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Raj Tawney: Think Different

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Raj Tawney follows some advice from an unusual source to 'think different.'

When I was a kid in the ‘90s, I was glued to the TV each Saturday morning awaiting my beloved cartoons. During commercials, the Genie from Aladdin would offer some educational tidbits, debunking the notion that “Great minds think alike.” In fact, “Great minds think for themselves!” he’d cry out, offering examples of those who chose not to follow popular trends on their road to enlightenment.

Those ads, voiced by Robin Williams, stuck with me. Seems simple, right? A mythical character whose repetitive words leave an impression on kids looking for mindless entertainment. But as I’ve grown into adulthood, I’ve found that I don’t identify with any group or system of beliefs — be it a political party, religious sect, sports team, or racial group.

I’m the son of an Indian immigrant father and Puerto Rican and Italian American mother. I never fit into any one group. But I also had the unique advantage of experiencing different cultures, whose values and ideologies varied. Over the years, I realized that loyalty to any one category meant I could be molded to a greater cause and sense of purpose that wasn’t my own. It also meant the demonization of others who didn’t agree with my way of life. Most importantly, it taught me how powerful words can be. And how divisive.

Newly invented terms like “cancel culture” and “wokeness” seem as manipulative as “low fat” or “backed by science.” It all depends on the context and the mission of those words, and to whom they’re intended.


I chose to be an independent — politically, culturally, and thoughtfully. Not because it’s cool or fashionable, or because I think it will harm or benefit others. But because the genie told me so.

With a Perspective, I’m Raj Tawney.

Raj Tawney is a writer and journalist, currently finishing up a memoir about his multiracial American identity.

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