Of late, I have had an increasing number of increasingly disturbing encounters with individuals who, in supposedly seeking acceptance and respect, have become increasingly judgmental and presumptuous.
Most of us, in one way or another, have had the opportunity to partake in some sort of social minority, whether by choice or by uncontrollable forces (i.e., genetics). Some of us, of course, are members of minority groups which encounter heightened levels of scrutiny, discrimination, and/or hate (to be frank). As a fairly liberal and progressive thinker myself, I have always made a conscious effort to not assume, to not judge, and to not categorize. Of course subconscious processes may make this difficult at times, but at the end of the day, we all have control over the words we speak.
What my recent encounters have shown me, however, is that some members of minority groups intentionally seclude and differentiate themselves in such a way as to alienate themselves from the general population. “Different” leads to a forced and manufactured identity that is composed of social extremes, many of which often further alienate, particularly when flaunted for their surface-level value rather than their intrinsic worth. What follows is a trail of judgment towards (and often bias against) anyone and anything that prescribes to their version of the norm (or that which is endorsed by the mainstream). A person who wears clothing from American Eagle, for example, is assumed to have “bought into” a system that is supposedly avoided by buying vintage or used clothing (despite the ironically unspoken and ignored similar manufacturing origins of both clothing options). The person who has made a choice which is more similar to the mainstream than to the self-alienating individual’s social circle is subsequently judged as being less conscientious and inferior. Because he or she is wearing a particular brand. That’s it. No need to meet the person. No need to talk. No need to know more.
The reasons for this are seemingly complex. It appears that the self-alienating minority member, perhaps still insecure with his/her status as such, is suffering from issues of identity (as we all go through, at some point in our lives). This struggle results in a disdain for the mainstream, because the mainstream is the resented ideal – that which is automatically idealized by mere socialization but hated for its unattainability. Thus, the outcast/hipster/too-cool-for-deodorant individual actively chooses to identify further with myriad social extremes – a whole slew of identities which are anti-mainstream. Once comfortably (but never deeply) positioned on every edge of society ever defined, they then pass judgment on everyone in the middle. Coping, defense mechanism, not sure why, but this is the hypocrisy that has bothered me of late.
So to the hypocrites, the hipsters, and the self-alienating outcasts, I say this: If you truly believe in acceptance, like your Malcolm X posters and peace buttons would suggest, stop making assumptions about everyone who doesn’t share your beliefs, or who doesn’t dress like you, or who has values different from your own. Just because I wear Nikes doesn’t mean I’ve bought into my system anymore than you’ve bought into yours. At the end of the day, judgment is judgment, whether it’s wielded by a KKK member or a disgruntled self-defining outcast who has made a mockery of the notion of acceptance. Get over yourself, and open your eyes. The world is not nearly so black and white – and acceptance only ever comes in grey (whether your vantage point is from the middle or from the edge).