A person writes the German word "Linkshändig" (left-handed) with their left hand. Source: Wikipedia

BETWEEN THE LINES: If you’re a member of a recognized minority — whether it’s African-American, Latino, Asian, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, LGBT and so on — you have more than likely encountered some form of discrimination in your life. From my few encounters, I can tell you, it’s not pleasant to be on the receiving end.

But there’s another minority, which receives scant consideration or empathy and, since I’m a lifelong member, it’s time to put an end to that neglect. After centuries of oppression, this unfounded prejudice, which stems from ancient superstitions with a few connections to devil worship, should finally cease.

Are you even aware of the sporadic discrimination and disadvantages left-handers face every day? If you’re right-handed, you probably never even thought about it, but it has existed for a long time. In fact, the Latin word for “left” is sinister.

Stop your snickering. This isn’t funny unless you’re among those right-handed bigots.

Growing up I learned that a maternal uncle did everything with his left hand, except write. When I discovered why, I was astonished. As an elementary and high school student in Brighton Beach, his left hand was tied behind his back to force him to write with his right hand. Apparently, even in the 20th century it was largely accepted and not deemed cruel or unusual punishment, as surely as it seems to this left-hander. My maternal Polish grandparents likely didn’t object since it was a custom “in the old country” to convert left-handers.

It is estimated that approximately 13 percent of the world’s population is left-handed. That’s almost 600 million people — almost twice the U.S. population! Roughly 10 percent of Americans are left-handed, though that number is considerably higher when it comes to left-leaning politics.

My consciousness about left-handed bias was raised during Army basic training. When I was trained to shoot a rifle, I quickly realized the M-14 — the weapon of choice for U.S. soldiers at the time — ejected bullet casings to the right. Therefore, if a left-hander wasn’t alert, he could get singed when the heated casing struck his face or hand. My unsympathetic instructor told me to deal with it. I guess I did as I was later awarded a sharpshooter medal.

I’ve grown accustomed to the disadvantages that left-handers face with everyday items, yet they do persist and are largely overlooked, though there some products are specifically made for lefties. So many everyday items are geared for righties, like door handles, banisters, school desks, can openers, power tools and scissors. Items such as corkscrews and light bulbs require left-to-right wrist movements that would seem uncomfortable if lefties didn’t use their flexibility as they get used to it with frequent use.

A 19th-century Italian physician, Cesare Lombroso, identified left-handedness “as evidence of savagery and criminality.” His views were widely refuted, but, nevertheless, it added to the stigma lefties face.

In many cultures, left-handers are treated with disdain. In some foreign languages, such as French, Danish, Italian, German and Russian, left-handedness has a negative connotation. The French word is “gauche,” meaning awkward or clumsy; in Italian “mancini” means crooked or maimed, and the Russian word translates as “sneaky.” In English, “left” comes from the Old English “left,” which means “weak.”

The expression “to have two left feet” refers to clumsiness, particularly in dancing.

The term “leftovers” may be interpreted as a derogatory term for food that is no longer fresh.

A left-handed compliment is criticism, not praise.

Feminists can’t be too pleased that in some religions, whose images depict a male and a female, the female is always the one on the left.

In contrast, the words describing ‘right’ often mean straight, erect, just, correct, law and upright.

Shaking hands is a custom that began in medieval times. When two people met they would hold each other’s right hand because that was the preferred hand to carry a weapon. As a result, lefties could not be trusted because they would shake their enemy’s right hand and hold a sword behind them with the left hand.

Even the Bible disparages lefties. A line in Genesis reads: “The right hand confers blessing and signifies strength, while the left hand is treacherous and deadly.”

Another goes: “A place at one’s right hand is the seat of honor and dignity.” If you’re seated on the left, does that mean no dessert for you?

There’s also this familiar passage from Luke: “In like manner, both the passivity and inferiority of the left hand are apparent… forbidding us to let our left hand know what the right hand is doing.”

The effect of those biblical biases led to witch hunts and condemnation of lefties in the Dark Ages.

