“He’s just old and from a different generation, he doesn’t know any better.”
“She’s so old-fashioned but she’s not racist.”
“He doesn’t mean any harm, he’s just not used to these things.”
I’m pretty sure there’s not many people that could say they haven’t heard these phrases uttered before. Whether it be about the Dad who makes a judgemental comment whilst watching the news, or the Grandma who stereotypes someone she see’s in the shops, or the boss who doesn’t hire someone because of his preconceptions.
It’s something we all experience on a day-to-day basis, and I’m sure many of us have felt the need to defend or make an excuse for someone we know before. But actually, it’s really not acceptable any longer for us to use old age as an excuse for ignorance.
The older generation grew up in a very different time to that which we live in today- much less ethnic and cultural diversity, less travel and knowledge of foreign countries, no internet or social media connections around the world and for many people a fear of those who were different from themselves. Throughout the last 50 or so years there has been a huge increase in the levels of diversity we now see in our own communities and ethnic diversity is the norm for our generation.
For an older generation, this has been a drastic change and many still hold views of bygone times- that immigrants coming to our country are “taking our jobs” and putting a strain on our services. They may be fearful of particular groups, they might judge people before getting to know them, they could avoid particular places where they don’t feel comfortable. Now some people will say that these things are harmless and that it doesn’t really affect anyone.
We have a responsibility to not make excuses for people who want to marginalise particular groups within society, and if we want to see a better and more cohesive and less divided country then we need to use our voices to educate those who see things differently. The older generation have a say when voting, deciding policies and pressuring for changes to be made and so if their opinions are never challenged they will continue to vote for things which go against creating a respectful and integrated society. If your Dad holds an ignorant viewpoint then you can guarantee at least a few of our MPs of a similar age and background will too. This means that policies will likely reflect this and we will continue to go down a path of creating a country which rejects and fears differences.
Next time your Grandad makes an ignorant comment, why not ask him why he is happy to utilise the services of the NHS and have immigrants work tirelessly to provide him with the best healthcare but then when he gets home he’ll make derogatory comments about Muslims?
Next time your boss mocks the clothing or appearance of a West-African person, question her as to why she will then, when she is desperate for staff, ring that persons CV and shower them with praise and compliments?
There is a huge level of hypocrisy taking place and we have an opportunity to educate those who do not have the same experiences and understandings as us. We need to start doing that with the people who are closest to us and who we can share personal experiences with and are most likely to influence.
So please, use your voice and no longer allow old age to be used as an excuse for ignorance.