FREE PRIORITY SHIPPING ON ORDERS $50+
humanistbeauty-logo

Leaving Behind the Word “Normal”

You’ve probably seen the term “normal” used to describe skin and body types, along with nearly anything else in your life. Normal is a subjective term that often suggests there is some collective sense of normality. It can also connote a value system where straying from the standard is deemed wrong or undesired. We’d like to discuss the move away from the word normal by diving into the origins and myth of the term, along with brands no longer using the word, and powerful reasons why it’s okay to embrace your abnormality.

The Origins of the Word “Normal”

“Normal” is derived from the Latin normalis, which means “made according to a carpenter’s square, or forming a right angle.” According to Mirriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, in Late Latin, normalis had new meanings, including “according to rule” and  “according to, constituting, or not deviating from an established norm, rule, or principle.”1

Author Johnathan Mooney explained in his book, Normal Sucks: How to Love, Learn, and Thrive Outside the Lines, that normal is “a word that masquerades as an ever-present universal truth.” He said when the word was first used in Latin, it had nothing to do with people, society, or human behavior.2

Normal and normalis were words primarily used by Latin mathematicians, specifically in geometry to describe a right angle. Mooney explained that over time, it became a universal mathematical truth that a right angle is considered to be a perfect angle. According to Mooney, this is where the meaning of the word normal became both a fact in the world and a judgment of what is right.3 

Bernoulli, Quetelet, and Galton’s “Normal” Research

In 1713, the Swiss mathematician Jakob Bernoulli created the calculus of probabilities. This equation was then taken up by statistical thinker, Adolphe Quetelet, who applied the equation to human beings. In 1835, Quetelet gathered large amounts of statistical data to calculate the most commonly occurring features of the “average man.”4

Quetelet’s research had a vital flaw as he believed his “average man” was also the perfect man. In his research, Quetelet interchangeably used the words “normal,” “regular,” and “average.” In his mind, the words all meant perfect. However, it’s important to note that his research excluded people with disabilities and people of color.5, 6

As Peter Cryle and Elizabeth Stephens wrote in their book, Normality: A Critical Genealogy, Quetelet’s work did all that it could to reduce the gap between the actual and the normal/ideal.

English statistician Francis Galton later updated Quetelet’s work and created today’s concept of normality.7, 8, 9

Exploring the Myth of “Normal”

The word and definition of normal, as used in modern times, is viewed as a sort of myth to many; it tells us that being within the range of what is considered normal is the way to be a thriving member of society. Normality is usually assessed by being in or around the average for any given trait.

Normal vs; Abnormal

Pictured: The “normal” in various discourses   Source: Critical Perspectives

Due to this, it’s largely assumed that, with a few exceptions, it’s best to be as normal as possible to fit in with those around you. This notion implies that being average can be seen as perfect, but if you stray too far from the average, there is something wrong with you — you aren’t being human the right way.

However, humans are remarkably diverse — it has served us well in the past, it’s with us in the present, and it’ll benefit us in the future. For the beauty industry, the rise of “inclusive beauty,” which refers to beauty that caters to all individuals, has helped phase out the word normal when describing skin type, body type, gender, and so on.

When Fenty launched in 2017 with 40 different foundation shades, it sparked a shift in the makeup industry. This revolutionary time in beauty helped other brands realize that diversity is a priority, rather than an afterthought, and that there is no “normal” when it comes to beauty and humans. 

Brands Are Moving Away From Using the Word “Normal”

In 2021, Unilever, which includes Dove, Axe, Shea Moisture, and more, made a pledge to drop the word “normal” from its beauty and personal care brands’ packaging and advertising. This step is part of the corporation’s Positive Beauty Vision, which aims to eradicate exclusionary language and outdated beauty ideals when it comes to beauty products. In particular, how we talk about skin and hair.10

Sunny Jain, former president of Unilever’s beauty department, said of the beauty industry: “With one billion people using our beauty and personal care products every day and even more seeing our advertising, our brands have the power to make a real difference to people’s lives.” Jain’s hope is that this will shape a “broader, far more inclusive definition of beauty.”11

Sarah Degnan Kambou, president of the International Center for Research on Women, echoed this sentiment: “In order to champion equity, we need to challenge these restrictive ‘norms’ and create societies and communities that celebrate diversity and the unique qualities and ideas that each person brings. Beauty is no exception.”12

Unilever says that seven in 10 people agree that using the word “normal” on product packaging and advertising is dismissive. The brand states that for younger people aged 18 to 35, the number increases to eight in 10.13 This shows that the change is welcome and will help many people feel as though they aren’t being excluded when shopping for beauty and personal care products.

