Do the Left Thing

TRIGGER WARNING!

It was one of the coldest days of this winter past, and I was hurrying along the Diag to class. The blistering cold did not turn my eyes from all the white privilege falling around me. All those white snowflakes falling thick upon the autumn leaves, burying their colors. Majoring in womyn’s studies, I’ve learned that oppression comes in many forms. Sometimes we fail to notice it because it’s just everywhere – just like that white snow.

As I walked, I slipped on a patch of wet leaves lining the steps of the Hatcher, and I fell forward headfirst onto the steps of the library. If it hadn’t been for the left hand that I thrust out right before my fall, I would have ended up just another statistic in the war on colored people. As it were, a white cis-gendered hetero upper-class man came down the steps just as I was falling. He looked at me with that white man’s burden face that I see too often on this racialized campus.

“Cold, isn’t it?”

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Behind his words I sensed a patronizing sneer, as if he expected me to be a spokespersyn for my whole race. He offered his hand to help me up, and I thought to myself how this might be a manifestation of the patriarchy patronizing me. I doubt he would’ve said those violent words had I been white, but he would take any opportunity to patronize a colored m@n or womyn. People on this campus always box others in based on race.  Triggered, I waved his hand aside and got up of my own accord.

He was taken aback. Suddenly I felt I was taking back some of that lost agency that colonialism had robbed my people of. I felt like Aamir Khan in Lagaan. That’s right, that white man wasn’t about to tax me. I didn’t even want to be that white. I turned on my heels and showed him my back.

He shouted after me, “I was just trying to do the right thing!”

The right thing… The right thing… I became so aware at that moment of the left hand that I had thrust out before falling, and suddenly my humanity was reduced to my handydnyss. The words rang in my eardrums, and my blood throbbed. This was the microaggression that broke the gender-neutral camel’s back. But unlike other microaggressions, this one triggered a shift in my worldview. All this while, I had been obsessed only with the color on this campus. All of a sudden, though, that became a side issue. All those race-based microaggressions now seemed trivial. I had, I realized, forgotten to think intersectionally.

The biggest obstacle to equality today is our barbaric attitude toward people of left-handydnyss. It’s a tragedy that I, a member of the left-handed community, had little to no idea of the atrocious persecution that we are dealt every day by institutions that are deeply embedded in society. So deeply embedded, and so ever-present, that we don’t even notice them.

But then I think to the word sinister. In our English, it means evil. But that’s because it used to mean left-handed in the Latin, and left-handyd people, especially those of color, were considered evil. In organic chemistry, we are taught R and S distinctions. I realize now that whenever we came across a left-handyd enantiomer in the coursepack, I could just feel the patronizing gaze of the right-handed members of the class on the back of my neck. And now I finally understand why.

And the University of Michigan does literally nothing to combat the countless instances of violence we encounter every day. Whenever I walk into a classroom, I can hardly find a left-handyd desk to sit in. In big lecture halls, I’m met with countless stares as I walk up the aisle along the left-handyd column. The University cannot claim to be my school while it continues to oppress me. We need to find allies with other minority groups and work against the establishment. This campus must be at the forefront of progress in America.

Yes, our president might be left-handyd. But that does not represent the pathetic living conditions of so many left-handyd people around the world, and even here in the United States, who are constantly threatened simply because they write or eat with a different hand. Even today, left-handyd individu@ls are paid 68 cents to the dollar that right-handed individuals are paid.

It is 2014, people. Still, change starts with awareness. Until right-handed people, especially cis-gendered hetero white males in salmon shorts, do not start checking their privilege, we will continue to live in inequality.

No longer will I persevere in patience. No longer will I suffer in silence. I am a left-handyd individu@l, and my humanity needs be respected! The next time someone tells you to Do the right thing! turn around and flick them off with your left middle finger.

Do the left thing.

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About Omar Mahmood

Omar is the Editor of the Michigan Review. He wishes he lived two hundred years ago, although a log cabin in God's Country does have its merits. Omar may be reached at syedom@umich.edu. He tweets @Urdudervish.
  • FEMINISMLOL

    Ha Gay! dude did you really take womens studies as your major or was this like a huge joke?

  • groupthinker1984

    That was brilliant. I love the part where you discover privilege on a molecular level.

  • LightsOut

    This reminds me of that one time Indiana Jones was running away from the giant boulder! Great story Omar, I hope you find the hidden treasure someday.

  • christopher

    Just read this after reading Chait’s article. Such a great piece!!

  • notNEnice

    I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous!

  • Ian Abbey

    I can’t believe people were offended by this. I thought SOP when triggered involved running to a safe space and hyperventilating into a paper bag.

  • Chris Anderson

    macro-narcissisms?

  • John Smith

    I’m ambidextrous which means I identify as a lefty. When I’m called Southpaw by people that assume I only use my left hand I get so angry and hurt. Do they think that someone just put a pencil in my left hand and it started writing by itself? And least Target lets me choose which side of the aisle I can walk down…even if that means running into people I have a right to do it.

  • Jdawg Laurence

    The tolerant left!

  • Aimee

    The most closed of all minds can be found teaching and administrating on college campuses. Of course, the smartest kids laugh at them all in secret and for every loud mouth liberal student, there are five rolling their eyes. The joke is on the liberals who are oblivious to it all, lol!!

