Submitted by Aliejha Cullick from Walter H. Dyett High School for the Performing Arts in Chicago, Illinois.
An ability to blossom, to grow, and to evolve. A world where we as the dominant species are capable of all 3. But some of us don’t really know our full potential, but why? What is setting some people back from reaching the full extent of their abilities? Well, there are multiple factors. Social standards are one of the foremost of these factors. For years and years we have been told of what we can and cannot do as people, and this is usually a physical problem more than it is a personal problem. How we look can “determine” what we are and what we are not capable of doing. So why are you “not allowed” to do certain things? An illustration of this can be seen in skin color, gender, and sexuality.
For centuries, women have been neglected and excluded from certain privileges that men may have, whether it be voting rights, career paths, or even obtaining jobs at all (which still happens!). Men are stereotypically viewed as hardworking, demanding, and leading. But why has society always dilapidated women doing certain things? Maybe it’s because women have never actually been able to prove themselves as striving, diligent, or driven. So now when women are taking on more leadership roles, it is somehow seen as bossy, strict, and overbearing? In the early 20th century women were given the ability to vote and in the 1950’s women were only seen as stay at home caretakers for their children and “hardworking” husbands. So as this barrier began to break as women’s movements began erupting, most people didn’t like this change that was upon them, possibly causing them to create new stereotypes out of anger. These standards in society can still dictate whether or not a woman can do certain things, such as walk alone at night, become a cop, or even voice their opinion on certain matters.
Although being a woman can be restricting, who you want to love can also be a restriction. The majority of the world’s countries have prohibited the concept of same-sex dating and marriage, and currently there are only 29/195 who even allow same-sex marriage. In some places you can even be executed for being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Some believe being attracted to the same sex is sinful according to certain religions which can be the main reason as to why these executions take place. Others simply find the concept of same-sex interaction unpleasant. Whatever the case may be, the LGBTQIA+ community has been denied to many things such as obtaining jobs or even obtaining friendships. This makes it extremely difficult (as it is for a woman or a person of color etc.) to navigate through life.
Race has always been in a factor in one thing or another as our civilizations began evolving. Being born a certain race or ethnicity can ultimately determine a handful of things. Stereotypes are mostly seen in certain races, which is why so many people are protesting against it today. For years and years, people of color have been prone to the highest level of social rejection, oppression, and racism. The Blacks Lives Matter movement has been around for generations, but when video of 46-year-old George Floyd being murdered by a police officer was released into the public, it sparked controversy and caused a big uproar in the BLM movement. This uproar opened more eyes on the spectrum of race overall and shown people how much people of color are and have been suffering. Racism will always exist, and it’s insane to see how being born Black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American (etc.) can determine what you’ll experience as you grow in terms of stereotypes and racism.
Why do we as humans prohibit each other from doing certain things based on such minor details about ourselves? Why have we created a society where it is seen as “wrong” to be attracted to the same sex? Where it is seen as “weak” to be a woman? Or even where it is seen to be “gross” to be plus-sized? Many of us have been exposed to these social standards to where we are now afraid to express who we are or who we want to be. Today, the majority of people don’t dress nice for themselves, they want to dress nice for the public. They don’t come out as gay because they don’t want to be viewed as wrong. Men don’t want to share their feelings because they don’t want to be seen as feminine. This is how much these standards have held us back as people, they’ve stopped us from bursting out of our little seeds and blooming into beautiful flowers. This is also why it’s important to be considerate of how other people feel, it doesn’t take much to just be nice or to simply compliment someone. The planet we live on is a small blue dot surrounded by infinite stars. And as far as we know, we’re alone for now. If we’re not here for each other now, what will become of us?