All I am asking
Is a little respect…
On Valentine’s Day 1967, as the Vietnam War was consuming news headlines worldwide, and the civil rights and women’s movements were mobilizing across the States, a young African-American woman entered Atlantic Records and opened a piano
What happened next forged its way into contemporary musical history, making a worldwide star of its protagonist.
Aretha Franklin was just 25 when she exploded onto the music scene. The song was Respect.
I’ll bet that, whatever your age, wherever you are from, within seconds of hearing the opening bars of this song, your feet will be tapping in recognition, your fingers drumming on your laptop.
Respect is one of those enduringly popular anthems: the potency of Franklin’s voice, the rhythm, melody, and the universality of a message that seem to withstand the march of time. Forty years later, this song still has the power to stir emotion wherever, whenever.
I have been thinking about respect, and what it means. And specifically, what it means to different generations
Aretha Franklin was born in 1942, which makes her a Veteran. Born before the Baby Boomers, she was a young woman when President Lyndon Johnson took a first and decisive stand against racism and sexism, calling for an end to “man’s shame.”
For Aretha Franklin, what would the word respect mean? As a woman, as an African American, respect might mean, among other things, respect for her gender, for her race. And for other Veterans, respect might be linked to status, to class, to profession, to authority.
For the Boomers, born between the mid 40’s and 60’s, the word respect would have plenty of connotations. It would imply a whole suite of behaviors and attitudes that cover the way we interact with others and might have a strong semantic tie with concepts like courtesy.
Meanwhile, for those of us that are X Generation , born between the mid 60’s and early 80’s, respect could be partly “respect your elders, your superiors, your teachers” and so on. Our generation, were also raised to be a bit more independent than our parents were. So for us, respect might be something to be won, rather than freely given.
The way we use the word has morphed, over the generations, into new and different things. In the 90s and over the last decade, respect became synonymous with other qualities, like peer hierarchy and street credibility.
All of which makes me wonder.
We share certain behaviors or expectations more with our own peer group, perhaps, than with others from generations different to ours. But what about values? Do our values differ, according to the generation we belong to?
I don’t think so.
But let’s put that to the test.
I’d like to ask you something. What does respect mean to you?
To me, respect is keeping an open mind. It’s applying the same values in my dealings with fellow citizens and my co-workers, regardless of their gender, race or age. I think we have plenty to learn from each other, and it’s our differences that teach us more than our similarities. What do you think?