Respect Revisited

“Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.”
-Laurence Sterne

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.

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5 Responses to Respect Revisited

  1. What you say is true. However, I would never think of moving to a country that is not my native tongue without attempting to learn the language first. Respect goes both ways. If you aren’t going to respect the language and the culture where you live or where you plan to live, then why expect them to respect yours?

    At the same time, you are very fortunate to be able to have a culture that you can be proud of and display that pride openly. Whereas my culture is always described as being evil, overpowering, enslaving, and destructive. And to show pride in my culture is perceived as being racist. Now, granted… I am racist. I will admit that and you know that as well. But that still does not make it fair for the rest of my race in general.

    Reverse discrimination is silently destructive and we are powerless to it. It feeds the fire on both sides and breeds more and more hate, when it doesn’t have to be that way on an individual basis. Even my racism is a generalization. I don’t hate you because you are not white. In fact, I probably care for you more than the majority of white people I know. But the underlying problem is always present and we are all at fault. It is simply human nature. And given the choice, I’d rather hate you for looking different, than have us all look the same. Because it is our differences that make us overcome such petty things.

    The way we are the same trumps the way we are different. I am proud you are my friend, Paco. ;-)

  2. Travis,

    You just made me realize something. One of the biggest misunderstandings about American culture (or maybe White American culture) is that it is all about the negative aspect of pride. You are right, any time someone tries to be proud of being White they are labeled racist. That reverse racism (which in reality is just racism, the reverse connotation is almost mute because ignorance is still the cause of it.) is almost a given when it comes to race relations.

    If people would just respect others there would be no problem. I always think that trying to change people’s perspectives is the wrong approach. Rather broadening their views is more like it. While I am not as presumptuous as to think that I have change the way you view race (that has been inside of you because of environment, family values and other reinforcing factors) I do think that I have made you appreciate the thought that you can view a human being of another race as a brother. While that is not a total change, I totally think it is a won battle.

  3. “Reverse discrimination is silently destructive and we are powerless to it.” — Racial discrimination is racial discrimination. Why is it when it’s racism against whites, it’s called “reverse” racism? It’s as if racism isn’t racism unless it’s directed toward minority races . . . it’s called “reverse” when it’s done the “other way around”. What a double standard!

  4. a very good post logtar. respect is one of the most important characteristic traits. without it the system implodes eventually. peace

  5. I think one can go too far in the name of civility. Honest discussion requires honesty. But it also requires tact.

    One thing that bothers me greatly are those that seem annoyed at being held to a decent level of civility. If you don’t want to call a black person African-American, that’s fine, but don’t go to the effort to mockingly say “blacks… oh, sorry, I mean ‘African-Americans’” with air quotes. I run across that kind of attitude a lot. I suppose it’s about the only way whites (of which I am one) can claim the victimhood that they are always saying is the problem with everyone else.

    Another thing that’s really unfortunate in the past several years is politics. Politics has always been a bloodbath, but I don’t remember it extending so much into the voters. Republicans sure seemed to hate Clinton back in the day, but I don’t remember them hating Democrats (as in the people, not the politicians) so much as they seem to now. The same is true for the Democrats and Gingrich in days past compared to all Republicans today. It has gotten to the point that I refuse to tell anyone how I vote.

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