I had a memory flood back to me like that I hadn’t thought of in a while:
When I was young, I really struggled with spelling. I mean, I still struggle with spelling, but I have those wonderful red squiggles to help me out now. Anyway, I remember sitting at a parent-teacher conference in fourth grade – I think – and there was conversation about how I was still not reading chapter books and I was still using “inventive spelling,” which was unacceptable at that level.
This memory is always spurned by a slightly earlier memory, I think first or second grade. I was trying to write “The Indians are our friends.” and what I wrote was “The Indians are are friends.” I knew they were different words, but I didn’t understand the spelling difference.
Chronic bad speller. I legitimately thank God for whomever added the squiggly lines to Word, and also whomever added them to browsers.
That one popped into my head because I meant to type “our” and I typed “are.” I deleted, corrected, and then the memories flooded back.
There is always a third thing that pops into my head. There is a story from this guy talking about a girl on social media who is obviously a teenager with teenage theories and beliefs. He goes through how dumb she supposedly is – again, probably because she’s a teenager1 – and yet she always used the right version of there/their/they’re, as a righteous condemnation of anyone who gets it wrong because “she’s dumb, and even she can do it.”
I wonder how much brilliance is ignored because communication isn’t everyone’s forte. Sometimes saying something is more important than saying it properly. Sometimes the thoughts get ahead of the grammar, and the thoughts are much more important than the grammar, yet we condemn anything not written properly as stupid.
I’m as guilty as anyone. I’m a little bit racist in this regard, in fact. There is a pronunciation of “ask” that makes me immediately discount the speaker as less educated and less wise. Now, I recognize this about myself and I consciously snap myself out of it – I have casual racism within me, like anyone else, and I believe just acknowledging it and then putting it aside when it happens will make me, and anyone else, better at interacting with the world – but it’s a thing for me. And it almost made me discount the wisdom of someone in CPE, someone who brought a lens to my experience I was so very lucky to have because her presence was so very atypical to the CPE process.
We need to become better judges of the thoughts expressed to us and stop using our biases against certain types of communication in that judgement process. How often have you discounted something because it isn’t well written? How often have you discounted something because the speaker is angry, or upset, or emotionless? How often have you discounted someone because they lack education, or are highly educated? How often have you discounted someone because of their level of privilege, be it high or low?
Because I have. Probably every day.
There was a great article – and if I find it, I will tweet it and link it here – that has an argument that we can’t possibly be fully “woke” and trying to attain the title of “King Woke” or “Queen Woke” is a fools errand. Instead, we just need to acknowledge our biases – in the terms of the article, racism, but all biases that divide and silence – and do our best to set them aside as we live in this world.
So I issue a challenge. Read a poorly written article and judge is based on the merits of its argument, not the quality of its writing. Read an article arguing a position you disagree with – hate, even – and evaluate it honestly, not biased by your current preconception. If we do this, we can both widen our minds and also widen our arguments when we come up against something we find abhorrent, attacking it at its core and its logic instead simply in a way that can be described as “divisive” and “political.”
And instead of pretending you have no biases – and especially no internalized and/or casual racism – acknowledge it and work to set it aside.
Maybe we can start interacting with each other and loving each other fully if we try.
Okay, I need to stop procrastinating. Hopefully this mind-dump makes sense.
1For anyone my age and older, you should be insanely thankful that all the stupid thoughts you had as a teenager were not recorded as a permanent record for all to read forever – and to nail you to the wall about because you are a stupid teenager. Every election around/after 2032 should be pretty entertaining…