I was in a discussion meeting, and one of the topics was about miners, mines, and their future. In a comment, one member called the miners “stupid.” It troubled me deeply, and I felt I had to know more about miners and what might have caused such a harsh statement. I started my little research right there on the spot (was there life before Google?)
What I learned is that miners are thoroughly trained by the mines, because it is a hazardous job having a high rate of fatalities. Nevertheless, in many families, it is traditional to become a miner, and there is a great deal of pride. I felt compelled to tell the group that I do not believe we should call anyone, or any group “stupid,” which implies that there is little hope for betterment. I explained that I prefer uneducated, for example, although in the case of the miners, I do not believe that applies. It is a struggling industry, but not caused by the miners.
Why do I have such a strong opinion about this? Growing up in post-war Germany, there was poverty, and I learned young not to judge by appearances. Lacking education doesn’t make someone stupid; it just makes them less knowledgeable. We may not know why people are where they are, but I feel it is wrong to express a blanket opinion and attach a label to all of them.
I have never looked down on someone. I feel everyone deserves respect. Judging and labeling a whole group of people because of their work and their appearance seems superficial and inappropriate.
The gentleman who made this remark asked me after the meeting for a short personal talk, and it was very enlightening. He admitted that he never thought about the meaning of the word “stupid,” it had just been a mindless word thrown out without considering what impact it could have. We both smiled that it took someone like me, an immigrant, who never met or seen a miner, to point it out. We also dwelled on how often we use words that sting, hurt, or are not what we mean. I know this incident taught me to be more careful in my choice of words. There is always room for learning and growing!