Why haven't we had something like #RespectAllPeople? Don't get me wrong, I love #RespectAllWomen, but when are we ever going to learn to finally look past gender and labels -- the barriers that hold us back -- and just say "respect"?
I've seen women and girls who demand respect but don't give it back (to either gender). I've seen men and boys do the same. I've seen celebrities who ask for respect but have forgotten how to return it -- just like countless hordes of writers, journalists, politicians, CEOs, doctors and authority figures.
I'm tired of people yelling over each other and insisting, "Respect me!" as if only they themselves deserve such an opportunity. I'm tired of all the disrespect given to people of differing views and values. No matter who we are, we all have problems and obstacles to face every day. So why add to our struggles by bringing each other down?
You shouldn't treat other people like they're below you. It doesn't make you a better person -- nor do you gain more respect. All it does is prove that you are the one with the broken character.
Let's just respect people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, native language, appearance, income and so on. Let's respect people for having the confidence and faith in their opinions to speak up and share their views, rather than disregard them for simply having a different opinion. (When is the last time you saw or were part of a discussion in which people of different views did NOT treat each other condescendingly and did NOT use profanity or name-calling? When was the last time such people simply appreciated an enlightening discussion based on differential ideas?)
Let's just respect all people for just being who they are and for living or having lived. Let's just respect people and lead happier, more fulfilled lives that aren't marred by the exhausting practice of judging everyone we see.
Why can't we just do that?
I can't guarantee I'll respect all actions, but I'll respect all people. You're struggling to get by and make a niche for yourself? I respect you for trying and for facing your daily obstacles. You're taking time to discover who you are rather than continue to lead a life your family concocted? Kudos to you for realizing you're not living your own life and taking the frightening initiative to change that. You did some very bad things but owned up to it and are taking your due? I may not respect whatever action you committed, but I respect you for owning up and doing what you can to right your wrongs. As for any deceased who passed via suicide -- I can still respect you for having lived and for all the efforts you made to fight for your life.
I respect you regardless if you're female, male, transgender, gay, lesbian, Caucasian, Asian, African, et cetera. I don't care if you're a Sunni or a Shiite or even if you're homeless. I don't even care if you don't respect me.
I see everyone as equals.
People are people, and people deserve respect. People deserve to be treated like human beings. Don't treat people like street trash.
And to those who say, "respect is earned," I propose a different motto. Respect everyone and treat them accordingly as fellow human beings, but one can appreciate the line between respect and esteem, which I view as a higher form of respect. Respect should be given freely. Esteem is earned. You can treat someone with respect without holding them in esteem. (For instance, I respect all of our presidents current and past for having the gall to take on perhaps the hardest job in America, but I don't necessarily hold them all in esteem.)
In the end, this kind of widespread respect is the key to global empowerment. I'm big on teen empowerment, but I'm also a huge advocate of empowering ALL people. I support any empowerment message for any group wholeheartedly, whether for breastfeeding moms or gays or minorities caught in the debilitating re-segregation of our public schools. Why? Because I believe we truly are equal, and I believe in respect.
This is what gives empowerment its true meaning. Empowerment is not about one-upping the opposite sex or a different ethnicity or religious group. It's about accepting equality and actually giving everyone the power and ability to be truly equal. It's about recognizing we all deserve a voice to be not only heard but listened to. It's about giving people equal opportunities -- especially the chance to stop feeling useless and thrown aside. Empowerment stems from our ability to respect each other's rights. It comes from our ability to respect our similarities and differences in all aspects, from views to personalities to lifestyle.
To sum up: Empowerment is born when we accept that no matter our differences, we are all equal and deserve respect. Empowerment flourishes as we encourage others to acknowledge the fundamental basis of respect.
This is why I believe we should respect all people. Respect goes a long way in moving old mountains founded on outdated beliefs. Respect fosters empowerment, which in turn encourages greater, widespread respect. Simply put: Empowerment is about respect. There can be no empowerment without that first basic step.
And the funny thing about respect? It's a valuable gift to bestow, but it doesn't cost you a thing or detract from you in any way. If anything, giving respect only adds to your character in this beautiful, priceless, win-win exchange.
Respect ALL people for true empowerment today and in our future. Because without it, we as a society will find it nearly impossible to make progress or make change.
Special thanks to Jackson Barnett for peer reviewing this piece.