Uniliver Ad

Pictured: Unilever ad    Source: Ad Week

3 Powerful Reasons To Go Beyond “Normal”

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

― Maya Angelou

The quest to be what society often deems as “normal” can prevent us from doing anything out of the ordinary in life. As humans, we are all extraordinary and are born to be different. Here are three powerful reasons to forego normalcy and embrace what makes you special:

  • Normal is subjective. The idea that there is some ideal standard all humans should conform to is unrealistic and can be psychologically limiting. All you can do is trust in yourself, honor your values, and do what makes you happy. 
  • Normal is not easily defined. It’s often easier for people to define the term abnormal than it is to nail down a definition of normal. The reason for this is that there is no clear definition of what normal is; it’s only when someone deviates from what is generally conceived as ordinary that people become concerned with such labels. Instead of worrying about being normal, create your own definition that fits you and your life.
  • Perfection does not exist. Often, when people are trying to be normal, what they’re really trying to achieve is perfection. Perfection is unattainable, and when you strive for it, you may end up focusing too much on perceived flaws and not enough on strengths. Instead, choose to find the beauty in the imperfections.

Don’t Be Normal, Be You.

Humanist Beauty will always stand for radical inclusivity and diversity. Our founder, Jennifer Norman, is a groundbreaking Asian-American woman who has made it her life’s work to inspire life beyond the “normal”. She built Humanist Beauty and The Human Beauty Movement, our parent company, from the ground up in an effort to send a message to the world that all humans are extraordinarily unique. At Humanist Beauty, we know there’s no such thing as normal; there is extraordinary power in your specialness and every day is an opportunity to become the best version of you.   

 

 

References:

https://lithub.com/how-exactly-did-we-come-up-with-what-counts-as-normal/ [1][2][3][4][5][7][9]

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11673-021-10122-2 [6][8]

https://www.unilever.co.uk/news/press-releases/2021/unilever-says-no-to-normal-with-new-positive-beauty-vision/ [10[11][12][13]

 

The World Needs More Inclusive Beauty

The beauty industry has long been criticized for not reflecting real consumers and not catering to those with special needs. Thankfully, things are starting to change. The industry is evolving to show more diversity and acceptance, and products are being launched to meet the needs of consumers who had previously been overlooked. But so much more needs to be done.

The Call For Diverse Representation

The model images we see in advertisements and in the media greatly influence our views on who and what are deemed ‘beautiful’. The more we are exposed to media, the more likely we are to compare ourselves to the images we see. And when the images don’t look like us, over time, we get the message that we aren’t seen and aren’t attractive. One study concluded that only 5% of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed by Americans in the media.1 That leaves 95% of women subject to feeling as though they don’t measure up.

On the other hand, most Americans (63%) say they are inspired by beauty brands that show diversity in advertising. They say they want to see diversity in ads to better reflect real life and show that there are different ways to be beautiful.2 Additionally, 21% of adults who actively use beauty products have sought out beauty brands that promote diversity, while 20% mention a willingness to pay more for a product from an inclusive brand.3

Here are a few brands that have been recognized recently for demonstrating inclusive representation:

Fenty Beauty

In 2017, makeup brand Fenty Beauty was introduced by Sephora’s Kendo Brands and pop star Rihanna. Many praised the launch for its extensive foundation range of 40 shades (now expanded to 50) and its multiracial marketing campaign. Today, many brands have followed suit and expanded their makeup lines to include a wider variety of shades. Additionally, Rihanna herself as a spokesperson exudes self confidence in her curviness, helping to promote body positivity and quash body shaming.

Fenty Beauty Foundation Range

Pictured: Fenty Beauty’s Foundation Range
Source: Fenty Beauty

 Fenty Beauty Foundation Models

Pictured: Rihanna for Fenty Beauty 
Source: People Magazine

Gucci

In 2020, Gucci Beauty launched a campaign titled “Unconventional Beauty” which celebrated “non-stereotypical beauty”. Ellie Goldstein, an 18-year-old British model, now holds the honor for being the first down syndrome model to be featured in a Gucci advertisement. Additionally, most of the creative team that worked on Ellie’s photoshoot for Mascara L’Obscur were also disabled.

