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As a child born in the mid-1990s, I’ve grown up hearing constant debates in the news over humans’ right. The word ‘equality’ is thrown around so casually it seems like there will always be protests and riots over subjects such as sexuality and race. Looking back, I’m left to realize that the topics American citizens are so focused on are our basic human rights as outlined in the Declaration of Independence. In the last twenty years, there’s been a change in people’s mindsets, and the discrimination of homosexuals and African-Americans is being lessened. As a country, we’re slowly nearing what our Founding Fathers had imagined the Declaration of Independence to truly be: a document everyone can look towards with pride in knowing they have guaranteed rights and safeties, yet we are putting our own 21st century twist onto it.
Flash back to 1996, and Americans are reading their newspapers, being informed that Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which says that, by law, marriage is ‘a union between a man and a woman’. Homosexuals were obviously offended, because how is one supposed to react when they’re told there is something wrong with them falling in love? It took until 2000, when Vermont became the first state to legalize not marriage, but same-sex partnerships, for some to realize that equality is not truly present in the U.S. I was 10 years old by the time news channels were finally having presidential forums focused around LGBT issues. ‘Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ are words all of us have heard and believe we understand, and it is being taken into consideration now that love constitutes to happiness, because there is nothing more beautiful than seeing two people perfectly content with their marriage. Vice President Joe Biden spoke up about this issue, saying that the promise of the Declaration can be achieved by treating homosexuals as equal. Growing up in the 2000s, I’ve heard constant talk of equality, and it seems my peers have much less hate towards the LGBT community than previous generations, and this only makes me realize how much closer we are to finally understanding the Declaration of Independence.
With all the talk of equality, the topic of race is somehow always mentioned, and with this, comes anger and frustration at the ignorance of those who are still treating people differently based on their skin color. It seems it has taken us over 200 years to finally understand the definition of equality, a subject touched in the Declaration of Independence. America is one of the most powerful countries in the world, yet we were blind to just how much white privilege is present in our country. Being white means never having to think about it, and it becomes an issue of equality when someone is called ‘white’ because they have finally been labeled, which is something they never had to think about before. That could be perhaps why there’s been such controversy over race equality in recent years. Hate crimes have been and always will be a problem in our country, yet with recent events such as the Ferguson issue and the killing of Michael Brown, the number of protests have been increasing. Only a couple days ago I was on my favorite blogging website and every other post was focused on the lack of equality in America. More people are starting to speak up; on December 3rd, 2014, mass protests occurred in New York over wrongful police actions against African-Americans. We are striving towards equality, and while there are still faults in the system, the important thing to remember is that people’s mindsets have changed, and although it seems like a simple phrase, they have finally learned what ‘all men are created equal means’.
Started as a document to simply express grievances towards the King of England, the Declaration of Independence became so much more. It became a staple of the American Dream: we all want and deserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I haven’t hit my twenties yet and I’m surrounded by talk of equality. As a white, middle-class female, I could easily close my eyes to issues happening in America, but that would leave me ignorant and isolated. It’s my generation that is so focused on equality, and people of all sexualities, races, and social statuses finally see no problem coming together and interacting with each other in a respectable and human way. Whenever an event focused around the push for equality occurs, America inches closer to fulfilling the promise of the Declaration of Independence. If our Founding Fathers could see us now, I’m curious as to whether they would critique us for our close-minded actions in the past or praise us for what we are striving to become.
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