The Good Old Days Weren’t So Good

Growing up I heard a lot of people wax poetic about the “good old days.” To hear them tell it, crime was practically nonexistent. You kept your doors unlocked because you trusted your neighbors. You could go next door to ask for a cup of sugar or send your kids down to the corner market to grab a brick of butter without worrying about whether or not they’d come home.

Things were simpler. Women had their place in the home and men did honest work for an honest living. Children respected their elders and were raised with proper morals, and that’s why they all went to school and got decent jobs in the end. The world was just better back then.

Unless you were black, of course. They always seemed to be left out of these parables. Segregation was still wildly popular in these periods of time. African-Americans were expected to go to different schools, drink from different water fountains, eat at different parts of a restaurant. There were black neighborhoods and there were white neighborhoods. If black people are ever mentioned in stories like these it’s to talk about how well they all got along – so long as they knew their place, of course.

It wasn’t too great for women, either. Many abused alcohol or pills to deal with the stress of being forced into positions they didn’t want. While some women are perfectly happy choosing to be a homemaker, there’s a big difference between choosing something and being forced into something. If a woman wanted to become a doctor or a scientist or a lawyer she had a tough battle ahead of her. If a woman didn’t want to get married or have children she was considered ill in some way.

If you were a member of the LGBTQ community you might as well just be dead, because you ran that risk if you were out in any real kind of way back in the “good old days.” Being an open gay man or lesbian woman was enough to get you arrested in many parts of the country as “anti-cross-dressing” laws were passed. If a woman was seen imitating a man in any kind of way (like wearing a shirt with buttons on the wrong side), they were arrested and sent to jail. Medical care was almost impossible to get. And if you were transgender you could expect assaults on a regular basis and faced the very real possibility that you could be murdered for something as simple as walking to the grocery store.

So, really the good old days were only actually good for straight, white men and the few white women who felt comfortable in the role society demanded of them – or at least pretended to be. Before you start to wax nostalgic about how good things were when you were a kid, stop to think about who they were really good for. Were they good for everyone, or were they only especially good for you because they were worse for someone else?