Ellie Goldstein for Gucci Beauty

Pictured: Ellie Goldstein for Gucci Beauty 
Source: Vogue

MAC Cosmetics

First introduced in 1994, The MAC AIDS Fund, now called the MAC Viva Glam Fund, has raised more than $500 million by donating 100% of the proceeds of its Viva Glam lipstick to support the fight against HIV /AIDS as well as healthy futures and equal rights for women, girls, and the LGBTQ+ community.4 MAC underwrites the production costs of the VIVA Glam line and demands that department stores take no cut.

As a brand, MAC has long been an advocate of diversity and inclusivity. The original brand founder, Frank Toskan, said that he wanted his company to cater to minority groups others generally ignored, and he wanted to hire the so-called “weirdos” and misfits of the world to work behind their counters. When the brand first started selling in high-end department stores, the retailers tried to tell the MAC makeup artists how they should dress, act and speak. “At that time, you couldn’t wear black, you couldn’t have tattoos, you certainly couldn’t be a crossdresser or even effeminate,” Toskan said. “We wanted people to be who they are. We demanded to be left alone.” 5

RuPaul was the very first spokesperson hired for MAC and Viva Glam. After that, diverse personalities like Elton John, Lil Kim, Missy Elliott, Ricky Martin, Cyndi Lauper, Boy George and Nicki Minaj represented the line. For Viva Glam’s 25th anniversary in 2019, MAC tapped Winnie Harlow, the model famous for her vitiligo skin condition, to recreate the original RuPaul campaign.

RuPaul for MAC Viva Glam

Pictured: RuPaul for MAC Viva Glam  
Source: Pinterest

Winnie Harlow for MAC Viva Glam

Pictured: Winnie Harlow for MAC Viva Glam 
Source: PopSugar

About Disability and Accessibility

According to the CDC, in the United States alone, 61 million adults, that’s 26%, live with some form of disability.6

  • 13.7 percent of people with a disability have a mobility disability with serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs.
  • 10.8 percent of people with a disability have a cognition disability with serious difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions.
  • 6.8 percent of people with a disability have an independent living disability with difficulty doing errands alone.
  • 5.9 percent of people with a disability are deaf or have serious difficulty hearing
  • 4.6 percent of people with a disability have a vision disability with blindness or serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses.
  • 3.6 percent of people with a disability have a self-care disability with difficulty dressing or bathing.

Despite the preponderance of people with disabilities, they are not often considered when beauty brands are designing new products or packaging. The frustration felt among those with visual impairment, reduced mobility, body tremors, and limb loss can be overwhelming when trying to shop, select, open and use any given personal care or beauty item. It’s no wonder that 57% of people agree that there need to be more beauty products for individuals with mobility challenges, such as packaging that can aid in painting nails or applying makeup.7

Fortunately, more brands today believe that having a disability shouldn’t stop anyone from being able to use and enjoy beauty products, and some are finally beginning to introduce ‘universal design into their products to enhance accessibility for all.8 Here are three brands we’re happy to spotlight that offer products with accessible packaging:

Guide Beauty

Guide Beauty was founded by Terri Bryant, a professional makeup artist who in 2010 started noticing unusual stiffness spanning from her left shoulder down to her fingers. In 2012, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and she thought her career would be over. Her love of makeup and determination caused her to seek out solutions to facilitate cosmetics application, not only for those with unsteady hands, but for all people who want to master the perfect cat eye, brow shape or mascara strokes. The products she launched are made to be hand-steadying, easy to grip, easy to open, and easy to use.

The products she launched

Guide Beauty Products
Source: NY Times

Kohl Kreatives

Kohl Kreatives is an inclusive brand that specializes in stylish makeup tools for people with impaired motor skills. It’s famous for its flexible makeup-up brushes that bend to make applying makeup easier and more comfortable. Kohl Kreatives’ vegan brushes have an easy-to-grip base in various shapes that allow you to get into those hard-to-reach areas. Additionally, a percentage of Kohl Kreatives’ proceeds are donated to Kohl Kares, which focuses on empowering people through makeup.

