Right-handers=Good; Left-handers=Evil

The dominant world enriches itself endlessly when it makes room for the less-dominant to have a voice. Those on the margins: left-handed, minority, poor, mentally and physically challenged, non-cis-gendered—anything that is different from the dominant, mainstream culture—have voices that must be heard and embraced.

The QUERTY keyboard was designed to keep right-handers from typing too fast but gave left-handers the advantage.
Photo credit: Adventures of KM&G-Morris via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Right-handers comprise 85-90% of human population. Many tools—table saws, scissors, manual can openers, for example—are nearly impossible for left handers to use properly.

Don’t believe me? All you right-handers out there: pick up a pair of scissors with your left hand and try to make them work. Just try it.

Right and left, good and evil

The words “right and left” also have interesting linguistic implications. In Latin, the word “sinister,” from which we obviously get the English “sinister,” originally meant left.  The Latin word for right is “dexter,” as in dexterous and skillful.

Many other languages have positive correlations for the concept of “right” and negative correlations for the concept of “left.”

I, of course, am profoundly left-handed. I cope with this dominant right handed world by routinely bumping into things, frustrating people who have to share a computer with me because I immediately put the mouse on the left of the keyboard, and avoiding power tools and kitchen implements.

Not all is bad for left-handers. Four of the last six US Presidents have been left handed. Left-handed baseball players have advantages. My left-handedness helped when I was learning biblical Hebrew. Reading and writing right to left instead of left to right was a piece of cake.

We left-handers have an advantage with the typical QWERTY keyboard. That layout was designed to keep right-handers from typing too fast and locking up the keys because 56% of the letters typed are done by the left hand. From the beginning, it turned out the left-handers were faster and more accurate typists.

Take that, you righties! We lefthanders can win speed contests there!

Spiral notebooks have to be turned the wrong way for left-handers to use.
Photo credit: Vassilis Online via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-SA

Being in a minority position affects everything

Even so, being in this minority, one that affects almost everything I do every day, colors my view of the world. For me, it is not a friendly world mechanically speaking. Most workspaces have arrangements awkward for me. School desks and spiral notebooks still give me nightmares.

I have to engage in too much energy-draining mental gymnastics to smooth out this awkwardness.

Now, no one on the dominant side, that is, the right-handed designers of all those workspaces and tools, set out intentionally to make life more complicated for us left-handers. They just don’t think about it at all.

With the vast majority of people being right-handed, it makes sense that most implements and spaces will cater to that dominance.

And that, the unthinking catering to the dominant, is what finally brings me to my point today.

A painting of depression by left-hander Pablo Picasso
Photo credit: pedrosimoes7 via VisualHunt.com / CC BY

Left-handers have made significant contributions to the world. Here are just a few whose left-handed lives have made indelible impressions: Leonardo Da Vinci; Michelangelo; Pablo Picasso; Julius Caesar; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Ludwig Van Beethoven; Winston Churchill; Alexander the Great; Joan of Arc; Marie Curie, Albert Einstein.

Perhaps the fact that the world didn’t work well for them helped hone their creative impulses. They were out of step. They didn’t do things normally.

The dominant world enriches itself endlessly when it makes room for the less-dominant to have a voice. Those on the margins: left-handed, minority, poor, mentally and physically challenged, non-cis-gendered—anything that is different from the dominant, mainstream culture—have voices that must be heard and embraced.

We impoverish ourselves politically, socially, and spiritually with a stance that there is no room for the ones who see life and events and shapes and sounds and music and art differently than we do.

We impoverish ourselves when we insist that there is only one right way to see or think or believe or sing or worship.

We impoverish ourselves spiritually when we deny that the creative energies of God must be diminished to accommodate only the dominant world.

For all of you “dominants” out there (and all of us are in one way or another), keep your ears open to the different and the offbeat.

Often the unexpected and often awkward movements and uncomfortable thoughts of the “sinister” give voice to God saying, “Pay attention. The Kingdom of Heaven has just shown up. Don’t miss it.”

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  • Linda Coleman Allen

    Great column. There are so many ways to see things, and we need to make room for all. Of course, we have to be careful of what we buy into, but everyone deserves a chance.

  • Brandon Roberts

    not gonna lie never heard people say left handed people are unironically in my lifetime

    • KateGladstone

      I don’t understand that. And, all my life, I’d thought I was a native speaker of English.

      • Brandon Roberts

        ok i’ll put it in laymans terms, i’ve never heard a person say anything against left handed people just for being left handed unless it was a joke

        • Chari McCauley

          My Mother was born in 1939. She was born left-handed, they thought she was disabled. She did manage to overcome and learn to write right-handed. She graduated school in 1957.

          People make pretty cruel jokes toward those considered different, especially when it’s other kids imitating the things they see adults do.

          I guess it helped her in the end when a stroke took her right side, she could still sign her name left-handed.

        • KateGladstone

          Okay; thanks.

  • jekylldoc

    Yep, privilege is invisible, but only to the privileged. Good object lesson.

    It leads me to ask, what makes power structures gather around differences, so “minority” becomes “inferior”? I have seen kids seriously messed up by their parents or teachers insisting that they write right-handed. Why? What could the point have possibly been?

  • KateGladstone

    What and where is the evidence that Einstein was left-handed? Photos of him doing things that involve the hands (such as writing) show him doing those things right-handed.

    • Chari McCauley

      There was no real evidence that my Mom was born left-handed, until she had her strokes. I’m sure he was older than my Mom. Back then, he was probably shamed for being born that way. He had to learn to conform, be normal, not be so difficult.

      You should have heard the kids at school make fun of other kids needing glasses.

      • KateGladstone

        Yes, eventually there was (through the events after the stroke) evidence that your mother was a natural lefty. ButI haven’t seen any evidence that Einstein was a natural lefty. Absence of evidence for left-handedness isn’t evidence for left-handedness.

        • Chari McCauley

          That’s fine, but if you read more about that very question, many say the same thing I just did. That he was forced to write right-handed.

  • KateGladstone

    There are more lefties in America than there are blacks in America. Why is this immense market segment NOT met in the design of standard everyday items?

  • Brandon Roberts

    kinda reminds of the american dad episode where francine is left handed, also thankfully the whole “lefties are evil” thing died eons ago