Prejudice

Classism

I did it again.

I read the comments.

Again I was struck by the intensity of reaction vs the lack of vitriol. I mean, the tone was definitely combative and the “troll” was less of a troll as much and more of a “true believer.”

In grammar.

I get it. I seriously GET. IT. I really do. I mean, I couldn’t finish reading a published author’s post when there were two errors within a paragraph of each other and the second one was using “fourth” where “forth” should’ve been used.

I cringed, then moved on. I didn’t feel the need to publicly point out the misuse of the word.

As a writer, I believe that good grammar, proper spelling, and word usage matters. Of course it does.

That being said, a person’s worth and value doesn’t rest on whether they use “is” vs “are” correctly. Which is where we begin our tale.

It starred a meme on FB. What else could it have been?

Yeah. That was it. Cringe worthy, but, ultimately, not a big deal. Right?

“Disney is*”

Aaaand we’re off.

The initial discussion was whether Disney was a group (There is a legal, singular entity, The Disney Group International, Inc.) and if there was a group, should it be referred to in the plural.

Then it got interesting.

The initial person who made the comment was called classist. The debate shifted as she got defensive.

That interaction made me remember some recent conversations I’ve had with people regarding language, how it’s used and how that usage is perceived.

I have been accused of “talking down” to someone because I often use large or complicated words and phrases where clear, easily understood ones exist. For example, a much more natural way for me to have written that would have been: I have a tendency to use large, multisyllabic, and obscure words and phrases where clear, easily understood words exist.

Why? And why did the woman who had been a former foster child feel the need to publicly use her hard earned education to correct the grammar in a meme?

Because Classism.

For those of us who come from a background of poverty, education is very, very important.

It’s a way to prove to ourselves and to the world that “we’re better than that” and can “make something of ourselves” by “rising above” our origins among the underprivileged, ignorant masses.

Apparently, it’s also important to those of wealth and privilege, as well. Otherwise, several, high-profile celebrities wouldn’t have been caught buying expensive, elite educations for their offspring.

In other words, having a college or University education is, not only a key to higher income, it’s a piece of evidence that we can function on the level of a higher class of people.

Why else would some POC get accused of “acting White” for speaking in certain ways? Why else are people with proven experience and ability passed over for jobs and promotions in favor of less experienced, often younger, college graduates? Why else do all the other prejudices and “isms” exist?

Because Classism.

So, I finally felt compelled to enter the fray.

“A) The Disney Group is a collective of other corporations. It is a singular entity which encompasses other entities.

B) Classism isn’t about whether or not those of us who have worked for or earned a specific degree of education come from a position of wealth or privilege (I most certainly do not). It is an attitude and assumption of stigma toward those who aren’t educated and socialized in a specific manner which is acceptable to navigate in a classist, elitist society. It’s systemic as much as it is attached to personal privilege.

Therefore, it is possible to come from an underprivileged background and still be classist.”

I doubt there’s much to be done about Classism, other than to be aware and recognize its existence, in its various forms, then check our own assumptions, beliefs, attitudes, and language.

At least, that’s where we start.

Special Needs

Ableism is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities or who are perceived to have disabilities. Ableism characterizes persons as defined by their disabilities and as inferior to the non-disabled. ~ Wikipedia

I made the mistake of reading comments on an Instagram post in favor of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They were mostly positive. But, there was one naysayer who stood out for his initial lack of vitriol. He was just mildly snarky. But, it was like he had committed some heinous sin, instead of posting a disagreement rooted in ignorance.

He was immediately under attack. Mostly the responses remained as snarky comebacks. However, one of them made me cringe.

It sounds like your boss is good at hiring people with special needs.

I couldn’t scroll past without addressing it.

Back in the day, the insult used was, “retard,” frequently accompanied by a physically mocking action. Much like 45’s mocking actions regarding a reporter who experiences a physical disability.

Another one is, “riding the short bus.”

However you frame it, it’s showing a prejudice toward people with disabilities, especially intellectual ones.

How about how mental health challenges are referred to?

What are you, crazy?

Man, that was INSANE!

She’s so bipolar.

That one’s not right in the head.

Or the fact that so many movies and TV shows portray mental health patients as dangerous killers and all the shootings being reported as someone with mental illness, before an evaluation can be done?

The stigma and prejudices against people with physical, developmental, and mental disabilities is real and insidious. Just as we need to recognize, call out, and address racism, in all its forms, sexism, genderism, and sizism, we need to call out ableism.

It isn’t about political correctness, it’s about human rights.

For more on my perspective on ableism, go here.