In baseball, however, left-handers are valuable commodities. Two of the game’s all-time greats include left-handers Sandy Koufax and Whitey Ford. Though right-handed pitchers dominate the sport, most teams stock their rotations with a decent number of left-handers, or southpaws. In boxing, lefties tend to have an advantage because opponents are not accustomed to facing a southpaw. In the film, “Rocky,” the title character was a southpaw and explains to his girlfriend the origin of the term.

FYI, some famous left-handers include Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Mahatma Gandhi, Aristotle, Beethoven, Albert Einstein, Billy the Kid, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Julia Roberts, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Paul Simon, half of The Beatles (Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr) and puppeteer Jim Henson.

Our current president is left-handed, but Tea Partiers, conservatives and some Republicans, who may not even realize it, have considered him a lefty since he was elected. Other left-handed presidents were Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Check this site out for a more comprehensive list of lefties.

Left-handers are generally more intelligent, better looking, imaginative and multi-talented than right-handers. Just ask any left hander.

Nevertheless, the time for even-handedness is at hand and there’s no better time for the changes to commence than August 13th, International Left-handers’ Day. There’ll be no parades, no celebrations, and little recognition, but it is a day for lefties to remind everyone else that, in a right-handed world, we lefties deserve rights!

Just remember, the next time you see a lefty being ridiculed or clumsily struggling with a product, there but for your genes goes you.

Neil S. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent 15 years as an editor for a Brooklyn weekly newspaper. He also did public relations work for Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. Friedman contributes a weekly column called “Between the Lines” on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

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  • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

    My mother was also one of those forced to write with her right hand. She writes righty, and is a lefty with everything else.

      

  • ShadowLock

    Left handed is the Devils Minions!

     http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110731071858AAlXswx

  • Neptune

    Lefties have the advantage when driving..  keeping their left hand on the steering wheel while using the right to adjust knobs, gadgets and ( not recommended) using a cell phone

    • nolastname

      Probably not as easy with a stick shift.

      • murry

        Unless your a driver in Europe.

  • mehhh

    I wanted to write “cool story bro” but decided not to.

    • NSF

      But you did! Thanks, bro!

      • mehhh

        sorry man,just amusing myself

  • Kool4Coney

    my Hubby is left handed.  He was forced to learn to write with his right hand and he has trouble finding tools – for his profession – that are made for left handed people.  I admit I am guilty of pointing out things he does differently then most people and attributing it to his left handedness but I really do believe people who favor their left hand think differently then right handed people. for instance, in HIS mind the shortest distance between two points is NOT a straight line  :) 

    I am neither left nor right handed… but was taught to favor my right hand

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    There was a time when a lot of studies were done regarding the social aspects of left-handnesses.  Many left-handed people suffered from poor self-esteem. OTOH some became great leaders, perhaps because they often think quicker than right handed people. The impress by their sureness of action.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    I’ve overtired, my remark was covered in the article. Thusly deleted.

    • Tinman

      In other words — fughedabodit!

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

        Maybe I should write them. They may have never considered it and most people just shrug their shoulders about such things.

  • Virginia Torres

    Celebrate Left-handers day August 13th go the website and see whats been changing since the late 80′s. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/dimitriy.smolyanskiy Dimitriy Smolyanskiy

    I am left handed, not one in time in my life has there ever been a negative comment to me, only positive ones..

  • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

    I’m ambidextrous. I can’t do anything well with either hand.

  • nolastname

    Was there a left hand store in Kings Plaza or the mall in Staten Island?

  • Smith_90125

    You’ll often hear idiots say that “Left handers don’t live as long” because there aren’t as many older left handed people.

    What the idiots fail to grasp (or deliberately avoid mentioning) is that many older people were forced through “corporal punishment” (read: beatings and abuse) into changing hands. Such violence isn’t acceptable anymore, which is why there are more lefties. They’re NOT being forced to change, so they use their preferred hand.

  • Susan

    two of the men I love most in the world are left handed :-) both of them are very smart men and have a different way of thinking – and I, for one, love them for that :-) Yeah, to my Pappap – and my son Dan – who was named after his great-grandfather with his middle name :-)