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Updated: 2019.8.18 01:57
 
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I Am a Minority
[ Issue 168 Page 11 ] Tuesday, March 26, 2019, 01:56:18 Hongseok Lee Head of Society Division leehong@kaist.ac.kr

I am a minority. Those who know me will wonder what makes me say so. I am an adult male, with no identified disabilities or illness, I’m economically stable, and heterosexual. Yet, I am a minority. Those like me have suffered for centuries — maybe even for millennia. Regardless of cultural district, we were rejected from society for a variety of reasons — from being untrustworthy to being accursed. This discrimination still continues today, though we may not realize it. I am a minority: I am left-handed.

Unfortunately, being a minority doesn’t necessarily mean that one can be recognized as a minority. Some minorities are recognized less by media than others, and left-handedness is one of them. Thus, inconveniences and discrimination that left-handed people have had to endure are forgotten. It is unfortunate that the public does not know about this, but it is understandable since the media and education cannot focus on every minority issue. In school, we are taught that men and women are equal, that race does not determine superiority, and that all religions should be respected. We believe that this is what is “right” and thus naturally follow the implication that it has always been so. However, education has its flaws. Education systems are heavily influenced by the norms of the contemporary historic period. Just a hundred years ago in Europe, people were taught that men and women are not equal, skin color determines class, and that Christianity is the most superior religion of all. Thus this shows that it is important for the public to focus on what should be recognized.

Disregarding the societal and cultural prejudice against left-handed people, there are discomforts even in their daily lives. Common daily objects like scissors, doorknobs, and coffee pots are designed for the right-handed. Technological devices like keyboards, computer mice, and car gear sticks are designed for the right-handed. Tools of cultural design in writing, music, and even college seats are designed for the right-handed. It would be lengthy and boring for me to illustrate every object designed for the majority, but you get the idea. Some may even argue that though a bit cumbersome, these discomforts are marginal compared to what other minorities endure. That may be true. What other minorities have to bear may be more arduous than our burdens. Yet, it is worth emphasizing that although others may suffer more than we do, that does not mean our suffering is resolved or diminished.

These discomforts, though cumbersome, are adaptable. But, the social and cultural prejudice that left-handed people have to go through are most likely unimaginable for those who are not. Not because of their cruelty or extremeness, but because they are unknown. Though such cultural prejudice are almost gone in the developed countries, they existed within society until the early 2000s. For example, until just a few years ago in Japan, it was legal for a man to divorce his wife on the basis of her being left-handed. Another example, the English word “left” originated from old Anglo-Saxon word “lyft” which meant broken or weak. The same applies in Korean; the word oen (meaning left) implies tangled and changed, while oreun (meaning right) developed from the word meaning true and right. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Bias against left-handedness has existed throughout human history regardless of the region and culture.

I, too, was told by my pre-school teachers and grandparents to change my dominant hand to right when I was young. Yet I was a stubborn child and refused to do so. Thankfully, my parents supported my decision for my mother, too, was forced to change her dominant hand to right when she was young. But it is difficult for the deep-rooted prejudice to disappear in a short amount of time like this. Most people do not recognize the problem for we were never educated so. I wish to make this issue more recognized, so that more people know, and thus less people will suffer. That is why I repeat these words, I am a minority — I am left-handed.

 

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