Ageism: The New Racism?

by Anantinee Mishra

Prejudices are principles of the people we dislike.

                                                                 John P. Grier


Stereotypes and prejudices on the basis of sex, race, social class, political affiliations, sexuality, disability, religion, nationality et cetera have become so common these days, that hardly an eyebrow is raised when a slur is hurled at a person belonging to a minority of the listed categories.

Ageism, by definition, is stereotyping and/or discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of their age, either in a systematic or casual manner. First coined by Robert Neil Butler in 1969, the word seems to be gaining fame because of its connected ideology of three elements: prejudicial attitude towards old people, old age and, the ageing process.

Although ageism typically means prejudices against people of old age; it can be used against children too; albeit in a more casual way.

Denying the right to vote, right to consent or refuse medical treatment, right to buy and consume alcohol, tobacco or cannabis et cetera are some examples of legally standing ageism limitations. However, ignoring their ideas because they are considered “young” to express their opinions, or insisting on the fact that they are “allowed” to behave in a particular manner just because of their age, are some things that can be considered as common instances of reverse mechanism ageism.

But, the main reason why ageism is considered to be more distinguished than other prejudices, is the fact that the majorly targeted party i.e. the old aged, can themselves be deeply ageist, having incorporated a lifetime of negative stereotypes about aging. Also, thanatophobia or fear of death, fear of dependence or disability are considered major causes of ageism; rejecting elders or who are going through these phases may seem as a coping mechanism that allows people to avoid the weight of their own mortality on their conscience.

We forget that fear of dying is human. But fear of aging is cultural.

To whoever ageism may be aimed at, for whatever reason it is being committed, does it really have any value in front of the fact that degrading particularly aged people as worthless or unimportant wrong?

While using emotionally haunting abuses, don’t we stop and think for a second that we ourselves were once of that age or would be? Don’t we stop for a second and think what would have happened if the roles would have been reversed, and we would have been on the other side, receiving hate for something we don’t have control over?

Prejudice is hard, but ignorance is harder.

About the Author:

Anantinee ‘JHUMPA’ Mishra is a prodigy author, poet and TED speaker. She is twelve years old studying in std.8th at Apeejay School, Saket, New Delhi.  She has published two books and many stories and articles in magazines and journals. At the age of ten, she published a 21,000 worded anthology of stories called ‘Treasure of Short Stories’. Last year her debut Novel ‘Manhattan to Munnar’ got released. Recently she has been conferred with a title ‘PRODIGY AUTHOR’ and an ‘HONORARY DIPLOMA’ by the Hon’ble Vice President of  India Sh. M Venkaiah Naidu.

One Comment

  1. That is the reality which should be accepted but we hardly realise.This is silent that always vibrate.Well said by a child in her apprehension. Be Blessed.