Why you have to be careful when you categorize

I had a discussion with a number of my friends recently and was trying to explain why stereotypes are bad in all situations. This led me to start thinking about categorizing people and the way we group things.

I don’t think most people realize how many of our problems come from our basic human need to categorize things. We refer to most things in categories or types. It is just the way the human brain seems to work.

Where we have to be careful is how we categorize things, people included. For instance, I recently saw a quote from Tina Fey. In it she used stereotypes to illustrate her point.

This is a problem. I have spoken to many people who say it was ok for her to use those stereotypes. They say it was ok because she was trying to prove a point, because she was trying to even the playing field for women. Others say it was ok because they were “good” stereotypes.

What I have come to realize over the past few days is that stereotypes are never “good.” The other point they are missing is that when you use stereotypes, even to prove a benevolent point, you are still validating the stereotype and therefore hurting a LOT of people.

Secondly, “good” stereotypes are an illusion. There is no such thing as a good stereotype. Even good stereotypes hurt other people. There are many ways they do this. I am not going to take the time to go into all of them here but I would like to address one of the ways.

Think about the people who do not fit the “good” stereotype. They get hurt, feel ashamed, or like they do not belong. The stereotype makes them feel inferior. This is terrible: why would someone want to make another person feel bad? The answer is they don’t.

Unfortunately, it is very easy for us to use inappropriate language and not even realize we are doing so. The things we say at times can seem innocuous even though they are not.

The short lesson in this post is, think about every possible angle before you speak. Get in the habit of using communication that does not label, bias or stereotype in negative ways. Take a moment and think about how you would feel if you did not fit the good stereotype…or if you fit the bad one.

Slow down and take the time to look at every possible angle before you speak. It takes a lot of work but you will find over time that it becomes habit. This doesn’t mean you always have to get it right, but don’t be afraid to say “oops, I shouldn’t have used that term, my apologies.” You might be surprised at how people look at you differently, how much better you feel about your speech, and how easy it is to remember not to do it again when you acknowledge that you made a mistake.

 

Peace, love and happiness always,

 

K

I am really feeling better already

About three years ago. Actually it was almost exactly three years ago, I met someone I hit it off with right away. Her name is Rusty Blazenhoff. I got a package in the mail from her today that she told me she had shipped to me a few days ago.

As you can see in the previous post, I was having a rough day today. I was feeling all the hurt, sadness, and oppression in the world and it was causing me to be even more sensitive. So much so that when I saw a quote from a famous comedian today I took offense to it.

Well as is the case with me at times, I stood up and said “Hey this is actually REALLY fucked up y’all.” Well what ensued was a healthy debate with my friends about what I took issue with about the quote. I found myself being saddened by the position of some of my friends. I found myself learning things about them that saddened me.

Now let me stop you there. I wasn’t saddened by the things I learned because I felt it was wrong for them to feel them, I felt saddened because for some reason it reminded me of how bad I used to feel when I felt the same way. I guess I let this leak out into the world some today because I was buckling under the pressure. That is something I really need to work on.

Well, now that I have digressed, let me get back on course.

After I opened the package, I sent Rusty a message and let her know it had arrived. I can’t explain why but I decided to make a comment about how my day had gone in one of my messages to her. What this led to was a 2.5 hour long conversation with her about life, love, perspective, emotion, empathy, learning, sharing, and helping others.

I can’t thank her enough. I love her so much, she is the best adopted brother a guy could hope for. She helped me get back to center. She and I see the world through almost identical eyes. We share a very similar past and very similar experiences. She helped me remember all of the things I am supposed to be teaching everyone else.

We talked about good things. She reminded me that not everything in the world is shit and that even though the suffering and grief I was receiving was real, that there is a shit ton of good in the world too. We talked about her wonderful daughter. It reminded me that there is someone right in front of me who has a very good chance of growing up not broken. She reminded me of my niece who will in all likelihood grow up unharmed and loved by her entire family. She reminded me that not so long ago women could not vote. She reminded me that not so long ago black people couldn’t vote or eat in the same restaurant as others. She reminded me that not so long ago people OWNED people.

Then she reminded me of how far we have come. She reminded me of the immutable voice of the Internet and how the voice of what is right eventually always wins. She reminded me that things are moving forward and getting better. Most importantly, indirectly, she reminded me that I was stuck in the microscopic view again.

She helped me remember to zoom out and feel the entire universe as a whole. She reminded me that universally, there is a balance and that balance must be maintained. What does this mean?

