There is little doubt that significant progress has been made through the years to improve social inequality not only in our country, but throughout the entire world.
But we still have a long way to go when you consider that discrimination is still very much alive based on race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality, among other things.
However, with each incoming generation comes a renewed sense of tolerance and acceptance, and it’s a comforting thought.
That being said, regardless of how much social change occurs, we must never forget where we’ve come from. It’s important to document history so future generations can fully understand and appreciate the progress we’ve made, and to remember all those who were the victims of social injustice.
Take, for instance, the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. in September. Whether we like to admit it or not, slavery is a major part of our country’s history. You can’t inform students about American history without touching upon slavery.
Kids who enter that museum will be amazed to learn that even though we now have had a black president, that this is once how we treated people of African-American descent.And it’s important that they learn early that change can happen.
Another important milestone was the Supreme Court ruling last year to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. In less than 50 years, we went from organized police beatings of homosexuals to protecting them under the law.
But again, we’ll know never know how far we’ve come unless we acknowledge how low we once were.
And recently, that’s a step that was taken from our friends across the pond. Last week, the United Kingdom government announced it would pardon thousands of gay and bisexual men — most posthumously — who were criminalized for having sex with another man.
It’s one of those things that sounds great on the surface, but then makes you furious to realize that this was ever a crime.
England decriminalized consensual homosexual sex between men over age 21 in 1967. Wales did it in 1967, Scotland in 1980 and Northern Ireland in 1982. In 2001, the U.K. lowered the age of consent for homosexual men to 16, the same for heterosexual sex.
The law is named the Turing Law, after renowned mathematician Alan Turing, the subject of the 2014 movie The Imitation Game, who only did that small little thing of cracking the Nazi enigma code during World War II. He was repaid by being convicted of homosexuality in 1952 and committed suicide by eating a cyanide-dosed apple in 1954 (though some wonder if it was not suicide and simply one of his experiments gone awry).
Either way, it was still a tragic fate for someone who should have been memorialized as a hero. He was formally pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II in 2013.
A lot of people will look at this and wonder what it actually accomplishes. It may even serve as a harsh reminder of how cruelly homosexuals were once treated. And it will likely piss people off that homosexuals who were found guilty of having sex in a bathroom won’t be pardoned since it’s still illegal today, despite the fact that the unjust laws at the time forced homosexuals to have sex in bathrooms, away from the public eye.
However, I look at it from a symbolic standpoint. It’s another major country making the effort to right its wrongs.
Should it have ever happened in the first place? Of course not.
But in history books, it will go down as another step towards progress.
It’s no enigma code, but wherever he is, Alan Turing can finally take solace in knowing that his country figured this one out.