Diversity is an aspect that all people should look for in their everyday life, however, that is not always the case. When it comes to diversity, some people feel the effects of the world more than others simply because they are being marginalized, and that produces a racial inequality that almost all members feel. One particular group of people that have always had problems with diversity and racial inequality are Black people, especially Black men. Black people are continuously being racially targeted based solely on the color of skin despite the several movements that have paved the way for such occurrences to not happen. This racial profiling is exceptionally rampant in the way Black men are viewed on social standards. Typically, these views are very stereotypical and degrade Black men in such a way that they have to be a shell of themself in order to not be seen as a threat or physically harmed.
My Story of Self-Acceptance
I have always known there was something different about me ever since I was a little girl. After I was born, it took me a while to do things babies did normally at an early age without trouble. I didn’t start walking until I was eighteen months old and talking until I was two and a half years. I was later diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder or ADHD. Because my skills developed a little later, my parents decided to enroll me in speech therapy. At age 7, I was having problems with my fine motor skills, and I was given a grasping tool to build strength in my fingers. At this age, I started taking exams in school, and that’s when we learned I had anxiety, specifically test anxiety.
The tools I was given by adults were designed to help me be a successful child, but they also contributed to me being bullied. Until the age of 10, I had one friend who I always thought I could rely on and hang out with. Later, I learned she was deceiving me and going behind my back so she wouldn’t be excluded by others for hanging out with the “different” kid. Finding the truth out about this person was one of the darkest points in my life as I didn’t have anyone in my class who liked the “different” kid. I was excluded by my classmates and forced to hang out with those younger than me. In fourth grade, I was also struggling to keep up with my academics. As a result, my parents made the decision to hold me back a year, which led me down a brighter path, for the moment.
Middle School Mishaps
I finally felt as if I wasn’t alone and that my peers didn’t see me as anyone “different”, but then the dreaded middle school came along. Gone were most of my friends from my elementary school, but at least, I had my best friend (or so I thought). She left me since transitioning to middle school came the potential for new friends but also new demons to face. Most middle schoolers I knew started wanting a romantic relationship or to be popular. What I didn’t realize when this started was that the bullies I faced not only picked out my “differences” but also targeted my gender.
Unfortunately for me, one of my elementary school bullies went to the same middle school as I did, so the bullying continued. There were several instances where he would pick on me in front of the whole class and often encourage other boys in the class to do the same. I often wondered if he would have acted this way if I had been a boy, or was I an easy target, just a girl? I ended up going to the Dean of Students so I and others with disabilities could be comfortable. I thought being proactive and advocating for myself would stop the bullying, but ninth grade rolled around. I was wrong.
High School Hurdles
During ninth grade, one of the bullies I was facing decided to not only pick on my “different abilities” but my gender as well. He had seen the differences in the way my brain operated and used them to target my feminine identity. My identity was like a bullseye on my back, and before my English class each day, he started criticizing me for things out of my control. He started saying things such as I would never be loved because I was so ugly. On one occasion, to prevent more embarrassment, I ran into the bathroom until the teacher made it to class. One of the brightest lights to come out of this dark moment was that I had gained a friend for life, a bystander who decided to take action. She came and found me and comforted, supported, and defended me. In all my years of feeling alone and being bullied for being “different,” no one had ever been willing to stand beside me. I will never be able to repay my friend for what she did for me on one of the darkest, scariest days of my life. Thankfully, I gained a real best friend that day, and her friendship continues to be one of the most important to me. Looking back now, it is much easier to see that this boy not only targeted me because I was “different” but also because I was a girl who he thought wouldn’t fight back.
After that instance, I didn’t suffer as much bullying and other hardships as I had in the past. Also, during my first year of high school, I was placed in the ‘learning center’ to get support for assignments. This place became one of my safe places with teachers who understood the difficulties I had which was great. As a kid, I also loved to play volleyball and was good at it. When I started high school, however, I felt like I was again being judged by the coaches and other players for being “different”. After playing one year on my freshman volleyball team, I wanted to play again during my sophomore year on the junior varsity team. Instead of being put on the junior varsity team with girls whom I played with the year before, the coach offered to let me have a spot back on the freshman team which was humiliating. This event enraged me and my parents because I had been singled out and asked to go through a try-out when every other player in the same situation wasn’t.
