Negative stereotypes are hateful and hurtful. Take an example from the world of entertainment recently when #SteveHarvey cracked a joke using the negative stereotype that Asian Men are not datable. Growing up I remember this negative outlook was all over the place. My developing mind could never find the logic in them and this created a lot of confusion not understanding why this and many other things were supposedly true.

Through out time, gossip, lies, misunderstood facts spread and people often turned untrue, negative stereotypes into ‘facts’ to be passed on. In general, there is a permission in American culture to emasculate men, but the Asian male has carried the bulk of this burden. It’s cruel and people should be ashamed of perpetuating this form of bullying. Just like little boys of color now believe they can grow up to be President. Little Asian boys should not believe the can only grow up to be a geeky, laughing stock.

Society does something similar with people with disabilities. It was not easy growing up and being told by doctors, physical therapists, teachers, strangers that you were not going to get married because people did not view you as a sexualized person. It was everywhere and each day I was met with either an ignorant question and/or statement. So I can empathize with Asian males on a small scale. No one likes to be mocked. It’s painful. Now imagine being a boy growing up being told you don’t qualify to be the heartthrob by movies, TV and what feels like the world? That your role in life it to be the butt of a joke? It really is bullying when you think about it.

I remember in college, there was a guy named David who I was in lust with. He was a transfer student from China. He walked with confidence and was one of those guys who knew how to style himself. He was a sweet person and my interest was not just about his looks, but damn he was hot. Of course my friends heard me blather on about him.

I wasn’t prepared for the day when I was with a friend and saw David down the hall. I discreetly pointed him out to the friend all excited to discuss him, but wasn’t prepared for what came next. She looked surprised, like she was waiting for me to say “April Fools'” as she replied: “You mean THAT’s him?” She then tried to convince me that of course nothing was going to happen and spouted out a bunch of cliché ignorant statements. Almost like she was trying to get me to see what the truth was.

It didn’t change how I felt, but it hurt. Granted, I was not under attack here, but I hurt for him and I hurt that I was made to feel that who I was attracted to was laughable. Lack of exposure is a huge part of any issue concerning prejudice. We don’t know “them’, we hear rumors delivered through the telephone game and just accept that societal training. People don’t question the information or try to understand what is the origin of those lies. I knew prejudice existed in the world, but during college I was lucky to see the ugliness that existed towards others, but not be a part of it.

I always loved meeting people from different background and learning how we are the same yet has wonderful differences. I would always ask questions because I wanted to make sense out of what was fact and what was fiction. Now I’m sure sometimes I asked too many questions and sounded like a TMZ reported asking for clarification on the latest made up tabloid story…lol but we are all unaware/ignorant about something! Lord knows tons of people ask me ignorant and insensitive questions on the regular. I happily answer them, because for the most part people want to know the truth behind the rumor.

I don’t believe in getting offended and punishing someone for wanting to understand my situation. I love to cease that moment and educate. If I show that I’m angry and offended, then the person will never realize where they were wrong and I’ll just reinforce that negative stereotype that disable people are all full of attitude and bitter. I’m not perfect about it, especially when I don’t feel well or am PMS-ing, but I try! It is an amazing feeling when you enlighten people about your truth and they look so happy to know what they thought was incorrect. They start asking more questions and get excited to understand more. It’s beautiful because I’m watching them grow as a person. Did I change the world for the better in that moment? No… but if we all did our part it would.

When kids are young, adults make the mistake of punishing the child for their curiosity: Now, I’m a parent and we’ve all been mortified over the loud, unfiltered questions from our young children. If there were a rock nearby, you’d want to crawl under it!  When I pass by the child loudly asks: ”Mommy, why is that lady in a wheelchair?” Most parents reply: “Don’t ask that question, that’s rude!”

Instead of both answering the questions and explaining how to ask these things diplomatically, parents don’t realize they’ve unintentionally punished little Johnny or Jane for their curiosity. I usually go up to children and answer their question about me. “Why is her hand twisted?”…Yup! I answer all of those fun questions because we all wonder about differences.

Most of us are still curious creatures wanting to gain knowledge, wisdom and insight. Ideally, grownups should ask questions in sensitive and diplomatic manner. I completely understand how it feels when people ask offensive questions and the temptation to put them in their place for being disrespectful. Perfectly understandable emotional reaction, how you choose to reply is your choice. As much as it might feel momentarily great to explode on them or punish them by withholding answers, it hurts the big picture.

Our society is missing empathy…it’s missing the want to understand people as our fellow man and not “those” people. “They”, “Them” “Those” are all of “Us” and we need to get to know and understand “Our” people, wherever they are from or whatever they look like. When people ask “Us” about ourselves, our people, etc…we should just diplomatically answer them. Everyone knows what it feels like to be curious. In those moments, we have the power to give others the possibility of spreading love and truth. There are so many ways all of us can make a positive difference in the world and this is a great start!

When we start becoming an “us”, then we are more prone to treat one another fairly. No one has the right to make a person and/or group of people feel like they are a loser. Anyone who does that is projecting his or her own insecurities onto others. If we want people to understand and accept us for our differences, respecting others for different beliefs can lead to a wonderful exchange of ideas. Choose enlightenment not ignorance. See the beauty in all people and the ugliness in your heart will fade.