Think about evolution, not in the sense of where we came from or how we got here, but as a general concept. You can see the evolution of software, from punch cards to text only displays and a command line user interface to where people are using VRML to browse information in a database. Whether this is actual Darwinian evolution or personal growth and maturity is open to debate. But evolution can be used as a word to describe this style of growth, and if we look at things like software or society, it works on a slow time scale.
When Louis Armstrong (king of jazz, inventor of the modern form we recognize as jazz) was born in 1900, racism was taken for granted. It wasn’t seen as racism, just the natural order of things. Mr Armstrong had a talent so big it couldn’t be contained in his ghetto, and in fact spilled over into white society. Before each performance, he said (non verbally) “I am here to entertain you, but I am not your equal.” This is what he had to do to be recognized in a world that enforced racial division with lynchings.
This continued on until the civil rights movement. But in the last 40 years, things have turned around drastically. America’s attitude toward racism is Puritanical. In the way sexuality, especially adultury, was once met with violent rejection, today racism is shunned to great length. What a radical change in the span of 40 years!!!!! From the days of JFK (who did not implement civil rights change) it’s not just the world that’s changed, it’s us as well.
Is racism dead and behind us? No, not completely. There’s ground left to cover, but most of the work has been accomplished. A black person makes most but not quite all the salary a white person would make for the same work – this is wrong, and yet most “minorities” have never experienced racial violence. The late 1960s gave rise to the Black Panthers, but the situation today simply isn’t dire enough to provoke such blowback.
The point in writing this isn’t to congratulate, turn on the TV, and call it a day. Retrospective is an important part of planning. And looking back, the truth is we’ve done well. We need to continue, but we need to recognize success where it exists (and learn from it).