Let’s Be Lefties for a Day
“The perception of normality is based on how closely you resemble the majority of people” (Devry College, 2013, Week One Assignment, Para. 1). I have been right handed since 2nd grade.
This was not always the case though. When I began Kindergarten in 1985, I was predominantly left handed. I was persistently discouraged from writing with my left hand and eventually I became fluent in penmanship with my right hand. At the time, I recall being told that “Everyone should write with their right hand!”
I was taught early on, that to be normal is to be like everyone else. To this day I am still right handed as far as for writing, however, I have always favored my left hand for activities such as gymnastics and driving. I remember feeling weird and looked down upon for being different and for taking longer than my classmates to learn how to write with a hand that felt foreign to me. Did it pay off? Was there an advantage to being right handed versus left? These are questions that are not as black and white as they may seem.
This paper examines normalcy and what it means to be a part of the majority versus being a minority. In our society, right-handed people reflect the majority or dominant group and left-handed individuals would be considered the minority based on the percentage of right versus left-handed people. In order to understand the affects of being in a minority group, we were challenged to “Let’s be lefties for a day. ” It was quickly apparent that our society and environment is catered toward right-handed people.
This reflects a principle known as institutionalized discrimination where minority groups are at a disadvantage because of the normal way society operates (Devry College, 2012, Week One Lecture, para. 2). Take buttons for instance. It is much easier to button jackets, or pants, etc… with one’s right hand as opposed to one’s left. The reason for this is simply that the vast majority of mechanisms for buttoning, or zippering, are adapted for ease of right-handed individuals. Another example is door knobs. Most door knobs are manufactured with right-handed ergonomics in mind.
Opening doors with my left hand involved twisting my wrist in a manner that is both awkward and uncomfortable. Further exploration found that items such as golf clubs, scissors, kitchen utensils, and keyboards, are available for left-handed individuals; however, they come at a price. Not only were they more expensive per unit than “standard” items that are readily available; but they also required internet access as they are primarily found online, and included shipping fees in addition to the already hefty price tag.
It was evident that in this instance, being in the minority or less dominant group incurs inconvenience and monetary penalty. “Through these major institutions, the dominant group will shape the society in ways that reflect its interests, values, and beliefs and minimize those of less dominant groups. The result is discrimination” (Devry College, 2013, Week One Lecture, Para. 2). Having spent the majority of my life right-handed, I hadn’t given much thought to what it means to be left-handed.
It is easy to not have to consider what life is like for those in the less dominant groups when things as simple as the ease of opening a door, or a can, or sharpening a pencil, and/or buttoning ones pants do not require a second thought. Devry College, 2013, Week One Lecture states that “[u]nlike the dominant group, most minority groups recognize and understand cultural differences. Unfortunately, they also feel the need to be wary and defensive at all times” (Para. 8). This is very similar to how I felt almost 30 years ago when I took my first penmanship class in Kindergarten and was instructed to become a rightie versus a leftie.
The Devry College, 2013, Week One Lecture continues “[t]he end result is that subordinate groups always know and understand more about the dominant group than the dominant group does about the subordinate group” (Para. 8). It is important to recognize that we all have differences, be it cultural, ethnic, gender, or something as seemingly simple as being right or left-handed. These differences are what creates diversity and adds richness and color to our world and “…is a major component in the social glue holding a culture together.
What we want to do is simply recognize that we do have prejudices arising from our ethnocentric view of the world” (Devry College, 2013, Week One Lecture, Para. 10). There is an old familiar saying that you never know a man till you have walked a mile in his shoes. This is so true and it can be easy to forget that beyond our obvious differences, we are all human. How does all of this relate to the business setting? M. Bell, 2012 states that “[i]n inclusive organizational cultures, employees feel as though they are accepted, belong, and are able to contribute to decision-making processes” (M. Bell, 2012, p. 5).
Imagine all of the important discoveries, policies, and practices that would not exist if we had not recognized the contributions of minority members of our society! That said, there is still a long way to go. Individuals need to be recognized and considered for their qualifications when seeking employment or promotion, not discriminated due to their gender, ethnicity, or cultural differences. In conclusion, the leftie experiment was a real eye-opener! I never realized how difficult seemingly simple things can be for some, and how much I take for granted
The world is a different place for minorities and we need to level the playing field through acceptance and understanding. Ethnocentricity is not always a bad thing. It is the tie that binds us; but when used to discriminate, it serves only to tear us apart. How do we move forward? Devry College, 2013, Week One Lecture declares that honesty and “explaining all options and services available” are key to braking down the barriers between majority and minority groups created by distrust (para. 11).