Reaching Total Acceptance
This was also the year I joined a great group of girls like me called Aspergirls, a group for girls on the Autism Spectrum. Growing up, my parents and I knew I suffered from something else besides ADHD, and Autism was it. Despite being told I wasn’t autistic, I was officially diagnosed three years later with Autism Spectrum Disorder Type 1. My diagnosis was the turning point in my journey of acceptance as I realized there were people like me and that I wasn’t that “different”. The two women who ran the Aspergirls program also ran a program called Mosaic at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. After I joined Aspergirls and had such positive experiences, I knew I wanted to be at UTC in this program. Finally, after years of wanting to be accepted by those around me, I was surrounded by people who are like me but also by people who accept me.
Safe spaces were always important for me to find, and while growing up there were two, one was my basement, and another was the learning center. In 2018, I found another safe space that I hope I will never leave. That year, my mom wanted me to get a summer job, and she loved shopping at the grocery store Publix. One day when she was shopping, she met the assistant manager who went to my high school. This led to me getting an interview and a job there. I have never felt so accepted by strangers in my life. No one who I’ve worked with has judged me for my disabilities, and Publix, as a company, strived to be a place that values diversity. This job quickly developed into another safe space for me. Likewise, another important safe space for me was the Mosaic space at the University center. Finding a safe space is one of the keys to self-acceptance.
Advice for Reaching Self-Acceptance
If you have a disability, mental or physical, and are struggling to accept it, here’s my advice: find a safe space for you to be your authentic self. Safe spaces are one of the keys to my self-acceptance journey, as they are places where I can be myself without my disabilities holding me back. Also, building a circle of trust is crucial for self-acceptance. Finding those around you who you know you can trust to not judge your disabilities is crucial. If you have been bullied for your “differences,” don’t let what the bullies have said about you hold you back. If someone is bullying you, it is because they have something about themselves, they reject; possibly they see it in you, and try to exploit it. Finally, don’t see your disability(s) as being different from everyone else in this world. Likely, there are thousands or even millions of people in the world with the same disability as you. See your disability as your different ability or superpower, and don’t let anyone take or change that.
In 2021, the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) received an overall grade of a C on their racial and gender report card, an upgrade from the D-minus they received on the same report card just a few years prior. The curious thing about their C grade, however, is that they received a fairly strong B-plus in the race category, also an improvement on their race grades from years past. If the APSE is making such strides in their racial diversity by hiring a much more racially diverse group of employees, how is their grade still below average?
While television has included characters with disabilities, they haven’t steered away from showing them in a stereotypical light. Popular shows medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy and Chicago Med aren’t excluded in this. In fact, after watching both of these shows, I believe they were two of the most stereotypical displays of people with disabilities. What makes these displays even worse is they are about the same across television, creating a constant image of a person with a disability needing help or playing a victimized character for the viewers. This constant image can lead to a downward spiral of how a person views someone with a disability, leading to bullying and mental health issues for the victim—in some cases even suicide. While research is limited, adults with disabilities are roughly three times more likely to commit suicide.
Bullying due to a disability based on how it was shown on television is something I have experienced myself. Epilepsy is shown the same way in every television show or movie—the whole foaming at the mouth, uncontrollable shaking, memory loss, barely being able to care for themselves, etc. When many people hear someone say they have Epilepsy, that is typically the first place their mind goes when in reality it isn’t truly like that. Hearing questions about Epilepsy based on what is shown on a television and having people say that they’d never go out in public with me because they wouldn’t want to have to deal with me having a seizure—or will be embarrassed to be seen with someone that had one—got to me mentally.
Being outcasted from stereotypes of disabilities fueled by television goes for many disabilities. I have friends and family with varying disabilities such as Autism and Down’s Syndrome and they have experienced bullying and mocking based on what was shown on television as well. One of them started home schooling because the bullying got so bad, he had anxiety over the thought of having to go to school. It didn’t help him that our school wasn’t too tough on bullying because ‘kids will be kids’ and they ‘probably don’t mean it.’
We as a society have a long way to go in improving the view people have of those with a disability. While television has made some movements to improve the portrayal of someone with a disability with shows like The Good Doctor, the precedent is so deep-seated that it will take more than a few shows to help turn around the negative stereotypes surrounding people with disabilities. It is important for television to start helping change how people see someone with a disability to prevent a rise in mental health issues and suicide attempts for this group of people.
