Tag Archives: prejudice

Social Media…The Death of Us All?

While discussing the downfalls of social media with my big kids last night, Eldest commented that technology would be the destructive force that takes down mankind.

I think he’s right.  Orwell’s 1984 has never been more present than now.  And it’s not necessarily the government we need to fear.  It’s ourselves.

We put so much of ourselves into the vast world of technology that we no longer have any sort of privacy (says the blogger who connects nearly every writing post to real life).  It’s dang scary.

And while I occasionally get opinionated and loud about certain issues, my motto is: If I can’t say it to my mother, my mother-in-law or my pastor, I have no business saying it online, because inevitably, anyone from my kids to their teachers to the mayor to the president can feasibly read what I write or ogle every picture I ever post.

That’s fine.  President Obama doesn’t care that my dog eats socks and sleeps on her back in her kennel.  Or that I think kids get by with bullying because adults are too afraid to step in.  Or that our inability to address early literacy issues as a preventative measure literally condemns thousands of children to an adult life in poverty or prison.  That we spend far more money incarcerating adults who had potential but lacked the ability to read well, instead of helping them as at-risk kindergarteners learn to succeed is one of the greatest tragedies our country has ever created.  Economically, emotionally and socially.

The Pres doesn’t care about me and my thoughts.  But somebody does.  Actually, lots of somebodies potentially do.

They like every new account I create, every website I visit, every purchase I make, every hot button word I say, every picture I post.  They like it because it’s information.  And information, if used correctly, can cause damage.  It can destroy job security, rip apart marriages and financially cripple individuals who aren’t careful.  Heck, even those who are.

Every picture of that beer can in your underage hands can keep you from attaining that coveted scholarship.  Every snarky word you type into cyberspace can influence other’s opinions and decisions about you, including a judge’s should you get busted for spouting off about your illegal gun supply.

We are the guilty parties in Cyber Space 1984.  We want to be heard so much that we forget what not to say.  We rail against agents as we email query letter after query letter.  We snark off about certain authors and their less than stellar books only to later realize when our own books arrive on the shelves, authors are reviewers too.

We take pictures of naughty parts and pen less-than-pure prose as captions to our lovers, never believing our spouses may find them.  We threaten others every day with hate-filled words, never believing someone will use our prejudices to take us down.  We destroy our own integrity in a constant battle to be seen and heard by our friends, never really understanding that it’s not just our friends who hear us and see us.  It’s the entire cyber world.

And that world is a very big place.

I urge everyone, regardless of age, race, gender or profession to carefully consider the long-term impact of their cyber footprints before setting anything loose into the vast and unforgetting realm of social media.

Our words count.  They add up.  They create a picture of what we look like to the outside world.  And sometimes, that picture ain’t pretty.  Don’t hang yourself with your words.

My favorite saying of all time comes from William Backus.  “”The concept behind personal integrity is wholeness. When a person is the same without as within, when what others know about him is the same truth he knows about himself, he has integrity.”

So, if you believe yourself to be a kind and gentle soul, your words should reflect this.  If you’re crass and crude and selfish on the inside, then so be it.  Present this truth to the world.  Just remember, we alone are responsible for what we say and how we say it.  The sandbox/lunchroom/break room has just gotten bigger.

How do you feel about social media as a whole?  What responsibility do we have to ourselves to set clear rules of social media engagement?  And what might those rules look like?  What types of behaviors spell certain social media death?

Curious minds want to know.

 

Disturbed by Prejudice: Hunger Games, Writing and Public Perception

I’m not gonna lie.  I’m extremely disturbed.  First the bullying in our schools, the homophobia with the Clementi/Ravi case and now, the outcry over casting decisions for Hunger Games.

If you haven’t heard, the scuttlebutt is that some people are downright angry that several key characters in the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ novel were…not quite what they pictured.

Namely, and I quote: “why did the producer make all the good characters black smh” and “why is Rue a little black girl?”

Um, because she was in the book.  And even if she hadn’t been, what difference does it make?  Rue is an innocent, sweet child who was thrust into the games as cruelly as all the other kids.  Her death was tragic–on the page and on the screen.

Not all agree with me.  In fact, one such tweeter admitted that Rue’s skin color on the big screen ruined the movie for her.

