Standards And Norms

I want to discuss what we have come to define as standards and norms in our lives today. Off the top of my head, I think about how we see beauty, professionalism, status, gender roles and education. On some level, we have attached certain expectations to these things and decided what should be the standard or what should be considered normal.

We have built institutions and industries based on these so called "standards" and "norms." But how did these things even become standards and norms?

To understand this, one has to really dissect what these two words mean. Standard is defined as a level of quality or attainment and a norm is defined as something that is usual, typical, or standard.

As you can see, these words are synonyms and they suggest that there is something to attain in order to either be normal or elite. In every generation, a group of people over a period of time agree that some things should be considered quality and then culture is formed as a result of these shared values.

These shared values are often not inclusive in nature because they are typically a reflection of the biases of whoever has power at the time. But what happens when these standards and norms we live by are outdated? What happens when they are harmful? Who decides to refresh our conditioning and biases to let us know that we need to update our thinking? Do enough of us care enough to change the status quo?

What happens when these standards and norms become overtly and systematically beneficial to one group over another? Will people be brave enough to acknowledge this and shift things in order to balance the equilibrium? Will people be willing to admit that they have been part of the problem?

What happens is that we hurt our world. We see things through limited perspectives. We stifle originality. We erase cultures. We promote self-hatred by advocating for conformity at the expense of self.

So, Instead of blindly following standards and norms that we have been taught, perhaps we should question, challenge and expand those standards and norms to include more people being themselves. I have a feeling that we will see ourselves more if we commit to making this a habit.

Being considered conventionally beautiful shouldn't be a thing because what is convention when it comes to beauty in a world of 7.5 billion people?

Being professional shouldn't mean that you have to hurt the natural texture of your hair to fit a standard.

Being educated shouldn't have to involve only going to schools.

So I ask you this world: what standards and norms are you willing to update today? Our very existence depends on your answer to this question.

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The Need To Believe In Something

As I think about how we handle our civic and moral responsibilities, I have noticed that the need to believe in something has stripped many of us of our ability to be critical thinkers.
As humans, searching for hope or something better is intrinsic to our nature.
This coupled with the fact that very few of us are willing to stand up for something makes it easy to cede responsibility to false prophets.

Ones that promise us the world so we give them our votes.
Ones that promise a better tomorrow so we forget to do our due diligence.
It’s not just our votes or our tomorrows we give away though.
Many times it’s our morality, decency, equality, and the big picture we give away.

These things aren’t things we can pass the baton on to other people.
They are things we have to cultivate deep within ourselves, define and nourish.
These are things that hold the keys to our values and our identities.
So why do we freely give them up because we need to believe in something?

Believe in something but investigate what you believe.
Believe in something but don’t lose your ability to think in the process.
Believe in something but believe in yourself as well.

After all, it’s your world too.

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Not Funny

I want to talk about racist, sexist and bigoted jokes. A lot of times when people condemn these jokes, they are referred to as being too sensitive or being members of the “fun police”.

They’d say, “what?! It’s just a joke! You know I’m not racist, c’mon!”

Sometimes, when they see that the subjects of the jokes aren’t playing, they’d get angry and say something to the effect of “wait, you don’t actually think I’m racist do you?!”

I call that the IIPV move otherwise known as:

Insult

Insist your insult is a joke and then

Play Victim.

No acknowledgement of the impact of their actions. Just indignation.

So... here’s why those jokes aren’t actually funny:

It’s triggering: It’s a reminder of the oppression that exists in our societies today and the many times the oppressed have had to hide parts of themselves to fit in at the risk of a loss of status, position and/or influence.

It perpetuates a dangerous cycle of ignorance and dehumanization: You make it okay to use language that marginalizes people which becomes culture (work culture, school culture, locker room culture, etc.) When it becomes culture that’s accepted, you silence people that are affected because they sometimes feel that speaking up will further separate them from the group. Additionally, when it becomes culture, the subjects of your jokes become objects as in less than human. As in easy to overlook, dismiss, demean, ridicule and belittle.

Just because you don’t intend to be racist, sexist or bigoted with your comments doesn’t mean you are not. It also doesn’t mean you get off scot-free.

Here’s the good thing though.

You can change.

You can stop.

When you decide to stop making racial, sexist and bigoted jokes the norm, it doesn’t mean you’re being politically correct.

It means you’re not being hurtful.

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Do You Really Want Change?

In the last 5 days, we have seen who will play Ariel in the upcoming “The Little Mermaid” movie and the trailer for “Mulan”. With both movies, there have been changes that a number of people either didn’t like or hated.

It got me thinking about just how much people can say they want change but resist it when it means they have to change the way they think. If most of us can acknowledge that a change is needed in society today, then it is important to first acknowledge why the status quo doesn’t work for all people.

Doing that requires an understanding of these three concepts: equity, representation and revisionist history.

So equity means that we provide people with what they need to succeed. It goes beyond treating everyone the same. Treating everyone the same way will not yield the same results since everyone doesn’t start at the same place. This ignores the access that comes with certain privileges that exist in our world today.

Equity requires a true understanding of the people you serve and or live next to. It’s hard work because it means that you will have to admit that your way isn’t the only way. It also means that you will have to admit that your way can SOMETIMES disadvantage others. Tough pill to swallow but true.

Everyone wants to be the hero in their story so everyone should have that opportunity. That’s where representation comes in. Representation refers to when people act, symbolize and advocate for a group of people. The idea here is to be seen, heard and understood because the representative provides insight into what’s going on in a community that may otherwise not have a voice.

Revisionist history is what occurs when we don’t factor in equity and representation and retell history in a way that sugarcoats facts, makes up stories, erases people and elevates false heroes for the sake of systemizing oppression and maintaining the status quo.

How does all this information apply to the two upcoming Disney films you may ask? Well, in the case of “The Little Mermaid”, her race wasn’t central to the story so to suggest that only one race gets to play that story is misinformed. Unless you can convince me that mermaids are real and white.

In the case of “Mulan” not having Mushu or music, don’t ignore that a lot of Chinese people felt like the animated Disney version trivialized and westernized a folk tale that is important to them. So if the live action version of Mulan is seeking to be more true to the Chinese culture, who are we to suggest otherwise?

So once again if you say that you really want change, the first thing to lose is your need to be comforted. Then you need to understand context or the circumstances that formed for certain events to occur.

Change requires looking in the mirror, acknowledging your privileges, fighting for equity, championing representation and telling the right stories.

If you want real change, change how you look at the world. Examine your heart, step outside of your head, and open your eyes.

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