The Magnificence of Lifting Our Voices Together

I’m not into sports. I have cheered my kids along in the sports they’ve participated in and I can be interested in the games which are of interest to my friends, family, and associates, but I will probably never be a fan or truly “get” what it means to be passionate about and have allegiance to a specific sports team, say, like the Seattle Seahawks, the new NFC champions who are heading to the Super Bowl on February 2, 2014 for only the second time in their franchise history.

Why do I know this collection of sports trivia? Because of all the voices around me, figuratively speaking, who are speaking up in passionate support and pride of this team. As a matter of fact, the “12th (wo)man” fans of the Seattle Seahawks have raised their voices and joined their enthusiasm together twice since 2011 to cause seismic events to register on the Richter scale.

There is power in lifting our voices together, especially when those voices are in agreement. Have you ever attended a concert, conference, or some other stadium event where the people in the audience were invited to sing the words to a song or anthem they had in common together?

When voices are raised in unison and harmony, it doesn’t matter if each individual voice is pitch perfect. The combined power of shared emotion, meaning, and experience unifies and transforms the disparate, individual voices into a singular, powerful, and magnificent voice that lifts and carries the hearts, minds, and imaginations of all who are participating.

The combination of unified action merged with unified voices can tear walls down according to the Old Testament tale of the Conquest of Jericho found in Joshua 6:1-5 – Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

An army marches around the fortified walls, steps falling in unison, sending powerful vibrations from their steps into the ground, day after day for seven days. On the seventh day, that same army marches seven times around while the sound vibrations from seven ram’s horns are continuously being played. Then, a prolonged blast of the horns and the combined voices of every member of the nomadic nation of Israel in a mighty shout causes the walls to crumble and fall.

So often that story is relegated to myth. However, after seeing how rowdy football fans can cause a minor earthquake, it seems less mythological and more plausible to me.

Today, in the USA, we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. A flawed and human man who had a dream to end the prejudice and stigma separating and oppressing people because of the differences in the color of their skin and their genetic origins. There is still a very long way to go in achieving that dream. Fifty-one years ago, he raised his voice to share his dream for us to not walk alone but to march ahead in unity to overcome oppression, prejudice, and injustice.

His speech was specific to the experiences of “The Negro.” However, I have little doubt that if he were alive today, he would be fighting against the stigma and prejudice that oppresses and marginalizes those who are neurodiverse and experience a spectrum of “disorders and illnesses” of the brain, as well. Especially, considering the increasing numbers of mentally ill overrepresented in the prisons, jails, and caseloads of probation officers. The National Institute for Corrections reports:

In a 2006 Special Report, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) estimated that 705,600 mentally ill adults were incarcerated in State prisons, 78,800 in Federal prisons and 479,900 in local jails. In addition, research suggests that “people with mental illnesses are overrepresented in probation and parole populations at estimated rates ranging from two to four time the general population” (Prins and Draper, 2009). Growing numbers of mentally ill offenders have strained correctional systems.

An NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet identifies Racial Disparities in Incarceration:

  • African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population
  • African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites
  • Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population

A report on Gender, Race, and Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System by Melissa Thompson, published through the National Institute of Corrections in the Corrections & Mental Health indicates that there is an inequality and disparity in psychiatric evaluations and mental health services received by African-American men who are incarcerated or supervised in the criminal justice system.

Using federal and local statistics on the hospitalization and/ or incarceration of mentally ill persons, this article finds that psychiatric need is not the only factor criminal justice decision-makers take into account when seeking psychiatric explanations for criminal behavior. Instead, demographic, family, economic, and criminal factors are all important in predicting which defendants will be the recipients of psychiatric evaluations in the justice system. In this context, gender and race are important considerations. Violent women, for example, are more likely to be evaluated for psychiatric conditions, while African-American men are less likely to receive psychiatric evaluation.

I can’t stress the importance of using our voices to share our experiences enough. I don’t know what the true statistics are, but for generations people have been taught to suppress the “crazy,” ignore the “down,” to hide the “different,” and to be ashamed of being weak and wounded. We are increasingly criminalizing and marginalizing those who are experiencing cognitive, developmental, and psychological impairments and damage, criticizing them for not being able to pick up and put together their broken pieces. For every individual who speaks up and shares his or her story, hope, strength, courage, and truth is shared with others who do not yet have a voice. If we raise our voices of experience together, we can drown out the voices of stigma, ignorance, and hate.

Please visit The Official Blog For Mental Health Project

Blog For Mental Health 2014

For more stories of Magnificence, join the Creative Buzz Hop #34, hosted by Michelle Liew from Muses from the Deep and Tamara Wood from PenPaperPad.

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