Another took it one step further: “Kk call me racist but when I found out rue was black her death wasn’t as sad”

Okay, I’ll bite.  That is extremely racist.  And seriously messed up.  A young child’s death isn’t sad because her skin is darker than yours?  This sentiment hearkens back to the day of Nazi Germany.  It echoes the hatred heaped on the Irish in America’s early days.  It encompasses the sheer viciousness of our planet’s history.  It is a sad commentary on just how un-evolved human beings really are.

I’m not gonna lie, people’s ignorant, undereducated and outdated beliefs creep me out.

I think this is why my younger juvenile lit is full of bullies.  I like to tackle the issue of fitting in.  I like to empower my characters and encourage them to take control of their destinies by believing in themselves and not abiding by the labels provided to them by others–ignorant, undereducated and outdated others.

By doing so, I hope to empower and encourage kids to come out stronger, smarter and less likely to spread hate and prejudice themselves.  We need to break the cycle of bullying in our society–by kids and by the adults who should know better.

I applaud Ms. Collins for the beautiful portrayal of her characters.  I applaud the casting decisions and am thrilled that the Hunger Games movie was not white-washed.  Because, guess what?  We are only as good or as bad as our behavior.  And bad behavior knows no skin color.

On days like this, I’m embarrassed to be blonde-haired and blue-eyed.  I don’t want to be judged by the color of my skin.  Because, honestly, I am the sum total of what I’ve done, what I believe and what I feel.  Not what I look like.

I’m too disturbed to ask any questions, so please feel free to share your thoughts on the topic.  Any tips you have on how writers can help perpetuate acceptance rather than intolerance would be greatly appreciated.

To read more about this, hop on over to the post Racist Hunger Games Fans Are Very Disappointed.

Controversy Alert! Judgement Day

Our tiny town lost a child yesterday.  A first grader succumbed to cancer.  Whatever your faith, whatever your nonfaith, whatever your journey or life experience, this is a tragedy.  A life lost before it got started.  A potential never reached.  Silence, not laughter.  Emptiness never to be filled with love and joy and the growing pains of raising an innocent child to adulthood.

Sadly, a dear friend relayed the loss of a child in her hometown two days ago.  An eighth grader took his own life.  Rumor had it he was bullied.  Another loss.  Another silence in the hearts of family, friends, neighbors, teachers, basketball coaches, peers, future employers, a future spouse and future children.  Another gaping hole where once a child lived.

Each and every life is precious.  Each and every one.

Yet, if I started layering these stories with other information, opinions might begin to change.  Humans are judgemental.  We let our values and prejudices interfere with our basic human compassion.  We put ourselves–and those like us–on pedestals and deem others somehow inferior, somehow less deserving.

I hear it all the time.  As a court advocate for kids, as a mother, a member of social groups, a Christian, a wife, a coworker.  Every role I play puts me in a position to hear–and pass–judgment on others.

Too often, I hear compassion slip away as information is revealed.

“Her dad is black.”  Or Hispanic.  As if this is somehow the reason behind the grades a child gets in school or how well she sits in class.  For the record, plenty of “white” kids get poor grades and fidget through first grade.  They also bring weapons to school and drink and get detention for smart-mouthing teachers.  Yet, I’ve never heard, “Her dad is white.”

“He’s gay.”  As if this somehow negates the very idea that he could love a child without having perverse thoughts toward it.  Hello, folks.  Lots of molested children are victims of heterosexuals.  Lots.  More than you care to consider.  Some of them by biological fathers or grandfathers or uncles or brothers or mothers.  Yes, that happens, too.  And far more often than you’d care to consider.  Our children’s sexual safety isn’t in danger from homosexuals, but rather from a pool of psychologically aberrant individuals taken from every race, religion, gender and profession.

“Ugh.  She lives in a trailer.”  As if this automatically relegates a child to a life of unwashed clothes, headlice and burger flipping.  I grew up in a trailer, as did my business-owning, neat-as-a-pin, liceless brother-in-law.  I’ve been in tidy trailers and trashed mansions.

“But they’re Muslim.”  Or Catholic, or Buddhist, or Methodist, or Lutheran, or Atheist, or Wiccan.  As if these people are incapable of doing anything productive, compassionate or selfless simply because of what they believe or don’t believe in regards to faith.  Plenty of Christians I know are hypocritical, selfish and judgemental.  Just like plenty of people in every other religion or nonreligion known to man.

