“Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.”
I have already written a post about respect, and I mentioned on that post how the respect topic for me cannot be contained in a single post. I think respect is a trait that can really reflect who someone really is. Learning respect is probably one of the hardest things we have to do in life, because if we don’t learn about it early on we are going to hit our heads against many walls.
Everybody has his or her own definition and levels of respect. While someone might not find obscene words disrespectful, someone else might. It is all a matter of your environment. I have very high standards for the respect that I expect and it constantly causes me to be hurt. I find it offensive when people talk about people of other races being inferior, and I feel personally disrespected when people do it. Ignorance at times can hurt and when someone around me says, “People that come to this country should learn how to speak English,” it hurts me. I still have plenty of people in my family with limited knowledge of English. It is not that they don’t want to learn it, it is that they don’t have the capacity.
I feel that is a lack of respect to talk about subjects that people don’t understand. While I do believe that someone that wants to become a part of society in America has to learn English, it is easier said than done. Some people because of their age, money or time constraints do not have the ability to learn how to speak proper English. Should those people not be allowed to have a place in the Land of the free?
Something I found interesting about a linguistics class was that a child could learn up to 10 languages before the age of 10. Mentally it is not a challenge at all. The importance of the age was actually more physiological. After your vocal chords, nasal cavity and larynx are developed to a certain point, some sounds are very hard to produce. That is where accents come from mostly. Some people can learn English very well, but their physiognomy will prevent them from truly being able to pronounce certain sounds.
At this level respect involves being able to think about what we say before we say it. A word that for most of my life I never spoke was the word “retarded.” I found the word to be offensive. I always thought, “I never know if someone in the room has a relative who is truly retarded.” The word now a days has a new meaning and it is more often associated with the word dumb that with its true meaning. I have used it on occasion, but I still don’t like it. It might be foolish or extreme of me to think so much about a simple word but to me it comes down to respect. If I can potentially hurt someone’s feelings, it is easier for me to choose the words I use.
I know that I cannot even begin to think that I would never offend anyone. A simple misinterpretation can lead to someone being truly offended by something said with the best of intentions. Last week I was a guest speaker at a Psychology class. The teacher invited me to talk about my experience as an American with two cultures; he also wanted me to talk about racism. I began my speech with a little background about me, and then I said, “When I moved to the United States I had to learn 3 different cultures and not just one.” I went on to say that I attended high school at a school that was 90% black. While this was a fact, the audience, which was racially mixed, responded quite differently to what I had expected. I believe that even some of the black students took offense to what I said. While my remark carried no negative connotation to it, I felt it necessary to explain during the chat that I was more accepted by the black people in my school than even the other Latinos. By the end of the chat everyone was participating and it seemed like no one came out truly offended by anything that I said, but I still wonder if some of my words were found to be disrespectful in any level.
I don’t think it is foolish to care too much. I believe that the basis for any strong relationship comes from respect. As a relationship grows and we become comfortable with other people, respect should begin to grow and never diminish. I think that just because we want to be frank with people we should never disrespect them, more importantly we should find out what those people find disrespectful and truly care about them being hurt. We all have lines that we don’t like anyone to cross, while some might have broader lines than others, I believe we all have them. I think the world would be a better place if we learned that to not cross those lines it is to respect others.