A couple of weeks ago, Harvard University graduate, Claira Janover (also known as Harvard Girl), posted a TikTok video that consequently led to her being dismissed from her prospect position at Deloitte. In her video, she made a hyperbolic analogy to demonstrate her support for the Black community and why “all lives matter” is a dismissal of the genuine racially-motivated issues Black people and BIPOC face daily. However, she poorly articulated this analogy which was instead perceived as a threat. She has since deleted the video as a result of the reactions (and consequences), but I did have a chance to view it from others who had copied and distributed the video. Here’s the quote:
“The sheer entitled cauc-asity to say ‘all lives matter,’ Ima stab you, Ima, Ima stab you. And while you’re struggling and bleeding out, Ima show you my paper cut and say, ‘my cut matters too.'”Claira Janover
OK. How do we unpack this? First, let’s all agree that this is not how you support BIPOC. Please, please, PLEASE, don’t be this stupid. Even if you’re a person of colour, this is NOT how we support each other. Second, whether she likes it or not, believes it or not, Claira was extremely arrogant and presumptuous to assume that her sense of humour would be a) well received and b) understood. Even I had a hard time to see this video as a joke, and as a linguist I can appreciate different forms of expression. The body language, the emphasis on the word stab, and the fury in her tone suggested to me that if it were legal, she’d certainly stab someone if it meant proving her point. On the other hand, being familiar with the paper cut analogy, I can certainly appreciate what she was trying to do.
It seems like we live in a society where we constantly feel the need to attack, attack and attack people in an effort to convince them our views are right and we’re better than them for being right. I can’t stress enough how counterproductive that is. In addition to this aggressive behaviour, the anonymity aspect of social media and technology gives us the courage to be offensive all the time; something Philip Zimbardo had researched in a more physical reality is now being projected in a virtual reality (read, All Lives Matter… lol).
It seems that this aggressive behaviour is mostly displayed by post-secondary university students and university graduates regardless of their political affiliations. Many people assume that we graduates are all liberals (I’m taking accountability for this too). That’s a bull to the shit, shit to the bull no for those who think that. You assume most are because liberal graduates are really (I mean, really) loud, but they’re not all alt-left, social justice warriors. However, we can be SO arrogant, obnoxious and act like know-it-alls. And sometimes, it’s hard to accept that after all these years of education and all that money spent, people would still dismiss our views nonchalantly and call us inexperienced. Today, I’d like to explore the reasons why we graduates are so full of ourselves sometimes and how this blinds us from real life consequences of our actions.
Why are we so arrogant?
There are many reasons why we’re arrogant but I’m going to paint you a picture with a prime reason that eventually creates a ripple.
Since I can remember, my parents insisted that going to university was the ultimate goal to being successful and rich. They were counting on my siblings and I to go to university to pull them out of poverty. As immigrants trapped in the poverty blackhole with too much pride to accept a welfare cheque, it was very hard for my parents to make ends meet let alone splurge on a few luxuries. Their entire lives were dedicated to making sure my siblings and I had the tools we needed to make it to university, to get a six-figure salary job and to lift them out of poverty. This was their investment. My parents are not the only parents who live for their children and invest in them. What these parents have in common is the constant drilling in their kids’ heads that the only way to garner respect is to go to university; specifically, becoming a doctor, engineer, dentist, lawyer, or pharmacist. Imagine what it does to someone hearing from their parents for 18 years that absolute ascension, success and family honour would be achieved exclusively by going to university. Anything else would be shameful and a disappointment.
Picture this: As an 18 year old who has been accepted to one of the most reputable universities in the country, you can’t help but be proud of such an accomplishment and feel a little… better than those who lost the competition. Your parents have been sticking it to their siblings, competing with them on whose kid has the highest grades, is going to which university, and what they plan on studying, and you can’t help but grin that you’ve made your parents proud. It’s innate; don’t try to deny it. You’re human. You walk into your classes with your head held high, your back straight and with this pompous attitude like you’re about to solve world hunger overnight. You picture yourself in four years landing some senior management position, or a professional in medicine or law. I’m being dramatic, but this is literally how it feels. The expectations are set so high, you can’t help but feel a euphoric high the whole time you’re in university anticipating that golden job.
Four years go by, maybe five, and you’re staring at that overpriced $35,000 (CAD) degree. It’s been three months since you graduated and you’re still living in your parents’ basement, jobless technically because there’s no way you’d admit to anyone you’re still working at a fast food restaurant flipping burgers for barely minimum wage. You feverishly apply for jobs in your field, but employers are asking for a minimum of 3 years of experience and dismissing your Honours Bachelor of Arts degree with high distinction. You don’t have the experience because you don’t have the job, but a recruiter sympathizes and tells you to start with data entry positions at minimum wage and work your way up. WHAT? That’s not right! If you wanted to work from the ground up, you’d have gone straight to the workforce after high school.
You scroll through your Facebook and see that Linda who opted to take a two-year program in college is now a Senior Human Resource Coordinator on her way to become a manager; yet you’re still flipping burgers with a university degree. You’re resentful of the workforce for not valuing you, you’re resentful of your parents for bringing your hopes up of how important of a person you were going to become, but even more annoyed with them for not understanding what you say; therefore, you’re not getting the validation you once did from your professors. Speaking of validation, you scroll some more and see a random post with people you don’t know debating on a subject with which you’re familiar because it is related to what you studied, so you decide to correct them. You were hoping to be appreciated but you came off as an arrogant know-it-all and this now turns into a full-blown escalated argument with name-calling and swearing. How would they know what your credentials are and why would anyone list their credentials on a social media post?
Because we were not prepared for the real world
The family nest and the education system in which we study and develop our skills can together be viewed as our security blanket. Your family shields you from the harsh realities of the world, and the education system promotes the best case scenario of your life that you don’t stop to wonder what the worst case scenario would look like. They reward you for anything you do and validate your feelings, your thoughts, ideas with no warning that life may not be as nice once you leave the nest; people may not be receptive to your views. You enter the world lacking tools and resources to help you cope with rejection and after so many years of hard work, blood, sweat and tears, and sacrificing your weekends and youth to get the education that is supposedly needed, there’s no denying you’ll be angry that your hopes and expectations were shockingly inaccurate. As a result, the desperation for validation blinds us of the consequences of our actions.
How do we remedy this?
- Teach our kids and youth that free speech does not mean free of consequences;
- Set the expectation for our kids and our youth that sometimes they will lose, and sometimes it will feel like they’re losing more than winning;
- There’s no shame in choosing not to pursue a university education; colleges are just as effective;
- As post-secondary or graduate students, stay in you lane: that is, talk about your expertise, but don’t pretend like you can teach an electrician a thing or two about electricity if you’re a history major; and
- As post-secondary or graduate students, stop attempting to take on every world problem; just because you went to university, doesn’t make you all-knowing. Stop, think, and ask yourself (for example), “What would be the consequences to say this in this way?”