my grandmother said, and no one could see how awful it was because it was so socially acceptable and ingrained in everyone.

This makes me wonder what the next frontier for social issues will be. What common cultural norm do we practice now that the next generation will look back on and say, “How could they possibly have done things like that?” It’s easy to judge previous generations for their blind spots. But we also need to recognize that we have our own.

It’s fairly socially unacceptable now for white people to be prejudiced against African Americans. No one wants to be perceived as a racist, even though all of us are racists to some degree. But how socially unacceptable is it to be prejudiced against Hispanic people–especially if they are immigrants who don’t speak much English? What about prejudice against Muslims and Asians? It seems to me that this kind of racism is less blameworthy in our society’s eyes, somehow not as serious an offense as racism against blacks.

Maybe there will be significant changes in our food and agricultural systems, such that our children will deplore us for buying food shipped from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Maybe one day our society will wake up to the fact that the majority of our manufactured goods come from poorly treated, grossly underpaid overseas workers. Maybe the next generation will finally learn how to reduce its energy consumption.

What do you think might be the next frontier in terms of problems our society needs to recognize and changes it needs to make?

 

4 thoughts on “The next frontier for social issues?

  1. I like this idea, and I’ve pondered it before. I’d like to think our current consumerist mindset of “everything goes,” allowing mistreatment of many–children, animals, women, the earth, et cetera–will be one of the things we forsake, but I wonder if our self-serving core will keep us from ever fully seeing that for what it truly is.

    • Hi Stacie! Thanks so much for your comment. Good to hear from you. 🙂

      Yes, I had some trouble thinking of different issues in which we might actually make progress. So many things, especially mistreatment of the people and things you mentioned, seem like they’re just a part of human nature that will probably never acquire the social stigma necessary to (mostly) overcome them on a large scale in our culture. But I think we can hope that we’ll grow in awareness of that consumerist mindset, and many other self-serving habits, so that we can avoid them…

  2. Good question! I’ve sometimes wondered what was in the water back then that even Christians couldn’t see what was going on. Regarding today’s society, our treatment of the environment comes to mind. I know that might seem like a minor issue, but I can’t help but think that future generations will look back on this one and ask why we insisted on drilling oil till it dried up, why we allowed atrocious spills, why we engage in fracking and other means of producing natural gas and coal that are detrimental to the earth; why we built cities in the middle of the desert and insisted on pumping in scarce water for people to grow lawns…essentially, I think future generations will wonder why we insisted on continually living lives that destroyed everything around us, but somehow we considered it a right.

    Also, the fact that the Transatlantic Slave Trade began and ended before Christ returned makes me hope that it is still possible for society to realize that abortion is a travesty. Hopefully one day people will look back and think how strange it was that we accepted such.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Ariana. It’s a little frightening to think that we can be so blind to some things, and I hope you’re right that one day we’ll wake up to the reality of our destructive environmental practices and to abortion and do something about these issues.

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