We live in a society that has largely accepted multiracial existence. Gone are the days of "white only" sections and discrimination against colored persons. However, we may also be living in a new age where ageism has replaced the age-old racism. Is discrimination and prejudice truly gone, or has the agenda against race merely been replaced with one against others of different age groups? Moreover, are people discriminating against the young and old now, instead of their skin color?
Some people believe that our society is ageist. Nowadays, people are often selective of who they talk to. Jobs on the market usually look for younger workers especially when the role involves daily interaction with clients or customers. Celebrities in lead roles are also being phased out the older they get. While one can wonder why this is so, one explanation for the inclination toward younger people would be that people in general simply prefer younger folk. Younger people may generally look more appealing than those who are older, be associated with performing tasks faster and also keeping up with the trends, while older people tend to be stereotyped as "old-fashioned". Nowadays, most jobs have taken on some form of automation which requires workers to cooperate with machines and computers. It may be that older people are hired less in such jobs because their employers may think that they are less likely to work well with computers and adapt to the digital age. Similarly, the society tends to look down on young people in jobs requiring expertise, such as specialized medicine, counseling and university teaching, because of the thought that younger people have less life experience and may be less qualified to be in these jobs that typically require many years of practice. While these assumptions may be true, there are definitely exceptions to the rule, but the society at large may not be very accepting of outliers. In this way, these generalizations may be much like racism, where the society preferred those of a certain race over others.
With the rise of the Internet and social media, people also tend to have more of an identity relating to the decade they grew up in. We commonly see "decadeology" going on in online communities, where people attempt to draw the boundaries between each decade. In particular, some can be condescending towards others they deem to be of a different generation, especially those younger than them. In severe cases, decadeology has escalated into heated arguments and flame wars when two or more sides fail to understand the opposition. While this usually occurs in elders to their juniors, it can also occur the other way around with youths becoming increasingly outspoken these days. Either way, the end result is a divided community that is unable to appreciate different perspectives on a matter due to the belief that the opinions of others from another decade are not relevant and thus not important. In many ways, this is similar to how racism divided communities all across the world and resulted in people being less concerned with the opinions of others different from them.
However, some argue that ageism is not the new racism in that ageism is not as deliberate as racism was. Racism was serious on little to no basis in the past, and it harmed people's wellbeing. Some believe that although ageism demonstrates prejudice towards people of certain demographics, it is only human to have a preference for certain types of people. If one considers our society's current preferences for certain age groups to be ageism, then one could easily say that anyone who has a dating preference for men or women is sexist, or that Western entertainment industries are racist for featuring mainly white people.
In the past, racism saw people of color being mistreated, enslaved, tortured and even killed, often for no reason. People were explicitly separated based on their skin color, not allowed to marry others of another race and given fewer privileges under law if they were of certain descent. These days, while society does place these restrictions on us in regard to others of different age groups, nobody is deliberately mistreated due to their age. We are constantly hearing of outreach programs for the young to interact with the old and keep them company. Besides, youths often interact with older people on a daily basis through their educational institutions, where the elders teach the young. Although there may be a stigma against older people these days and there may be stereotypes that young people are brash and foolhardy, these are not as serious as racism used to be.
Another point made is that racism excludes certain demographics all the time, while ageism has different preferences for different demographics depending on the situation. In racism, people of certain races are almost always not preferred over others - people of color were usually always discriminated against, while white people typically had elevated privileges. In ageism, however, it is not that any age group is given clear privilege over another. Sometimes, older people are preferred, while other times younger people are preferred. It is important to define what draws the line between preference and prejudice. As such, some believe that ageism merely rotates around people of different demographics depending on the situation, and so is different from racism, which almost always prefers a certain demographic and discriminates against others.
Yet others think that ageism in our society today simply does not exist. It is normal to have a slight personal preference toward people of certain demographics, and this can simply be classed as a majority preference rather than ageism. For one, it is quite logical why certain job openings seek young people, perhaps because they are deemed to be in better health and able to stay on a work contract for longer, whereas those who are older may have plans to retire sooner. Some job openings also request for young people because they are better able to perform certain tasks that older people may have difficulty accomplishing on a daily basis. This is unlike racism, where people were discriminated against for their skin color, although this had absolutely no impact on their ability to work or live life as a human being. Besides, while each person stays the same race throughout their entire life, all of us will age and experience being young and old.
In conclusion, the jury is still divided on whether ageism is the new racism. Although there are strong arguments supporting ageism being the new racism, such as its discriminatory nature based on stereotypes similar to racism, there are also opposing viewpoints suggesting that ageism is not as aggressive as racism was, and may actually have a basis of reason whereas racism was based on pure discrimination. Ultimately, the answer lies in each individual's way of thinking and interpretation of the two terms.
May 12, 2020