Kohl Kreatives The Flex Collection

Pictured: Kohl Kreatives The Flex Collection
Source: Kohl Kreatives

Cleanlogic

Cleanlogic rebranded this year, complete with an updated look and a shift to all-paper packaging. By eliminating its traditional soft plastic packing, Cleanlogic was able to print braille on every product. The brand also partnered with the American Foundation for the Blind to ensure accuracy. Cleanlogic has been advocating for more awareness of visual impairment in the industry by supporting nonprofit organizations and hosting pre-pandemic blindfolded dinners with retail executives. Additionally, the brand believes that it’s important for everyone to acknowledge that the CDC projects that visual impairment cases will double over the next 3 decades.9

Cleanlogic Sport Line with Braille Packaging 

Pictured: Cleanlogic Sport Line with Braille Packaging
Source: Cleanlogic

The #PullUpForChange Campaign

Uoma Beauty founder Sharon Chuter launched the #pullupforchange campaign on June 3rd, 2020, which called upon brands to release a statement of support for Black Lives Matter by making public the percentage of diverse employees within their ranks. The campaign asked consumers to refrain from buying products from brands until they respond.

Along with the call to action, Sharon also shared a video that relayed important statistics. She mentioned that, according to the Center for Talent Innovation, only 8% of corporate professionals and 3.2% of executives and senior-level managers are Black, as well as only 4 Fortune 500 CEOs.10

In response to the #pullupforchange hashtag, companies came forward with their statistics, even those that did not meet diversity/inclusivity muster within their business employment records. The significance of the hashtag, though, was that it enabled brands to transparently own up to their diversity shortcomings. Many acknowledged that they still needed to do a lot of work to be more representative, diverse, and inclusive. And notably, it helped spawn action plans for companies to develop anti-racist training, hiring, and leadership policies.

Brands that shared statistics in response to the #pullupforchange hashtag include:

  • Kylie Cosmetics: 13% Black, 47% BIPOC (Black and Indigenous people of color), 53% White, 100% Women Identifying
  • Ulta Beauty: 18% Black Board Members, 13% Black Leadership Team Employees, 6% Black Associated
  • MAC Cosmetics: 18% Black Representation Across the Organization, 17% in the Executive Team, 4.5% at Director Level or Above
  • Becca Cosmetics: 12% Black Employees, 14% Black Executive Officers, 3% at Executive Level or Above
  • Mented Cosmetics: 100% Black Employees, 75% Black Board Members
  • Sephora: 14% Black Representation
  • Urban Skin Rx: 64% Black Employees

Over 70 brands released statements for the #pullupforchange campaign. You can view all the brands that answered Sharon’s call to action here.

What The Human Beauty Movement Is Doing To Support Inclusivity

Even though The Human Beauty Movement, parent company of Humanist Beauty, is founded by an Asian American woman, and even though the company’s founding principles are based upon honoring all humans regardless of color, gender, age, creed, status, or ability, we know that statements are not enough. Currently, the leadership team is undergoing an intensive six-week anti-racist training program led by Hella Social Impact to develop a crystal-clear action plan to ensure the company has policies in place that are founded on justice, equality, diversity, and inclusivity.

The Human Beauty Movement and Humanist Beauty will always stand for radical inclusivity, yet we know we must deliver against our words. In order to inspire all humans to be the best versions of themselves, we must ensure that all stakeholders – from our vendors, to our leadership teams, to our employees, to our partners, to our customers – feel valued, seen, and heard.

We invite you to join us on the journey and hold us accountable. We will always strive to do better and to be better when it comes to contributing to a kinder, more inclusive future for all.

