Sheila Callahan is a long-time diversity, equity and inclusion practitioner who is now turning her attention to the last allowable workplace “ism”–age. She is the executive director of the Age Equity Alliance, working with employers to create equity across the age spectrum.
She recently wrote in an article Forbes magazine. “In today’s equity-charged environment, media is quick to point out perpetrators of racist, sexist and even homophobic comments. Such moments of indiscretion have resulted in politicians leaving office and business leaders stepping down. In this way, media helps to identify and teach what is culturally inappropriate. However, when it comes to ageist comments, it’s a different story.”
And nowhere is it more evident than in Letters to the editor to the Hamilton Spectator and posts in social media, regarding some of the residents who are offering themselves as candidates in the current municipal election. Phrases like “old guard” and “recycled politicians” are used freely. The fact that some of the people participating in this ageist dialogue are no spring chickens themselves, gets ignored.
Imagine the outrage if a newspaper published letters that said a person should not run for office because they are black, female or gay, but they think nothing of running letters that suggest a person is disqualified simply because they’ve been on this planet too long.
One wonders if these letter writers and social media commentators ever consider that when they whack old people, they are going after the very cohort who vote in municipal elections in the largest numbers. We talk about the need for people seeing themselves reflected in their institutions, does that not extend to older people? It sems strange that the cohort that has been paying taxes the longest and faithfully participate in the democratic process are excluded when it comes to candidacy. Older people are invested in their community in a tangible way. Did we mention that older people are the largest group who still buy newspapers in hard copy, and actually look at the ads?
The problems facing this community are extremely complex. They are bread-and-butter issues like roads, sewers and garbage. They do not lend themselves to smartass slogans and childish parodies. The answer to Hamilton’s challenges is not a simple matter of throwing everyone out and replacing them with inexperienced community activists focused on identity politics. To be sure, it is a good thing that Hamilton is going to get the largest number of new faces around the council table in memory, but it is important as well to have some people there with actual experience in tackling some of these issues, or at least have the life experience to learn. It is critical with the amount of change coming to Hamilton Council, that it be good change, not change for change’s sake. Voters would be well advised to look carefully at all the candidates in these open races and look for proven competence and character above all—and, all things being equal—don’t be afraid to vote for a little grey hair.