In looking at political correctness, the perception of stereotypes both positive and negative, and speaking imperfectly in the face of political correctness, I’m venturing into very tricky and risky territory. I’m venturing into the realm of little or no agreement. Yet, I believe the look is worthy. ESPN’s Max Kellerman said that it’s okay to speak imperfectly “so long as it comes from a good place.” Amen. Along with Max, I shall test these turbulent seas.
In my 56 years on planet Earth, I’ve discovered that what works is seeing and listening to others as greater than they know. In doing so we grant another the bigger space to grow into or not. Creating that space in our listening and speaking grants what’s possible. No, it doesn’t cause the impossible. Whether someone becomes greater than they know themselves to be is entirely their choice. On our parts: We can only do your best.
Mom, Sensei Dan, John, and others have generously granted me their greater than listening to me. I’m forever grateful for them, those who believed in me. Yet, ultimately it’s up to me to expand and grow into that greater than space. I’ve got to do the work. I’ve got to work my ass off. As Sensei would say to me, “Just train.” In training, we must give other’s life, not take life away from them. We also give ourselves life, too.
Aikido Founder O-Sensei said, “The Way of the warrior is to give life to all things, to reconcile the world, and foster the completion of everyone’s journey.” Perhaps in the cultural context, the cultural stereotypes we live with or tolerate might give life, but I suspect for the most part they take life away. I think there’s no possibility in labels or perceived constraints whether they are empowering or demeaning. I think O-Sensei might have thought that stereotyping is not the Way of the Warrior.
In this era of political correctness: We must all be aware of all the different cultural stereotypes at play. Is knowing all the stereotypes even in the realm of possibility? No. Though, I could be wrong.
From the outside looking in political correctness is intolerance for those, who might be intolerant. Really, intolerance of the intolerant is still intolerance. Jesus said, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone…” We must have the mindfulness to have compassion for others and compassion for ourselves.
O-Sensei also said, “True victory is victory over oneself.” So in looking at stereotypes, in looking at prejudice, I’m really looking at me. I like you experience the world from the inside out. My dear friend Cheryl constantly reminds to be kind to others and especially to be kind to myself. I believe that we all have to reconcile from within ourselves. We all do have a say in who we are going to be in any moment.
My “spiritual twin” actor and martial artist Dolph Lundgren said, “You have to love yourself.” Dolph and I both experienced the abusive childhood growing up. Part of loving me is forgiving my Dad and forgiving myself for not being strong enough.
This may sound trite, but we can’t authentically love another person unless we love ourselves. Have compassion in your heart. Love you. Love others. Grouping others within a certain label is not love. Stereotypes are more about fear than love and forgiveness.
The inherent paradox of stereotypes: Although they represent a prejudiced perspective, stereotypes have varying degrees of agreement or evidence. I’ll say this imperfectly: Stereotypes are somewhat empirical by design.
I speak of cultural stereotype from my personal perspective. I’m 3rd generation Japanese American. I grew up in a middle-class family in Hawaii. I don’t speak Japanese, even though I took 3 years of Japanese in high school. The Japanese I know resides in Aikido and ordering sushi. I more or less represent the Japanese American man. However, I can only speak for myself. I don’t nor can I speak for all Japanese Americans or Asians as a whole.
One Asian cultural stereotype is that we’re all good students. Yes, there’s data that seems to substantiate that stereotype like Asian admission rates and GPAs at the University of California campuses. This is definitely a positive stereotype. Rather, it’s not negative. However, not every Asian student is scholastically adept and excels in math and science. Not all Asian student are the stereotypical geeks. Some are very good athletes. Some are great artists. Bottom line: We’re all uniquely individual.
As positive as stereotypes can be, they confine the freedom of the individual to just be, be who they are. Cultural stereotypes define the impossible, not the possible. The downside of stereotypes is that they call forth someone to prove themselves. As opposed to someone becoming the best version of themselves.
One stereotype I’ve endured most of my life is that Asians are not assertive enough. In a way, Asians are the invisible minority. For the most part, we follow the rules. That’s not so much euphemism, rather pertaining to cultural upbringing. In gross terms: We don’t make waves. That’s kind of a ‘positive’ perception. Yet, it imposes a glass ceiling in terms of the heights of personal achievement.
I’ve experienced that in my career in varying outcomes. This perceived lack of assertiveness is interpreted as weakness. I’m pretty good at what I do. Did being Japanese limit the kind of monetary success or stature I could attain? Perhaps. Regardless, it’s on me.
I was weak at giving presentations and speaking in front of groups. So I joined Toastmaster. I became a strong public speaker. I discovered that I enjoyed giving speeches. In teaching Aikido I created the space for me to lead in the work environment as well. I filled in some of missing things in me. I can only do my best.
Perhaps, the upside of stereotype is that it challenged me to become greater than I knew. Yet, in the ideal world, I should be good enough as I am. Just saying. We need only measure against ourselves – that’s O-Sensei’s measure of true victory.
Perhaps, the tragic downside of stereotypes it that they impose a comparison to others. And there’s no universal frame of reference. In Einstein terms: It’s really all relative. I believe what works instead of stereotyping is looking for the greater than within others. That greater than shall be as different as the people in the world.
In terms of being cognizant of all the stereotypes out there either positive or negative and being always politically correct, is that even worth the time or effort? Nope. I do my best to see the person in front of me for who they are, and for who they can become. Sensei would always tell me, “Have no preconceived notion.” That’s not only for Aikido. It’s all about creating people.
So dare to speak imperfectly, so long as you listen and see the other as greater than they know. Our authentic Art is creating another as greater than they know themselves to be. That’s Art worth inventing. O-Sensei said, “The Way of the Warrior is to give life…” We can all be that Warrior in life.
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