 

 

References:

https://www.mediaed.org/discussion-guides/Killing-Us-Softly-4-Discussion-Guide.pdf [1]

https://www.beautypackaging.com/contents/view_experts-opinion/2021-07-06/diversity-and-inclusivity-in-beauty-405565/ [2][3]

https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-strategies/video/youtube-history/ [4]

https://nationalpost.com/life/fashion-beauty/hiring-rupaul-was-just-one-of-macs-bold-progressive-moves-now-frank-toskan-finally-gets-his-dues [5]

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/infographic-disability-impacts-all.html [6]

https://www.beautypackaging.com/contents/view_experts-opinion/2021-07-06/diversity-and-inclusivity-in-beauty-405565/ [7]

http://universaldesign.ie/What-is-Universal-Design/ [8]

https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/risk/burden.htm  [9]

https://www.talentinnovation.org/_private/assets/BeingBlack-KeyFindings-CTI.pdf [10]

 

Let’s Get Familiar With The CROWN Act

Black hairstyles have always been highly policed in America, whether it’s in classrooms or the workplace. For black people, though, hair isn’t “just hair;” it’s a piece of their ancestral history, and the unfortunate truth is that the locs, braids, and coils they proudly wear are usually deemed “unprofessional” or “unkempt.” To eliminate hair discrimination, many cities and states have begun passing The CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) to address and bring awareness to the issue.

What is The CROWN Act?

In June 2019, California made headlines for becoming the first state to outlaw the discrimination of individuals based on their hair by unanimously passing the SB 188 bill. The law, also known as the CROWN Act, “prohibits race-based hair discrimination, which is the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles including braids, locs, twists, or Bantu knots.”1 It was signed into law in California on July 3rd, 2019, and expanded the definition of race in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and state Education Code.

The CROWN Act was created in 2019 by Dove and the CROWN Coalition, in partnership with then State Senator Holly J. Mitchell of California, to ensure protection against discrimination based on race-based hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles in the workplace and public schools.2 Since its introduction, the CROWN Act has galvanized support from federal and state legislatures in the movement to end hair discrimination worldwide.

The CROWN Coalition

The CROWN Coalition is an alliance of organizations that are dedicated to the advancement of anti-discrimination legislation across the United States.3 The diverse array of organizations that make up the CROWN Coalition has aided in the monumental success of elevating the public narrative around this issue while inspiring a movement to bring awareness to end hair bias and discrimination.

According to its website, the CROWN Coalition’s purpose is to “create a world where Black lives are valued, respected, and free of oppressive systems.”4The CROWN Coalition is on a mission to dismantle structures of systematic racism that perpetuates social and economic disparities for Black people.5

The CROWN Coalition has over 60 members and supporters. While the list is continuously growing, here are a few organizations that make up the CROWN Coalition:

  • Dove
  • National Urban League
  • Color of Change
  • Curly Girl
  • The Women’s Foundation of California
  • Professional Beauty Association (PBA)
  • The National Hair Industry Convention
  • Berkeley City Council
  • And more.

The Dove Research Study for the CROWN Act

The CROWN research study was conducted in 2019 to identify the magnitude of racial discrimination that women experience within the workplace based on their natural hair. A survey of 1,017 Black women and 1,050 non-Black women with ages ranging from 25 to 64 was conducted, but to qualify for the study, the women must have been working full-time in an office or sales position in the past 6 months. According to Dove’s website, 92% of the non-Black sample of women were white.6

pie charts showing more black women work in a field setting than an office setting

Pictured: More Black women work in a field environment (sales) compared to non-Black women

Source: Dove

Throughout the study, Black women were made more aware of the corporate grooming policy than non-Black women. Hair/appearance policies were given to Black women at a significantly higher rate (22%) than non-Black women (17%). Researchers also found that 35% of Black women compared to 23% of non-Black women received company grooming standards. In addition, 32% of non-Black women mentioned they never actually received the corporate grooming policy compared to 18% of Black women.

bar chart showing when black women vs non-black women received policy on appropriate hairstyles

Source: Dove

Dove took the study a step further by testing out job readiness associated with Black women’s hairstyles. They were consistently ranked lower or “less ready” by those who took the survey.

a pictoral representation of blackk hairstyles and sentiments of professionalism

Source: Dove

Where Does Your State Stand With The CROWN Act?

The status of The CROWN Act is constantly changing throughout the 50 states. Since California’s 2019 ruling, though, many more states have followed suit and passed The CROWN Act. Keeping up with the progression of The CROWN Act in each state is a great way to stay up-to-date on this pressing issue and show your support.

