There are countless categories we conform to, boxes we squeeze into and tags we take on. We like to label. “I’m a social liberal, but a fiscal conservative,” you might say. “I’m pescatarian,” “I’m a dog person,” or “I’m spiritual, not religious.”
It’s comforting to find others who share our views or our heritage or our language. Communication is easier because we already agree on the terms.
At TEDxUF 2016, we want to challenge that comfort. We hope to encourage discussion and critical thought, to push you out of your echo chamber.
The idea for this year’s theme was inspired by one of my favorite TED talks, Chimamanda Adichie’s The Danger of a Single Story. In it, Adichie tells of her pleasant, middle-class upbringing in Nigeria. When she attends university in the United States, she feels affronted by the stereotypes of an Africa she had not known: “beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner.” She had been confronted with a single story of Africa.
When we allow others to align us with only one story, one identity, we fail to recognize our common humanity. “It robs people of dignity,” says Adichie. “It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”
In the age of Caitlyn Jenner, Rachel Dolezal, and marriage equality, identity has never been more relevant. There are more gender neutral bathrooms,Amandla Stenberg makes it to magazine covers, and Kim Kardashian West’s 445-page book of selfies is somehow a New York Times Bestseller.
We’re not afraid to challenge systems built on foundations of exclusion or call out caustic language, but we also understand that pushback can veer dangerously close to censorship. We are redefining and multi-hyphenating ourselves, finally beginning to understand that most demographics should be plotted on a graph, not checked true or false.
So where do you stand? What are you born with, and what have you adopted?
At TEDxUF 2016, you’ll hear from 10 speakers from various disciplines, sharing their ideas on how technology, entertainment or design can help us understand and reclaim our identities. A former NFL player whose work with LBGT youth helped him accept his own sexuality. A former corporate climber who found true success only after letting go. A biologist whose vast evolutionary trees show us how interrelated we really are.