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 But what happens when these standards and norms we live by are outdated?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.
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.
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:
Insist your insult is a joke and then
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.