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Add ageism to the list in considering hate-crimes laws

Police stepped up patrols across New York City late last month in the wake of a vicious Times Square attack on an Asian American woman.Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Re “Massachusetts’ hate crimes law needs an update” (Editorial, April 2): The “elderly Filipina” whose attack your editorial begins with was a target not only because she looked female and foreign but because she looked old. Bullies and haters come in all categories — racist, sexist, and ageist. Looking old means to them someone weaker, smaller, less able to fight back. Looking old can magnify all the other prejudices in the narrow minds of aggressors.

Being old is a category that has become even more dangerous in the COVID era. Officials delayed for weeks in February and March 2020 while horrifying news was coming in that a nursing home near Seattle had suffered a threatening cluster of deaths. Can anyone deny the possibility that to former president Donald Trump, as to others in Congress at the time, old lives simply didn’t register? Older adults and adults with chronic illnesses or disabilities are too easily forgotten when the cult of youth, strength, and health reigns. The pandemic has fortified ageism.


The aggressor who is often forgotten is the ageist. Add “ageist stereotypes” to curriculums designed to educate students about the varieties of bias. Add ageism to hate-crimes laws. If we are ever going to act, now is the time.

Margaret Morganroth Gullette


The writer is the author of “Ending Ageism; or, How Not to Shoot Old People,” and a resident scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University.