We are human.  We persecute those different from us.  We are brash and cruel, thoughtless and dehumanizing.  We forget the very basic, underriding compassion for others even as we tell the world how wonderful we are.

We suppress and oppress.  We judge people on factors that may or may not have any impact on events, behaviors or failures.  We generalize and stereotype.  We inhibit and prohibit.

We forget to strip away the irrelevant information and remember that underneath, we were all innocent children.  Are innocent.  That we are all precious and deserving of respect and compassion regardless of where we came from, whom we love or what our faith.

Take a moment to evaluate your own prejudices and judgements.  Ask yourself where they came from and why you feel the way you do.  Consider if your feelings have been passed down through the generations and have relevance in your life in the here and now.  Is it a stereotype you’ve learned from television, the newspaper, your preacher?  Is it a generalization you’ve made based on personal experiences?  Is holding onto it conducive to living your life?  Do you take into account other’s personal experiences before foisting your values onto them?  Do you have room to improve?

You don’t need to answer those questions here, but I ask that you think about them as you go about your day.  Don’t let the loss of our innocent children slip away forgotten, because underneath the labels we paste on ourselves and others, we are all inherently the same.

hugs~

*Thoughtful and respectful commentary is welcome, regardless of the content.  However, any blatantly disrespectful comments will not be approved.  This blog does not support attacking individuals or groups of individuals for any reason.

Thoughts on America’s Melting Pot and Prejudice

Yesterday, I had the dubious pleasure of flying home from a visit to my sister.  She lives in Virginia, not too far from Washington DC.  It also happened to be the 10th Anniversary of 9-11.

I’ll fully admit to being slightly disconcerted by this fact.  My time waiting at the airport to board my plane made it clear others felt the same disquiet.  It didn’t help that terrorist plots had been uncovered and that every television was tuned into the memorial services at Ground Zero.

It also didn’t help that from my vantage point, at least a dozen individuals of Arabian descent also waited for their planes.

Observations over the next hour made me a bit ashamed of the melting pot we call home.

We clearly hadn’t melted.

Not that airports are the friendliest places to begin with, but the cold-shoulder literally sent goosebumps over my arms.  A ring of empty chairs surrounded each small group of dark-skinned, dark-haired, turbaned individuals in an otherwise crowded place.  People either averted their eyes or openly stared.  Nobody cracked a smile or passed along a kind word. 

Folks, I’m just gonna throw this out there.  We have all been the outcast at some point.  By America’s very nature–by human nature–our heritages come from the oppressed and disgraced.  We are all the product of some form of derision based on where we came from or what we believed.  Our blood–and our pasts–are not pure.  And yet, we strive to break free of the connotations that once defined–in the eyes of those feeling supreme–our genetic history.

We fail to consider that, while we are shaped by our heritages, we should not be stereotyped by the past.  Nor should we stereotype our present.

My German ancestors do not make me a Nazi.  Heck, by the time World War II broke out, they had already melted in America for generations and fought for their new homeland.  Likewise, I couldn’t shoot a bow and arrow to save my life despite the Native American blood that mingles with the rest of my genetic code. 

I’ll venture to say that the families in the airport were not responsible for the terrorist attacks a decade ago.   

My heart aches for the loss on September 11, 2001.  Families were torn apart and a hole was left in our collective conscience–physically via the Twin Towers and emotionally via our current state of cultural fear.

When our flight was called, two young men of obvious Arabian descent stood and gathered their things.  They had been sitting beside me, conversing quietly in their native tongue.  A total of eight people prepared to board and I commented to the men that our final destination didn’t seem very popular.

Immediately, the masks they wore fell away and they grinned back at me.  For one brief moment in the wake of pain and discomfort, they had become human.  Accepted and not judged by actions that were not their own.  That tiny act of kindness allowed them to melt into the greatness of America. 

Dear readers, I challenge you to examine your prejudices, stereotypes and fears as they pertain to the people you encounter each day.  Are these biases founded in the reality of your life, or are they part of a more collective mindset?  Can you break them and make the difference in someone else’s day?  Do you even want to?

You don’t have to publicly answer those questions, but I would like you to consider the legacy you are leaving behind.  Because, really, we alone are responsible for our actions and the impact we make in our homes, our communities and our world history.   

You are all in my thoughts and prayers.