“In my day…”
“It’s just a bit of banter.”
“You can’t say anything these days!”
“It’s political correctness gone mad.”
We have undoubtedly heard these comments from older people in our lives. People of a certain age or generation, perhaps a neighbour, relative or family friend, who come out with problematic or bigoted comments. They’ll usually blame their age or make some passing comment that “in their day” things were different or those comments were acceptable (newsflash grandma: just because it was acceptable it doesn’t mean it was morally right!). Society often excuses them and holds up its hands saying “well what can we do, that’s just how they are.”
Social norms have dictated that it’s normal to have a bigoted uncle or grandma. But why is this seen to be acceptable?
These narrow-minded ideas often relate to the idea that political correctness, abolition or anti-oppression are new, and that anti-racism or critiques of the gender binary are modern ideas. However, many movements have been campaigning for justice for decades (or centuries). Movements for justice are perhaps only more visible now because of modern-day media cycles which fixate on certain issues. This media fixation is often a deliberate attempt to actually undermine these struggles (take the current anti-transphobic rhetoric that has taken hold of our political discourse). We must also remember that for many marginalised people in the past, it was not safe for them to speak up and be visibly engaged in justice movements, or perhaps they simply did not have the platform nor resources to do so.
We have a collective responsibility to call out hatred and harmful rhetoric. To not do so is to be complicit, and allow these ideas to continue to permeate through our communities.
At what age do we see someone as being beyond educating, or their bigotry as excusable?
Insinuating that someone is too old to learn is ageism. Many older people continue to learn from and listen to marginalised groups. This kind of ageism also discredits all the older people who continue to fight for social justice and are on the front line of anti-oppressive movements. It diminishes the solidarity of the older generations who come out early in the morning to defend drag queen story time from fascists.
You are never too old to be held to account. Racism (or any other form of discrimination) was never and will never be okay. Stop making excuses for it.
If you want to learn more about systems of oppression, like racism, check out our Words Matter campaign.