STEREOTYPING OR JOKING? OR BOTH?

Sterotypes

You really can’t stereotype people
or put them in boxes, it’s unfair.
– Kesha

∞∞∞

from Miami
Childs with Are Yall Kidding Me

∞∞∞

“It’s not a stereotype if its’s always true.”
– Daniel Tosh

STEREOTYPING OR JOKING? BOTH
written & edited by Kendall F. Person

illegal immigrantsThe above quote by comedian Daniel Tosh It’s not a stereotype if it’s always true, is jarring upon the first read, if viewed through restrained goggles of defensiveness or political correctness. If read when we are in our comfort zones and have a willingness to poke fun at ourselves, than we understand the joke. But it also offers an extraordinary insight, into what turns everyday or historical truth, into one of the most explosive words in the American vocabulary.

angry black womanPonder if you will for a moment of the stereotypes you find hurtful: as a woman or a young Black man or a member of the LGBTQ community or a Muslim American or a Trump fan. Take off the armor of indignation. Dive passed the expressed bias or actual discrimination and divide the truths from former truths and myths. Then take your lists of truths and conduct your own research. Talk to your elders and scholars about why a particular group of people, most of whom have never met, share the same basic taste on food or are of the same religious denomination or political party. The discovery will not be just another fact of information, but it becomes empowering, while lowering the blood pressure during a hostile exchange.

racist trump voterI wish I had an exact number, but I am not sure it would matter, nor change the way I internally view the attitudes or opinions of the general population of the United States. I believe that most of us are not racist or mean or have ill intentions (although greed is another issue). Many biases are not based on what we know to be true from our own life experiences, but through information acquired via our immediate surroundings or passed down from family relations or from a medium or leader we trust; and it is their intent – not necessarily their truth – that we must comprehend, for their belies the cycle of stereotyping. terrorist

So why should we question the people we believe or create doubt in our own minds, when we are just fine?

Even though we are eternal students in the game of life, at some point we also become teachers with a responsibility to challenge and discover, not simply accept information, that shapes our views and defines our attitudes toward other demographics. Passing down truths to the next generation, chips away at our nation’s archaic mistrusts and perhaps one day, all stereotypes will be a joke.


Tell us about Your Neighborhood. 

North Sentinel Island
click image to learn more about the Sentinelese 

 

 

 

11 comments

  1. Well stated, Kendall. The problem is an ancient one, rooted in Aristotle’s system of categorization. Whenever we categorize, we lose information, but without the abstraction of category, we cannot organize work (whether economic effort of physical power). The end result is that the snake eats its own tail: Betsy DeVoss claims that she is being stereotyped as a person that stereotypes.

    The negotiation of borders between “I” and “we” is always going to confront these problems. Some among the “have nots” will seek to “have” without conforming to the practices of the “haves.” The “haves” will divide between those that categorize the “have nots” for the purpose of organizing effort to their benefit, and those that seek to justify the exclusion of the “have nots.”

    In my experience, the use of words is insufficient to distinguish between those that leverage categorization and those that abuse it. The only way to differentiate the two is to examine behavior for clues to distinguish between two paths: does the actor externalize their fear or externalize their hope?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Let me tentatively offer a distinction between generalizing and stereotyping. As you note, the more a group gets segregated (by race, class, or whatever), the more it tends to develop its own tastes in food, music, and belief structures. So the knee-jerk outrage at every generalization needs to stop. Some generalizations are true, and if you think a person is expressing an untrue one, look at intent before you condemn. Whereas a generalization makes an inference about aggregate group behavior, “stereotyping” looks at an individual and boxes him or her into the generalization (true or false). Generalizations can be benign, but stereotyping is almost always destructive. In the old days (1960s to 1980s), I would say conservatives tended to stereotype people based on race and gender and liberal, hippie-types fought against such stereotyping. Now, in my opinion, conservatives have not gotten much better and liberals have gotten much worse, especially with the casual stereotyping of men and whites. I miss the hippie 60s, when “us” and “them” was defined by whether you were fighting for progressive ideals, irrespective of your race or gender. Still, believe it or not, Kendall, I share your optimism. I believe that most people are not racist, but they are trapped in the language of race and gender determinism, which is fed to them with nauseating regularity by both liberal and conservative establishments. At least there’s a solution. Quit politics as we know it and start over, using only the heart and imagination. Drop out, turn on, tune in. Sorry for the length, Kendall. Your posts always invigorate 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree Daedalus Lex. Tends to be a seed of truth in generalisations, else they wouldn’t be called that. Individuals are also capable of making their own generalisations due to personal experience as oppose to societal influences.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve missed the insightful conversations spurred on by Kendall! While I appreciate Daedalus Lex’s thoughtful response, I have to admit it’s almost futile to make the distinction between a generalization and a stereotype. Brian (below) adds a very useful test of whether behavior is elicited by fear or hope, especially in categorizing (for really economic purposes) them and us, haves and have nots.
      Self awareness, past experiences, and subsequent actions are key in this discussion. A black guest at a restaurant who gets generalized/stereotyped as the waiter/cleaner etc has no room to figure out which was at a play. :). A useful path forward in the continued miscasting and demonizing of the Other is continued self awareness, humility and willingness to learn. I’ll start with myself, for instance. When I saw the photographs and Kendall’s one word depictions, here were my associations with each picture: illegal –cutie pies; angry –beautiful; terrorist –determined; racist –racist! I have to be honest! :). Now what would it take to convince me otherwise? That’s where the honest, God-honest hard work begins. If everyone (I know. I’m being idealistic) is honest enough to see how we are BOTH victims and perpetrators, that would be a great start. I also know that a rethinking of them and us is necessary. We reconceptualize both as concentric circles: an umbrella US [humanity] contains many overlapping us and thems. Of course, I speak out of hope rather than fear. Thanks, as always, Kendall. [I know not to apologize for the length of my post:)]

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for adding your voice and for not apologizing for the time spent holding the microphone. It is best that you utilize all of the words needed to assure, your position has stated or point made and knowledged shared. (huge smile).

        Like

Add your voice

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s