Striving for change and progress while dragging the past along behind us

By Jayda Ragas

If we think about how we’ve changed as a society, we see how far we’ve come regarding race and sexual orientation. Black people are no longer slaves and they receive the same rights as every human of any race and are no longer seen as three-fifths of a person. Same-sex marriage is legalized and overall, there is more acceptance of members of the LGBTQ community. But while these major improvements are amazing, equality is still lacking and total acceptance will perhaps never really be achieved because there are people still immersed in racism and homophobia. It’s a sad, horrible truth but I am continuously reminded of this truth by actions such as those of Tuesday, Jan. 29.

Last Tuesday, “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was attacked by two men in Chicago. According to CNN, the attackers were shouting racial and homophobic slurs at Smollett, who is black, plays a gay character in the show and identifies as gay. The two men threw an unknown chemical on him, which has been speculated to be bleach, and one of them put a rope around the actor’s neck. Smollett was badly bruised but otherwise, he suffered no other physical damage. Emphasis on ‘physical.’ Attacks like this are sure to leave some kind of lasting emotional pain that will always haunt the victim.

Acts of hate and violence like this are proof that while, in general, things are improving in our society, there is obviously still a long way to go until we reach total acceptance — if it’s even possible to come to that point. Some people like to gloss over the fact that individual black people and gay people are still being targeted by bullying, harassment, and verbal and physical attacks. Some people look at the progress we’ve made as a society and decide that enough has been done, that this is as far as we can go. No. There is still so much — too much — that needs to be accomplished before true equality and acceptance has been reached.

This attack is just one of many hate crimes committed against groups of people who have been treated as inferior and less-than for far too long. It hurts me to read about yet another act of violence, motivated by racism and homophobia. Our country has gone through many changes for the better, but stories like this one should show people that we are still only in the process of change. We have not made it to the finish line and maybe that finish line will never be crossed, but at least we can aim for it as fast as we can and try our hardest to keep it in sight.