I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being. —Jackie Robinson
Humans are imperfect beings. One of the fears expressed in developing artificial intelligence is that as computers begin to realize just how inept and flawed we are they might consider us a blight on the planet that needs to be destroyed. There are days I tend to agree with the computers. We are selfish, mean, greedy, slothful, undependable, gluttonous, prideful, envious, disrespectful, racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, thoughtless, and absolutely despicable.
Even worse, we attempt to mask our failings with false justifications such as, “I’m just keeping it real,” or, “He’s just speaking his mind,” or, “I’m only telling you for your own good,” and, “I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.” Each of those statements is designed to cover for the fact that preceding and/or following statements are likely to be rude, insensitive, inaccurate, distasteful, inappropriate and downright mean. We have conned ourselves into believing that if we label the trash coming out of our mouths as “truth” then no one can argue against it.
One of the things that make being human respectable is that we can change. Once our flaws and weaknesses are pointed out to us, we have the ability to correct our actions, to make amends, and we even have the ability to apologize. Just because we make a mistake once doesn’t mean we have to continue making that error. We can learn and improve. It’s called progress.
Unfortunately, we too often fail to utilize that benefit. Instead of improving ourselves and working on our own flaws, we would rather pick on other people, attacking aspects of their humanity over which they have no control, such as body size, shape, skin color, gender, sexuality, language, nationality, and other hereditary factors which come with the package of being a unique being. Too often, we see what we don’t like in ourselves and project that dislike onto other people, saying and doing things that are totally unacceptable and, in some cases, even illegal.
The 14th amendment of the Constitution reads in part:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The most important, and frequently litigated, phrase from that section is “equal protection.” What this amendment ultimately means is that no citizen is to be discriminated against for any reason. There are no exceptions made, no allowances for differences of opinion. All citizens of the United States are to be treated equally. Period. While the amendment was adopted in 1868, though, we are still having an extreme amount of difficulty understanding that there are no exceptions to being equal.
One of the challenges is that many of the discriminatory and anti-human attitudes and activities that still persist are encoded in both tradition and the regulations we have made for ourselves. We have told ourselves that appearance matters, that certain traits are acceptable while others are not, and that some aspects of one’s personal being should be accentuated while others should be downplayed, hidden, and even surgically altered. In short, we fail to have respect for the fact that we are human.
We often refer to incidents of body-shaming. There have been plenty of such problems hitting the media lately. One of the most recent comes from actress Kate Beckinsale claiming that she was body-shamed by director Michael Bay while filming the 2001 movie Pearl Harbor. Ms. Beckinsale states:
I think he was baffled by me because my boobs weren’t bigger than my head, and I wasn’t blonde.
If we have made any improvements over the past 15 years, it may be that men, at least those who are in public on a regular basis, have been conditioned to, at the very least, keep their mouths shut when it comes to making statements about a woman’s physical appearance. When one does step out of line, the Internet, especially Twitter, is very quick to respond and call attention to any inappropriate statements.
Where we’ve not made such an improvement, however, is how women mistreat other women, and men actually seem to encourage their bad behavior. Catfights on reality television, which are considered ratings gold, only perpetuate a culture of disrespect and even physical violence between women and men do nothing but stand on the sidelines cheering them on! How do we not see how absolutely repulsive and repugnant our behavior is? Disparaging another person for aspects of simply being human is wrong on every conceivable level.
Some of you have been following our story from last week regarding the woman we named Lenore and the nipple shaming she had received from her employer. We then updated that story yesterday upon discovering that a second employee, whom we’ll call Julia, had received an even more harsh reprimand because of her Philippino accent. Never mind the fact that Julia has worked hard on her English and probably speaks better than 70% of the Americans who walk through the business doors. Because someone had complained, the owner of the business considered the accent a problem.
After we made that update, the owner of the business called Lenore and proceeded to thoroughly shame every aspect of her physical appearance, from her face to her footwear. Lenore was left in tears, totally humiliated for simply being human.
Earlier this morning, we received a message from Julia announcing that she was quitting her job. Lenore has not yet given official notice but plans to do the same later this morning.
We need to get it through our thick heads that we are all human and we need to show respect for those aspects of our humanity that are inherent to our being. We need to stop fat-shaming people who have thyroid and other physical conditions that make it impossible for them to safely lose weight. We need to stop beauty-shaming women who refuse to damage their skin by wearing an overabundance of makeup. We need to stop making fun of people’s language accents; at least they are bilingual, something the people doing the shaming can seldom say. We need to stop drawing attention to people’s body parts; whether breasts are big or small is totally irrelevant, as is their nipple size.
Showing respect for human beings means taking a look at things such as dress codes and eliminating gender bias and unnecessary restrictions that do not have a direct correlation to the duties being performed. We need to move beyond the Disney-induced notion that the less attractive a person is the more evil and unacceptable they must be. Disparaging people simply for being human is not something a progressive society can allow to continue.
Unfortunately, in far too many cases, we seem to be moving in the opposite direction. We actually have a leading contender for the office of President who routinely shames and makes fun of other people. His comments about women and minorities have been absolutely deplorable and represent the absolute worst aspects of being human. There is no excuse. There is no way to justify such deplorable behavior on the part of anyone.
While you may have a right to say what you wish, you have a responsibility to know when to keep your fucking mouth shut. If what you are about to say shows disrespect and/or discrimination toward another person, shut the fuck up! The circumstances are irrelevant. The media is irrelevant. Even the actions of the other person are irrelevant. You have a responsibility to show respect to all people, regardless of physical appearance, gender, race, national origin, sexuality, mental acuity, emotional stability, medical ailment, or physical challenges. If you fail to live up to that responsibility in any way, shape, or form, then you are WRONG.
Humans can be absolutely horrible creatures and do well to fear the presence of a more objective and intelligent being that might consider our faults justification for our demise. The only thing that stands in our defense is that we have the ability to change and to move beyond our shortcomings.
We need to get busy and start changing. Show respect for being human. Learn when to keep your mouth shut and start supporting other people rather than looking for ways to tear them down.