In a single phrase…shit happens and you have to accept it and move on. Unfortunately people suffer and things go wrong. Unfortunately suffering for some reason is an easier emotion to receive from others than joy. Unfortunately sometimes there is more suffering than joy.

The important part to remember is that everything happens and is the way it is because that is the only way it could have happened or have been.

To my brother Rusty, you are awesome and I love you more than I could express. I feel very blessed to have you in my life. To the rest of my friends, I love you all very much. I know you all put up with a lot of shit from me because I over analyze everything. I know you end up in debates with me a lot because I like to reanalyze and tend to enjoy debate. THANK YOU for doing it.

I appreciate my friendship with every single one of you. I argue with you because I value your opinion and believe it or not, I consider every word you are saying and in quite a few cases have ended up changing my views a little. Most importantly what I would like to say to you is thank you for accepting me for who I am and how I am. Thank you for arguing with me. Thank you for not being afraid to stand up. Thank you for being honest with me and telling me when you think I am being an ass. I promise you that even though I seem like I am being an argumentative jackass or picking fights with you at times, I really have nothing but the utmost respect and love for you. If I didn’t I wouldn’t argue with you, I would just move on.

Claire, Ashley, I swear you two are my heroes. I might not even put up with the kind of shit from me you put up with from me. Thank you for taking the time to listen and talk to me and thank you for taking me seriously.

Claire, I hope I can be your straight gay boyfriend for years to come.

Oh and did I mention? Rusty has two of the most awesome pieces of media I have seen. If you know me (you are reading this so at this stage you most likely do) you know I do not read unless it is technical or an analysis.

Let me say this I read BOTH yes BOTH of these and not just because I think she is awesome but because the content is fantastic. She has an amazing perspective on the digital age and won’t let you forget how you grew up. It is refreshing, upbeat, cutting edge and nostalgic all at once. I guess you could say they ARE Rusty :). Give her a read, you won’t regret it.

Read her awesome culture blog here: http://www.blazenfluff.com

Sign up for her inbox zine here: http://www.electricdreaming.com

Peace, love, and happiness always,

K

Having a rough day

You won’t see me often write a post without a lesson but today I must. Today is one of those days where I feel all the sadness, hurt, and injustice happening in the world as if I was being forced to watch it.

It is not easy being a sensitive person. It is not easy watching your friends do, say, or support things that you feel are terribly wrong. It is even harder to have to debate with them on why these things that are universally accepted as bad are bad. The icing on the cake is when they will not even admit you have a point whether or not they agree.

I made a decision today to not make any big decisions. When I get like this I can’t make clear well informed decisions. I am biased by the fact that I feel like the world is crushing me. I feel like the universe has a jackboot on my head and is pouring negative into my ear. I don’t do negative anymore. You really can find good in absolutely everything if you try.

I find myself not liking things about the people I really care about today. Luckily I am emotionally skilled enough to take responsibility for those feelings and the fact that they do NOT mean my friends are bad people. They just don’t agree with me sometimes and that is ok. That is one of the reasons I love them. They are all smart, wonderful caring people and I don’t like thinking negative things about them.

When I get into these types of spaces I just want to crawl in a hole and let the world fall apart. I think the most important thing though is to make sure you are not doing things when in this state, that hurt others.

It is important to remember when you are feeling down, depressed, stressed or angry that the things you do and say do not go away when you feel better and you could do severe and permanent damage to relationships and people. This is not a lesson, this is me trying to remind myself of the right way to handle this state of mind.

I have to ask myself though, why are people defending these things? Why are people defending statements that are so obviously wrong and hurtful to so many people? How could the people I care about think the things they are telling me?

Maybe this is one of those cases where the answer is obvious only because I have done a lot of work to get to the mental space where I understand. Maybe I am too literal. Maybe I speak on the “perfect world” scenario too much. I don’t know what the issue is but there is one and it might just be me.

Today is the type of day where you want to cry your eyes out because you feel, hear, and see the world suffering around you and the people you care about seem to be defending things that contribute to that suffering.

I guess the lesson I am using and not learning today is be emotionally aware and take responsibility for those emotions. Well, today, I am certainly getting a lot of practice on that front and only doing a so-so job.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day and there will be much more love and happiness in the world than there is today.

So many people tell me they want my life. So many people tell me they want to be me or as much like me as they can.

Let me tell you something, you see mostly the good. Spend some time in this state of mind feeling the sorrow of the entire universe piled up on your head and shoulders and tell me then if you still want to be me :). Something tells me you may not.

Peace, love and happiness always,

 

K