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A minor pet peeve I have is when people express disbelief that this is still happening “in 2011” (or insert any year here, really) or “in this day and age”. It’s such a ubiquitous way of looking at events that even I’ve been guilty of thinking that way and saying that a few times.

But the thinking behind it is faulty. Progress is not a straight march from one critical victory in civil liberties and progressivism to the other. We are not living in some golden Panglossian Best of All Previous Worlds, where progress is the norm and it should come as a shock to us that awful things still happen.

Civil Liberties were not bestowed unto various groups because the Mighty Clock decreed the predetermined time had come for people’s hearts to soften towards group XYZ and treat them slightly less shabbily than before. Change came about because these groups and their allies fought, sometimes losing almost everything, to make things right. And many of these brave people didn’t think of themselves as ushering in a more “enlightened” age. It was simply trying to right one of many wrongs.

I won’t deny that things are getting better for those previously marginalized and maligned, but the job isn’t over yet. I don’t want people getting comfortable with what’s the status quo now, and feeling that instances of injustice are outliers and exceptions that prove the rule. Most of all, I don’t want people to believe that the time for upheavals of these injustices will come when they come. That’s not how it works.

It is 2011. We could be doing a better job. Things have gotten better for most. But the job’s not over yet, and it’s going to take putting the “active” in “activist” to make things better for all.