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I remember how shocked my third-grade teacher was that I knew the word "hyperbole."

The day I used it perfectly in a sentence, her eyebrows raised so high I thought they would leap fully off her forehead into her frozen blonde bob. "Where in the world did you learn such an advanced word?" she asked. She looked at me strangely for the rest of the day.

Sure, it was a big word for an 8-year-old. But what she didn't know is that my father taught it to me that morning and told me to use it in a sentence in class just to see her reaction.


The middle-aged white woman had been not-so-kind to me, one of only two black children in the class, all year long — seating me in the back, not letting me read out loud to the class, never ever letting me answer the hard questions despite my hand always being first in the air.

Yes. That's me.

Unbeknownst to me, my parents had already filed a complaint and could only assume that despite the fact that I was a well-behaved and academically advanced child, her assumptions about my race led her to have very low expectations for me.

When I got in my father's car that afternoon, he asked if I had done as he instructed. I told him yes and described her incredulous reaction in detail.

And then he smiled. He was proud of me, and while I didn't understand why, I knew right then and there that somehow, by showing her that I was smarter — different than she previously assumed — I had done something good.

That was the day I became a Stereotype Defier.

You see, we Stereotype Defiers are everywhere. In fact, you yourself may be one. We move through our lives making choices (sometimes even subconsciously) about what we will do, say, be, or enjoy in order to confound others' expectations of us.

Sometimes the choices seem harmless: “Um, no. I don't want to be the woman with a pink glitter phone case in a business meeting full of men. I'll take the gray one please."

Sometimes those choices push us to do better and showcase our talents: “Oh, you think because I have a disability, I'm not smart? Well watch me ace this test and show off with the extra credit a bit."

But other times the choices are a bit more pernicious:

Like if you were the Asian kid who really, secretly did love math but pursued English in college because you just couldn't be that guy.

Or if you're a woman suffering a hurting, broken heart but buried your pain deep inside because you refused to be seen as sensitive or weak.

Or if you've ever offered to pay for people at a group dinner knowing that you barely had enough money to get by for the week because God forbid they know you're poor.

Or if you're a single mom but you volunteered for a senior position in the PTA that you know you don't have time for, but no one expects the single mom to be that involved so you overcompensate.

Or if you worked hard to get rid of your Southern accent because you know what people think about people who are "country."

No matter the scenario, we Stereotype Defiers try to convince ourselves that the negative stereotype we face is actually a motivator pushing us to be great — even as we narrowly define greatness as “the opposite of whatever they think."

Living your one wild and precious life within the confines of another person's limited opinion limits your freedom, your brilliance, and your joy.

We tell ourselves that we make these choices not just for ourselves, but for others. We worry (often nobly) about how those who come behind us will be perceived as a result of our actions today.

But the irony in that reasoning is perfectly explained by something that researchers call “stereotype threat." When people worry that their performance might be seen as confirmation of a negative stereotype about a group they belong to (race, gender, socioeconomic, or otherwise), that stress and self-doubt can end up significantly reducing their performance — ultimately creating the very outcome they were trying to avoid by defying the stereotype in the first place.

In other words, worrying about the opinions of others and how they might reflect on us causes us to do and be less than who we really are.

Still, we tell ourselves that we enjoy the thrill of the raised eyebrows, of proving “them" wrong.

But often, hiding behind the short-lived thrill of defying a stereotype lies the very dangerous fear of fulfilling the stereotype. And fear is the ultimate killing machine — RIP dreams, RIP authenticity, and, many times, RIP good old-fashioned fun.

So what is this thing that we've given so much power over us?

The word stereotype originates from the 18th century world of printing — it was a tool for the printing press that allowed printers to more easily reproduce text instead of having to place letters in order one by one; It was a single metal plate made from a mold of the original letters. In non-technical terms, a stereotype was a printing tool that made it easier to copy something because the work of actually reproducing the original was too painstaking, too hard.

A stereotype mold being made. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Now think about that in the context of modern stereotypes. A stereotype as we know it today is a collection of traits that we associate with specific groups of people that makes it easier for someone to categorize an individual person. Too often, this happens because the work of fully knowing the unique, complex individual person is too painstaking, too hard.

And when you follow that logic, why would we ever consciously make any choices guided not by our own instincts, desires, or intentions, but by our desire to reject a misconception that someone else created as a shortcut to accommodate their limited capacity to know us?

We deserve so much more.

In her famous TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story," writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says that stereotypes are not always inaccurate. They are just incomplete. Yet somehow, we have been tricked into thinking that we can never be what others presume about us, which, ultimately, robs us of our humanity.

Junot Díaz, another writer, calls stereotypes a sensual cultural weapon. But guess what? The only way we let the weapon harm us is by allowing its very existence to become an internal GPS, guiding us to go left, go right, slow down, take this route or that one when in fact the stereotype has no idea what your true destination is supposed to be.

Here is what I learned during my years of Stereotype Defier rehab: The most powerful challenge any of us who are routinely and unfairly stereotyped can give to the incomplete picture that exists in the world — and to the people who apply those stereotypes to us — does not come from breaking the mold and proving them wrong. It comes from our agency, our choices, and our wholeness.

Let me say it another way.

We defy the stereotype not by intentionally being something different, but by intentionally ignoring it in favor of being exactly whoever and whatever we want to be, exactly however and whenever we want to be it.

Even if that means embracing behaviors that others deem stereotypical.

Living your one wild and precious life within the confines of another person's limited opinion limits your freedom, your brilliance, and your joy. And that burden is far too heavy to carry. So why not just put it down?

Go ahead and cry.

Bring fried chicken and watermelon to the office party.

Have another baby and stay at home to raise her.

Go back for seconds and fill up that plate in a room full of skinny people.

Laugh loudly on the subway.

Shop at the thrift store.

Stick that WWJD bumper sticker on your car.

Retire your title of Stereotype Defier. And as much as you can, just be your authentically angry, emotional, country, flamboyant, occasionally late, beautiful self.

The original print of you is so much better than a stereotyped copy ever could be.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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