Even though television is adding fuel to the fire, schools also can play a role in helping curve the bullying and limit the stereotyping. Late elementary school to early middle school aged kids aren’t too young to learn that sometimes people are different. They can also ensure that their faculty and staff will take bullying of any type very seriously instead of dismissing it because sometimes kids can just be mean to each other but still be good friends. Schools can add learning about how people can be different from them into the curriculum while stressing that different doesn’t mean they are bad or can’t do what they can.
In the end, the issue can mainly start with the parents. The parents can control what a child is exposed to and how they treat others. Young children shouldn’t be allowed to watch shows where a person is bullied for a disability or when it is seen in public a parent should explain why it is wrong. Having kids going into school or a public area knowing that people are different and that there is nothing wrong with that is the first step in solving this problem. When people stop treating those with disabilities the way it is shown on television, they could lose viewership and almost have no choice but to change how they are portraying a character with a disability and their relationship with the other characters.
This problem won’t be a quick and easy fix but starting the process now will help future generations feel more accepted by others.
Clothing is a major way people express themselves, making it important that clothing brands make clothing that is welcoming for everyone. Brands such as Brandy Melville offer only one size clothing, but the clothing is only for some. Their sizes say they are for everyone, but realistically they fit an extra-small to a medium. One-size clothing is not a true statement because everyone has a different body type, meaning a one-size shirt will not fit everyone the same. Brandy Melville markets towards short and small people. The shirts and shorts are extremely short, small, and cropped making it impossible for curvy or tall people to fit into. However, they sell sweatshirts that are one size but are labeled as “oversized”. This is highly offensive to people because their oversized fit is just a normal fit. What kind of message is Brandy Melville trying to portray? That the “normal” size of women should be an extra small to a medium? These are questions that need to be answered and not suppressed just because “smaller” people like their clothing.
Gender diversity in advertising has become a prevalent issue in today’s fight for gender equality. For many years women have been fighting within the marketing and advertising industry for equal representation in commercials and even landing jobs working behind the scenes. A lot of progress has been made with integrating more representation of women into advertising, however there is still more work to be done. There are, on average, twice as many men shown in an advertisement than women and men have about three times the amount of speaking time than women. While women are underrepresented within the advertising world, they are also stereotypically sexualized for the work that they are chosen for. It’s no secret that sex appeal is one of the largest selling aspects in today’s marketing world, and while this is also true for men, it is more predominant among women displayed in advertisements.
My professor clicks the next slide of his presentation, a Secret Deodorant commercial from 2013. My classmates and I sit in silence as the YouTube player begin, and a woman’s fast, quivering voice booms from the speakers.
Stress sweat. It’s different from ordinary sweat – it smells worse and it can happen anytime to anyone. Like when I fell asleep at movie night with all my coworkers and totally dream snorted myself awake. I actually popped my head back so fast I’m pretty sure I have whiplash.
The LGBTQ+ community continues to be facing diversity, as a new law was passed recently in Tennessee that restricts adult cabaret performances in public or in the presence of children, and bans them from occurring within 1000 feet of schools, public parks, or places of worship.” This law strictly prohibits people in this community from expressing themselves in a country that is supposed to be known for their freedom. My uncle is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and has done drag before. He was simply devastated by the news, as many others in this community were and he even called my Father and angrily ranted to him how awful this new law is.
When I first met my partner, I could not grasp their pronouns for the life of me. In all honesty, I had never made acquaintances with a non-binary person until I met Koy in college. On the way to visit them, I would repeat “they, them, they, them, they, them” out loud behind the steering wheel. Of course, Koy and their friends would politely correct me each time I slipped up. Hey, we all have to learn at some point. Because the fact of the matter is: not everyone is comfortable with the gender that was assigned to them at birth. With the rapid discourse on gender expression changing every day, it’s imperative that we learn. I learned, and so can you.
Okay readers, ready yourselves for another entry into the You Can’t Make This Stuff Up – Chronicles of the Asinine. Have an extra strength Excedrin or shot of Bourbon within reach. You may need it.
You see, before the ink was dry on recent news about the Silicon Valley Bank collapse, nitpickers from the peanut gallery began pointing blame to the latest boogey man…. “Woke.” “Woke” flooded the news recently, drowning out coverage of NCAAP basketball tourneys, Ukraine and pending indictments.