I am not talking about whether or not we live in a world where classism does not exist. Classism most certainly has been the foundation in which this very country was built upon and the practice of class discrimination is still deeply tied in the structure of our society today. However, when I say class I mean in terms of elegance, grace and that one phrase young anti-traditional women like me dread to hear, “Be a lady, and have some class.” In America, trends and styles are born and flourish one day, and the next they are casted out as ‘uncool’, no longer appealing. Certain fashion trends go simultaneously with movements; I mean music genre, slang, attitude, political views and even down to the way one walks. At the turn of every decade, a new and more ‘hipper’ era is born. But with every era do we lose the ability to be classy? Have we lost the ability to be respectful?
Are we a classless generation?
One moral that seems to be passed on from generation to generation is the common respect one must show to their elders. That also goes in hand with having the respect to listen when one is spoken to and speak when one is asked to. Recently, as I was making my way from work, I witnessed a young woman who was surely no older than sixteen years old, blatantly disrespect a woman who was clearly much older than her. Now, there is always the protest that one does not simply get respect, one must earn it. However, the older woman corrected the young girl for not excusing herself as she bumped her way through a small crowd of people. Her response? “F*** you, don’t tell me what do to.” Let me tell you, if I was to ever fix my mouth to speak to anyone like that, especially an elder, the image of my mother holding anything from her Chancleta to an extension cord would scare me enough to rethink my words. It is just common sense, it is one of the first things we are taught as children, we say: excuse me, please, and thank you. I cannot begin to explain how many times I have found myself enraged with my peers who refuse to perform these acts of politeness.
To further dive into the realm of indifference and fads that our generation was born out of, I explore the certain iconic people and moments that define us. Remember the movie Clueless? Who can forget Cher’s indifference towards anything that was not plaid, sheer, or made out of fabric and came with a price tag? As if. Helga Pataki, deeply disturbed and madly in love with a weird looking kid. We have all been there. Yet, how far do you think we could have gotten with her attitude and violent tendencies? From overalls, boy bands, jaw breakers, backwards jeans, butter fly clips, roller blades, playing dodge ball (when it was still legal) and baby phat/phat farm apparel, we still seem to mind our fashion statements more than our manners. We care more about ‘being cool’ and apparently being polite isn’t.
I constantly have to snap at my younger cousin for answering to her mother’s call with “what ma?!” and her incessant protest against washing the dishes. But it is not just her 11 year old self. Students my age come to class late and walk right in front of the professor during a lecture. To make matters worse the lack of dignity they have when dressing for class is ridiculous. I have seen kids come to class in soiled sweats and shirts with holes reeking of marijuana and tequila from last night’s party. I have seen young women in what I call “coochie cutter” shorts and very revealing crop tops and sit in front of their professors and expect to be taken seriously.
Too many doors have gone unheld, smiles and eye contact unreciprocated. We need a serious attitude adjustment.
Generations of activists before us have fought and advocated for respect. They demanded respect for their education, earning it with their respectful gestures, peaceful protest and professionalism. But our lack of interest in history has lost the true depths of their message. There is a high demand for respect, to be treated as a human with dignity and purpose however; we fail to show that same respect. We happen to be a generation with no traces of humility and need to pay homage to anyone other than ourselves. I mean who can blame us? We had people like Cam’ron and Jay-Z in their prime while we were growing up, who’s self-made and roads to riches attitude gave us a sense of worth.
But how much can we be worth without mutual respect for one another? For our elders even?
I am guilty of the “f*** you, pay me” attitude. The “no one can tell me nothing about anything” and thinking I know the answer to life’s wonders. We have this sense of entitlement to have it all and to be treated with the utmost regard, yet our manners clearly do not deserve it. What happened to treat others the way you want to be treated? What happened to greeting people even if you do not know who they are? What happened to seeking wisdom and guidance from our elders rather than quoting our favorite “trap star”? What ever happened to “yes, ma’am and no sir”? Our defiance, constant validation for respect and lack of interest in other people, has changed more than the way we communicate with one another but has lost the need for unity. We have become comfortable in our arrogance, and modesty is a thing of the past. Seems to me that we may need to start practicing a bit of humility because biggity is distasteful and egos will always be out of style.
Stop trying to make arrogance happen, it’s not going to happen.