We all have stereotypes ingrained in us. Some were learned from our parents while growing up. Some were developed based upon our experiences with others. Merriam-Webster defines a stereotype as “standardized mental picture” that people have, which derives from one’s “oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment.” Before you zero in on the word prejudice, let me state this is not an accusation against anyone. It’s a clarification. Follow my logic. I promise it leads to a positive place.
From the definition, stereotypes are obviously not themselves a positive thing. Generally, they lead people to rule out potential mates, friends, job candidates, etc. Also generally, they’re based upon incomplete or bad information. I won’t give specific examples because I don’t want to further perpetuate any stereotypes, but you can undoubtedly thing of more than a few you’ve heard relating to ethnicities, religious groups, gender groups, etc.
When I hear any stereotypes repeated around me, it makes me cringe. That said, I have some. You do, too. Everyone does. Does this mean we’re bad people? No, it doesn’t. Human beings have feelings. When these feelings involve hurt, they can lead to a generalization regarding anyone who is like the person hurting us. That is….they can if we let them. We can’t stop people from saying or doing hurtful things, but we can stop ourselves from responding with hurtful expression. We can also stop ourselves from generalizing everyone else in the same ethnic, religious, or whatever other kind of group the offending human may belong to.
If this last bit seems a bit confusing, it’s because it is. Just hang with me. If a Baptist, Caucasian (non-Hispanic type), Heterosexual Male steals my car, am I going to believe my next car is only safe near an Agnostic, African American, Bisexual Female? No, that would be stupid. It had nothing to do with what language they speak, the religion they practice, or their sexual preference. The person who stole the car did it because they’re a person who makes poor choices.
The above lays out what I believe to be infallible logic. We all have stereotypes baked or sprinkled in. We have to acknowledge that reality, but it doesn’t mean we have to acquiesce to being stereotypical people. All we have to do is practice critical thinking when things happen in life. We have to assess what happened and how it unfolded. Then, we have to retain show we’re good human beings by not judging millions of others just because they look, sound, or practice like the one offending person. That is all.