  • Mike

    TRIGGER WARNING! Hahaha. Excellent way to start your article. I laughed, I cried, it was better than cats.

  • Omar you are a tool, I wish you would’ve cracked your head open on the steps of the library

  • etar

    My thoughts exactly! I graduated winter 2011. Ah, Ann Arbor’s hypocritical liberalism. I remember how whenever my car needed a jump, no one would stop and help, even with the cables hooked up and ready to go for 15 seconds of someone’s time. Truly looking out for the other guy.

  • disillusioned

    Awesome and hilarious!!! Props to you and all the other college students who think for themselves and stand up for their beliefs.

  • disillusioned

    Awesome and hilarious!! Props to you and all the other college students who think for themselves and refuse to conform to this ridiculous PC movement.

  • Joe

    Great satire and great writing. It is a shame that the coddled narcissist fellow classmates attacked and berated this young man.

  • Problem is that it’s punching down.

    You gotta be really careful with that kind of comedy.

  • Roch Yang

    Omar Mahmood should write for the Wesleyan Review or at least write the sequel to the comedic film based on Wes: “PCU”.

  • Roch Yang

    Excellent, Smithers, excellent!

  • Sifferz

    As a bleeding-heart liberal hippie/commie bastard, I would like to apologize for my end of the political spectrum being incapable of taking a joke, even all these months later.

  • Ian Keeler

    “cis-gendered hetero white males in salmon shorts” … too good!

  • TeachESL

    Excellent, Omar! Saw you on ‘Stossel’ this morning. Seem you’ve had the last laugh. Tell me, is ‘Mad’ Magazine still around? Perfect venue for you to write in.

  • Paul S. Heckbert

    Very funny! You have a bright future, Omar! (I found this via The Atlantic article, The Coddling of the American Mind, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/)

  • Rosa Lee Klaneski

    trip report.

  • Hobo

    As a 2012 graduate of this fine institution, I have to ask, what the hell happened to my school in the last 3 years? I cannot comprehend how there can be such a wide chasm between what I experienced and the experience of those that came 3-5 years after me.

    Props to you, Omar, for being the voice of reason in this age of armchair outrage. These spoiled youngsters will have to learn the hard way that not everyone agrees with your opinions. And if you have to cry into your pillow at night after someone calls you a bad word during the day, then maybe you are not ready for the real world yet. Perhaps it’s good, then, that these people are still in college, getting ready for the real world.

    tl;dr how did everyone become a bunch of f#cking p#ssies overnight?

  • wessexmom

    I completely agree that youth IS rebellion–always has been. Rebellion is the getaway car for leaving ones parents and searching for ways to express new ideas (traditionally by way of music, literature, etc.) and leave a unique generational id.

    But how do hyper emotional sensitivity and micro-aggressions expressed by way of social media set your generation apart? Just curious. Not saying you’re wrong, but I don’t see the connection. The medium is certainly new and different but the message is not. (Earlier gens spent endless hours talking constantly on the phone; current gen spends endless hours communicating through twitter, etc. etc. Nothing new about that.)

    Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but THIS satirical article seems to have been generated the old-fashioned way–with sharp writing and editing skills. Some things NEVER do change.

  • عمر محمود

    It might well be a side-product of social media. Youth is rebellion, and our generation has something in social media that previous generations did not.

  • wessexmom

    That anyone can find a way to feel aggrieved if they’re micro-sensitive to every tiny slight or sensation that the universe is not ALWAYS in perfect alignment with their personal sensibilities.
    The purpose was also to be funny, as in LOL, ha-ha, witty, ironic and wry!

  • wessexmom

    This is very funny but at the same time very sad in that such a witty piece of silly satire was the target of so much vitriol. In the end was it a micro-aggression inside a micro-aggression inside a micro-aggression–a la Stephen Colbert’s (seemingly) endless series of portraits?
    (By the way, my daughter graduated from UM Ann Arbor in 2009 and never witnessed any of this. This movement seems to have grown in perfect sync with Twitter.)

  • CarbonaNotGlue

    This is hilarious! You would have been perfect at the National Lampoon.

  • Jack F.

    Amazing piece. Kudos to you.

  • عمر محمود

    Fun fact: I’m not actually left-handyd. But I do sympathize with your struggle.

  • Cody Davis

    I think it’s important to differentiate between the social justice movement and the overly PC element in the social justice movement. I’m a dedicated leftist, but fuck being PC and squabbling over minutiae.

  • عمر محمود

    It was a frivolous satire of the social justice movement. Precisely a well researched joke.

  • kevin

    First, this is impressive because the writer used all the terms correctly.
    He understands what they mean, so this is at the very least a well researched joke.
    It’s drawn out but he doesn’t go for any easy blows. It’s precise satire.

    What’s the goal of this, though? To prove what point, if any?

  • ArnoldLayne

    As a fellow left-handyd, I stand (or sit) with you.

  • Jeff

    Great piece, almost had me there a few times haha. Great way of concisely exposing the ridiculous nature of ‘micro-aggressions’. Some say micro-aggressions, I say ‘mega-narcissisms’!

  • Richard Sackler

    A nice piece of satire in the journalistic traditions of two or three centuries. Sad that it was a source of so much grief for you.