The States Where The CROWN Act is Law

  • California (July 3, 2019)
  • New York (July 12, 2019)
  • New Jersey (December 19, 2019)
  • Virginia (March 3, 2020)
  • Colorado (March 6, 2020)
  • Washington (March 19, 2020)
  • Maryland (May 8, 2020)
  • Connecticut (March 4, 2021)
  • New Mexico (April 5, 2021)
  • Delaware (April 13, 2021)
  • Nebraska (May 5, 2021)

The States Where The CROWN Act Has Been Filed or Pre-Filed

  • Utah
  • Arizona (The CROWN Act is law in Tucson)
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Kansas
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Missouri (The CROWN Act is law in Kansas City and St. Louis)
  • Kentucky (The CROWN Act is law in Clayton County, Stockbridge, and East Point)
  • South Carolina
  • Florida (The CROWN Act is law in Broward County)
  • Vermont
  • New Hampshire
  • Massachusetts

States Where The CROWN Act Has Been Filed or Passed

  • Wisconsin (The CROWN Act is law in Dane County)
  • Michigan (The CROWN Act is law in Ann Arbor, Ingham County, and Genesee County)
  • Illinois
  • Pennsylvania (The CROWN Act is law in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh)
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina (The CROWN Act is law in Orange County, Durham, and Greensboro)
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Hawaii
  • Alaska
  • Ohio (The CROWN Act is law in Akron, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Newburgh)

States Where The CROWN Act Has Been Filed But Did Not Pass

  • Minnesota
  • Iowa
  • Texas
  • South Dakota
  • Arizona
  • Utah
  • Kansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Missouri
  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana (The CROWN Act is law in New Orleans and Shreveport)
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee
  • Mississippi
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • South Carolina
  • West Virginia (The Crown Act is law in Beckley, Charleston, Lewisburg, and Morgantown)
  • Vermont
  • Maine

How You Can Support The CROWN Act

It’s time to raise our voices and bring awareness to the unfair discrimination many women of different nationalities face due to their hairstyles. Here are a few ways you can show your support for The CROWN Act:

1.    Introduce The Crown Act to Your State

Did you know that you can introduce The CROWN Act to your state’s legislatures? By visiting The CROWN Act’s website, you can view sample bills, such as California’s, to help you get started on your legislative language. Plus, you can contact Adjoa B. Asamoah, a member of The CROWN Act, to learn more about how she can support your efforts to file The CROWN Act in your state. Good luck!

2.    Join The CROWN Coalition

The CROWN Coalition consists of advocacy and non-governmental organizations that seek to end hair discrimination. If your organization is interested in joining the CROWN Coalition, you can visit their website for more information.

3. Sign a Petition

The CROWN Coalition created a petition to end hair discrimination in the workplace, schools, and pools. By signing the petition, you’ll help urge legislatures to vote yes on The CROWN Act. The CROWN Coalition’s goal is to reach 500,000 signatures, and as of a month ago, it’s been signed 300,000 times. The goal has almost been met! Sign the petition here.

Humanist Beauty Supports The CROWN Act

Humanist Beauty strives to always foster inclusion among all humans regardless of color, gender, creed, age, status, ability, sexual preference, or hairstyle. Our goal is to encourage self-love, wellness, and radical inclusivity for all. The CROWN Act is crucial to changing the way natural hair is perceived and judged in the workplace and everyday life. We fully lend our support to The CROWN Act to diminish discrimination based on something as beautiful and unique as hair.

—-

 

References:

https://www.thecrownact.com/about [1][2][3]

https://www.crowncoalition.com/ [4][5]

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5edc69fd622c36173f56651f/t/5edeaa2fe5ddef345e087361/1591650865168/Dove_research_brochure2020_FINAL3.pdf [6]

The Nature of Diversity

I can’t imagine a world painted only one color, a year of eating only one food, a song written with only one note, or a language based on only one word. Our world comes alive when it is abundant with color, our palette sated with varying cuisines, our senses lifted with a symphony of sound, our understanding deepened with the gift of prose. Likewise, I can’t imagine a world where everyone wishes to be like everyone else, or where everyone wishes others to be exactly like them. Humanity would be exceedingly mundane if we were awash with the same skin, hair, clothes, language, thoughts, and beliefs.

Our planet is blessed with abundant diversity in the masterful complexity of the natural biosphere. Nature works intricately yet harmoniously to spring life, live life, take life, and cycle through life again and again. It has been this way for billions of years. Yet we as a human species, having only inhabited earth a mere fraction of its existence, have blazed a path that could very well lead to our own destruction, both ecologically and socially.

