Like it or not, it’s changing

by Bryan Silver

If you’ve been following some of the more noteworthy news stories lately, you would probably agree that there have been some weighty topics tossed about—many that have done more in the last 15 months to challenge the American status quo than has occurred in the past 50 years.

What’s interesting beyond the spirited discourse is that many  of these viewpoints aren’t exactly new. While they’ve recently risen from the depths of our collective conscious to demand the attention of all, many have been bobbing just under the surface for years. Surely no one believes that the concept of Black Lives Matter or gender equality have only just emerged, but we are definitely now in an era now where the subjects are no longer circumventable, and, whether you agree with the outcome or not, we’re finally dealing with them as a society and doing so in an expedient fashion.

Do you think that just a few years ago, any of us would have predicted that communities across the nation could mobilize within a matter of weeks and rush to remove questionable monuments that had stood throughout the South and beyond since the Jim Crow era? Could you have believed that years of downplaying the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace and elsewhere would reach its current heightened level of awareness over a period of several days—simply through the use of a keyboard symbol?

Whether we’re talking about gender equality, same-sex marriage or even gun control, these are all issues that we’ve wrestled with for years as a society—with little agreement or resolution—yet, recent attitudes on these topics have shifted with a swiftness and steadfastness that is awe-inspiring.

There is little denying that we are in a new era of social activism, and it’s one that is fueled by social media. It’s time to acknowledge that we live in an age in which a seemingly simple idea can go from grassroots to groundswell in a matter of hours; that technology can force an issue’s tipping point with minimal effort, and that a single voice can be heard around the world through a simple tweet.

Ultimately, it is this newfound ability to speak up and speak out that’s most important. It’s a right and a responsibility for all of us that should be exercised. The context of a Martin Luther King, Jr. sermon made in Selma, Alabama seems very appropriate to this ideal, and it is often paraphrased as, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” There have been no truer words spoken, and change will come as long as we continue to speak of such matters.