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“Shaming” or Informing? “Stigmatizing” or Educating? The Generational Divide

A “McCloudism”: “Reason what’s written or said, before you react and rage.” Many in today’s society are quick to engage in extrapolations of message instead of simply reading and reasoning what is actually said or written. This is bad for communication.

How can people of different generations communicate these days? Some see “shaming” others see “informing.” Some see “stigmatizing”; others see “educating.” What’s a civilized society to do? What happened to Reading Comprehension 101?

July 2019 provided interesting examples of a generational divide in basic comprehension and interpretation. A few examples include:

► Former Vice President Joe Biden was addressing a crowd and said that, even though he disagreed with them, he had to work across the aisle with segregationists. Isn’t that what most Americans want the government legislators to do: work across the aisle?

Some democratic presidential candidates—Senators Corey Booker and Kamala Harris, in particular (plus many of their generation, and younger)—said Biden’s words “hurt” or were “wrong,” or he shouldn’t have even referenced segregationists.

But, fact: Biden didn’t praise them or elevate the segregationists. He didn’t say he agreed with their positions. Biden was pointing our that, to get things done in this country, we—as humans—have to be able to still work with people even when we don’t agree with them. Being civil is a good thing. At least it used to be. Seemingly, that is not what Senators Booker and Harris heard, nor others. They ‘heard’ Biden “elevating” the segregationists. They didn’t seem to hear the importance of having to work with people that don’t share similar views.

► When the tragic murder of 23- year old Mackenzie Lueck was revealed, the American press was hesitant (if not loathe and absent) to report some important facts about “how” she even knew the man who killed her. It wasn’t a random encounter.

Lueck reportedly took a late night flight, returning around 2 AM from her grandmother’s funeral. She texted her mother to let her know that she landed safely. Then young Lueck had a Lyft ride-share driver take her to a park (at 3 AM). Upon her exit from the Lyft car, Lueck got into another vehicle that was waiting for her. [The Lyft driver observed her doing so. The Lyft driver had nothing to do with the murder.] Lueck got into the car willfully at the location where she instructed the ride-share driver to take her.

Turns out that the person Lueck had arranged to meet and have pick her up (at 3 AM) was a guy known to her, either through other friends, or through “Sugar Daddy” sites—sites that she was on, using the name “Kenzie Lueck.” The British press published this important fact; the American press has not, in full.

Some people—seemingly many millennials, or Gen X ,Y, or Z’s—on American social media said to report on the back story of Lueck meeting up with that murderous man was “shaming” her.  In fact, one poster wrote: “This is some grade A, toxic victim shaming.”

Most others—seemingly mature adults over 40—felt that letting people know how she knew that guy, and why she had him there to pick her up at 3 AM is not “shaming” her; it was telling the rest of the story. A story that needs to be told, in the interest of public safety concerns and to inform others to the risk of certain behaviors.

To tell the “how’s and “whys” of the story is important for people to know. Local residents needed to know that this wasn’t some random killer on the street; instead,  it was a meet-up with someone she “knew” only via friends or social media. There were text messages in his and her cell phones between them.

People need to know the back story to also have it serve as a warning to many young girls who might put themselves in such a position, risking their lives, thinking “it won’t happen to me.” People need to see that yes, it will and can happen if you decide to meet with someone you really don’t know.

Is providing the facts of a story “shaming” the people in the story, or is it informing the public of what happened, and why? Might the information serve as a cautionary tale to prevent others from a potentially similar fate?

► In 2014 I attended a CDC “STD Prevention Conference” in which there were numerous lectures about the new trend of topics: “STDs in homosexuals” and “STD rates in MSM—Men who have Sex with Men.” There were others, lectures like we’ve never seen.

After the conference, the CDC posted a few messages on Twitter, but didn’t specify why the rates of HIV was climbing; nor that MSM is associated with other STDs like syphilis and gonorrhea—also on the rise, especially in the homosexual community.

When I asked them to be specific about their posts, someone at the CDC actually replied that they didn’t want to “stigmatize” a community. [Excuse me?]

I kindly wrote the CDC officials in reply: When people smoke, don’t you educate them that cigarettes can lead to lung cancer? That obesity can lead to Type II diabetes mellitus? Is that “stigmatizing” anyone, or is it educating those who engage in such activity or behaviors that what they do is associated with increased risk of certain health maladies? Isn’t it the CDC’s job to inform and educate the public about health risks? How is it “stigmatizing” to inform those in the homosexual community that such conduct is associated with higher rates of all the STDs, including syphilis, GC and HIV/AIDS? That’s not “stigmatizing”; it’s informing/educating, yes? Don’t people need to know major risk factors of any medical condition, especially a diagnosis that can potentially kill?

Finally in 2016, the CDC clearly stated the link. Perhaps if they had not been reluctant to inform the affected community (and those they put at risk), fewer people might have become infected.

► In July 2019, a young tennis phenom, 15 year-old Cori “CoCo” Gauff won at Wimbledon. She was greatly supported and cheered on by her mom and dad. As a proponent of always wanting to see more intact Black families with dads and moms caring for their kids, I posted a tweet celebrating how beautiful it was to see these two parents support their daughter so much, and to see their joy being a part of her life. The only negative response I received was from someone accusing me of an “attack” on dads. I don’t usually reply to such [what I call “rhetorical agitators”], but I did that time: “I didn’t ‘attack’ anyone; I celebrate the presence of these parents—and yes, the dad in this girl’s life.”

The negative poster later replied that “maybe ‘attack’ was a bit strong a word…” Yes, it was. But that is what’s happening with communication today: People react and rage before the read and reason…clearly. Whether it’s Joe Biden working across the aisle; giving more facts about how and why a young woman encountered a terrible murderer, or that celebrating present fathers is not an “attack” on others.

As a concerned American, it’s on my mind to suggest that people in our aggressive, impatient, eager to flare modern society don’t exaggerate and extrapolate beyond what is actually presented to you. Read and reason what is written or being said; don’t just impulsively rant and rage. Such an impulsive stretch and misinterpretation is causing a major disconnect in communication and can throw an entire conversation, and our citizenry off track into a communication crisis…if we’re not already there. [I also find we have (what I call) “malignant misnomers.” I hope to write about that soon.]

Copyright © 2019 Dr. Melody T. McCloud. All rights reserved. Please share this post on your social network pages, with author credit and link to this page. Bitly:  Tw: @DrMelodyMcCloud

“Shaming” or Informing? “Stigmatizing” or Educating? The Generational Divide

Melody T. McCloud, MD

Dr. Melody T. McCloud is a trailblazing obstetrician/gynecologist, author, public speaker and media contributor. She has received many awards including the "Health-Care Heroes ‘Physician’ Award” per the Atlanta Business Chronicle, and is also recognized as one of the “25 Most Influential Doctors in Atlanta." Dr. McCloud has been interviewed on CNN, Headline News, network affiliates, TBN, the Tom Joyner Morning Show; and her writings or comments have been printed in USA Today, Parade, Essence, Family Circle, Health, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and more. She hosts a health blog at Psychology Today and, upon invitation, speaks nationwide to many organizations. She is a member of the Atlanta Press Club and many leadership organizations.

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APA Reference
McCloud, M. (2019). “Shaming” or Informing? “Stigmatizing” or Educating? The Generational Divide. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 Jul 2019
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