When I came back to the United States for college, I’d been out of the country for over a decade.
I was seventeen, had no friends or relatives on the entire continent, and I was utterly alone. I had grown up, to that point, without libraries, new books, much TV, or the internet as we know it today. In short: I knew nothing, Jon Snow.
Let me tell you: nothing puts the record scratch on quite so quick as being in a room full of eighteen-year-olds and asking, “Who’s Nirvana?”
I endured a ton of jokes at my expense. I smiled, and laughed, and toughened up like you’re supposed to. It wasn’t a big deal–I lived–but it gave me, shall we say, a heightened sensitivity to certain behaviors which I’ll now outline below:
- Mocking the way in which someone speaks. Whether that’s an accent, or them using out-of-date slang, or whether they make strange word choices…please, please don’t do this. There’s a nasty implication in your jokes: “Oh my GOD, how can you not KNOW this stuff? It’s so BASIC. You must be STUPID.” So just…don’t, okay?
- Do not make fun of people’s interests. No, maybe Nascar isn’t the height of culture. And I’m aware that their fanbase is…shall we say, not entirely in alignment with my political ideas, most of the time. But you know what? People are entitled to like whatever they like, and it’s not your place or business to pass any kind of judgment whatsoever.
- Do not pass judgment on people’s living conditions. This one bothers me the most, frankly. If you look at a trailer park and you shudder and make a remark about white trash? …stop. Not everybody gets a choice about where they live. Just because someone lives in a place you think is “poor” or “dirty” is not a license for you to treat them as subhuman. Get over yourself.
In short…do not make assumptions. Do not dismiss another human being because of their level of formal education or how “in touch” they are with current events. If you have the time, extend yourself and fill them in–IF that is something they asked you to do. Otherwise…maybe just try to live and let live, mmk?