The Quest for More

Why has civilization evolved in such a way as to potentiate our own demise? Why do we think we are racing to the top when in fact we are digging ourselves to the bottom? Why do we preach unity but practice divisiveness? I have a theory. Somewhere along the line, as the story of Adam and Eve goes, humans wanted more. More food, more wealth, more knowledge, more than we already had. That wanting of more left us with less. But alas, the desire was ingrained in our nature. We lusted for more, so we took what was not ours. We craved more, so we over-plowed and over-harvested. We demanded more, so we over-produced.

In the wanting and the seeking of more, we perceived others also wanted more, and so they became our enemies when resources were thought to be scarce. We began loathing our enemies and sought to conquer them for more resources. Defeating our enemies gave us power. It inflated our egos, fueled perceptions of supremacy, and incentivized us to expand, dominate, and gain even more. We created religious beliefs to indoctrinate followers to our cause, intensifying the drive for power and expansion, vilifying those that were foreign or non-believing. And so, the fear of strangers, the threat of foreigners, and the persecution of alternate believers were traits that evolutionarily seeped into human DNA to become instinctual. Again, just my theory.

Welcome to America

Fast forward thousands of years, where a young nation is formed with values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This nation promises equality and justice for all who arrive at its shores seeking refuge from oppression. It is the land of hopes, dreams, and opportunity for anyone who seeks it. What divine values! But oh, how they conflict with human nature! It is no wonder it has taken hundreds of years and may take many more, to undo the inherent coding that is hardwired into our human genes. Notwithstanding, what an extraordinary opportunity we are faced with today! We have the challenge to rewrite our code, and we are making significant progress doing so.

Shifting the Code

Unfortunately, changing code often requires tremendous effort and sacrifice. It has taken landmark, pivotal moments in time to create momentous shifts to undo what has been entrenched within our cells. It has taken Civil War and World War II and Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. and, yes, George Floyd to edge an entire nation, individual by individual, towards inborn tolerance, acceptance, and inclusivity. I believe the cumulative sacrifices of those champions who have come before us and the heartbreak of present-day story awareness are working their gradual magic to effect meaningful change.

How can we continue to shift our code more peacefully, without war and strife? The only answer is LOVE. Love, compassion, empathy, and kindness – are the antidotes for intolerance and hate. That’s why it’s written to love thine enemies. That’s why former FLOTUS’ advice, “When they go low, we go high” is so crucial. We must retrain ourselves not to return hate with hate, but with love. We must live every moment of every day by the code that every human being is worthy, equal, and deserving of respect. Education, habituation, and action born out of love can catalyze this indelible human change we seek.

Working Towards Change

Shining a light on our similarities and commonalities helps build bridges. The Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have done unto you) is perhaps the most important life lesson we could practice. Disagreement will happen when any two people communicate, but continuing to hold the other party in high esteem must be ingrained until it becomes second nature.

Changing the opinion of a person set in his ways is not easy, but not impossible. Almost everyone can empathize. Not everyone realizes when he is the problem. That’s why two-way communication is so important. The feedback that a certain remark, gesture, or behavior comes across as insensitive or hurtful is valuable. Believing that people are truly trying their best paves the way for forgiveness and positive outcomes.

When working through any cellular change, physical and emotional unrest can arise. Oftentimes, people need a release for pent-up aggression, frustration, anger, grief, or disappointment. That’s when exercise, meditation, therapy, and even sports become helpful. It is important to have a conduit for stored energy that would otherwise be kept in reserve or released less productively or healthily.

Conclusion

We are all human. As such, we are prone to conscious and unconscious bias, mistakes, imperfections, flaws, and lapses in judgment. But we also have the capacity for great love and forgiveness. We can make tomorrow better than today and much better than yesterday if we choose to change ourselves and cooperate with others. The inherent competitiveness that has been so pervasive in our culture has helped our nation excel in so many areas yet fall short in so many others.

Should a society completely do away with competition? I think not. Yet competition becomes disabling when parties spend so much effort warring with each other that there is no more energy reserved for meaningful progress. We have come so far. Yet we have so far to go. Perhaps with greater awareness of the benefits and beauty of diversity, we will come to a place of greater harmony among all people. When we come together for a common cause, we are truly at our best. When we act out of love and concern for each other, that’s when we shine most brightly.