If you’re a member of a recognized minority — African American, Latino, Asian, Jew, Muslim, Native American or LGBT — you’ve more than likely encountered some form of discrimination in your life. From personal anti-Semitism experiences, I assure you it’s not pleasant to be on the receiving end.
But there’s another minority that gets negligible consideration or empathy and, since I’m a lifelong member, it’s time to put an end to that neglect. After centuries of oppression, this unfounded prejudice that stems from ancient superstitions, including devil worship, should cease.
Are you even aware of the sporadic discrimination and disadvantages left-handers face every day? If you’re right-handed, you probably never even thought about it, but it has existed for a long time. In fact, the Latin word for “left” is sinister.
Stop snickering. This isn’t funny — unless you’re a right-handed bigot.
Growing up I learned that a maternal uncle did everything with his left hand, except write. When I learned why, I was astonished. As an elementary and high school student in Brooklyn, my uncle’s left hand was tied behind his back, forcing him to write with his right hand. Apparently, even in the 20th century, it was acceptable and not deemed cruel or unusual punishment, as surely as it seems to this left-hander. My maternal Polish grandparents likely didn’t object since it was a custom “in the old country” to convert left-handers.
It is estimated that about 12 percent of the world’s population is left-handed. That’s almost 600 million people — almost twice the U.S. population! Roughly ten percent of Americans are lefties, though that number is considerably higher when it comes to politics.
My consciousness about left-handed bias was underscored in the Army. During basic training, I learned to shoot a rifle, but I quickly realized the M-14, the weapon of choice for infantry recruits in at the time, ejected bullet casings to the right. Therefore, if a left-hander wasn’t alert, he'd get singed when the heated casing struck his face or hand. My unsympathetic instructor told me “to deal with it.” I guess I did as I subsequently earned a sharpshooter medal.
I’ve grown accustomed to the disadvantages that left-handers face everyday yet they persist and are largely overlooked, though some products are specifically produced for lefties. Many products are geared for righties, like door handles, banisters, school desks, can openers, power tools and scissors. Items, such as corkscrews and light bulbs, require left-to-right wrist movements that would seem uncomfortable if lefties didn’t have the flexibility they become accustomed to with frequent use.
A 19th-century Italian physician, Cesare Lombroso, identified left-handedness “as evidence of savagery and criminality.” His views were widely refuted, but, added to the traditional stigma lefties encounter.
In many cultures, left-handers are treated with disdain. In some languages, such as French, Danish, Italian, German and Russian, left-handedness has a negative connotation. The French word for left is “gauche,” which means awkward or clumsy; in Italian left is “mancini,” which translates to crooked or maimed, and in Russian left means sneaky. In English, “left” comes from the Old English, which means “weak.”
The expression “to have two left feet” refers to clumsiness, particularly in dancing.
The term leftovers is a derogatory term that implies food is no longer fresh.
A left-handed compliment is faint praise. An elementary school teacher told my mother, my handwriting was good — for a left-hander.
Feminists can’t be too pleased that in some religions, when half-male, half-female images are depicted, the female is always on the left.
In contrast, the words to describe ‘right’ often mean straight, erect, just, correct, law and upright.
The custom of shaking hands began in medieval times. When two people met they would hold each other’s right hand because that was the preferred hand to carry a weapon. As a result, lefties could not be trusted because they would shake their enemy’s right hand and possibly hold a sword behind them with the left.
Even the Bible disparages lefties. A line in Genesis reads: “The right hand confers blessing and signifies strength, while the left hand is treacherous and deadly."
Another goes: “A place at one’s right hand is the seat of honor and dignity.” Does that mean no dessert if you’re seated on the left?
There’s also this familiar passage from Luke: “In like manner, both the passivity and inferiority of the left hand are apparent…forbidding us to let our left hand know what the right hand is doing.”
Those biblical biases ultimately led to witch hunts and condemnation of lefties in the Dark Ages.
In baseball, however, left-handers are valuable commodities. Two of the game’s all-time great pitchers are left-handers Sandy Koufax and Whitey Ford. Though right-handed pitchers dominate the sport, most teams stock rotations with a lefty or two.
In boxing, lefties tend to have an advantage because opponents are not accustomed to facing a southpaw. In the film, “Rocky,” the title character was a southpaw and, in one scene, explains the origin of the term.
FYI, some notable left-handers throughout world history include Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Mahatma Gandhi, Aristotle, Beethoven, Albert Einstein, Billy the Kid, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Julia Roberts, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Paul Simon, half of The Beatles (Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr) and puppeteer Jim Henson.
Barack Obama is left-handed, though Tea Partiers, conservatives and most Republicans have considered him a lefty since he was elected. Other left-handed presidents were Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Bush 41 and Bill Clinton.
Left-handers are generally more intelligent, better looking, imaginative and multi-talented than right-handers. Just ask any left hander!
Nevertheless, the time for even-handedness is at hand and there’s no better time for changes to commence than August 13th — International Left-handers’ Day. There are no parades, no celebrations and it gets scant recognition. It is merely a day for lefties to remind everyone else that in a right-handed world, lefties deserve rights!
The next time you see a lefty being ridiculed or clumsily struggling, remember that there, but for genes, goes you.