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Posted by Priscilla on May 6, 2013

My children, now young adults, have long accused me of using a broad brush to paint situations, people, and nations. Raised overseas, I like to think they are wrong. A writer, I insist they are wrong. Writers, after all, look at the specifics, the detail. We look.

Stereotypes are common. The blonde is dumb, as is the football player. Certain ethnic groups are smart, others are smart and driven. But I wouldn’t fall into the trap of believing these canards. I wouldn’t be so foolish.

And yet.

It is easy to parrot stereotypes without even realizing it. 

We accept a stereotype that fits with something we really want to believe. Because my daughter’s high school was the number one school in the state, and I taught at one of the worst, I insisted that teachers at her school were not troubled with misbehaving students. Sorry.  That’s using a broad brush.

We convince ourselves that our view of a group of people is not a stereotype if it is complementary:  Japanese are polite, Americans are independent, Indians are entrepreneurial.  Sorry. I have just taken away people’s individuality.

We assume that the one side we hear is the only side:  On today’s Radio Times program (WHYY), we learned that Americans think Mexicans are violent or illegal. We don’t hear about the Mexican students who study engineering in America, or the growing economy and burgeoning middle class, so our opinion of Mexicans remains one-sided. Sorry. That is stereotyping at its worst.

What does this mean for the writer?

Writers, like anyone who wants to rise above prejudice, must realize that we, also, might be guilty of stereotyping. We need to get over our pride in looking and begin to see. We need to be so aware of the person in front of us that we see more than hair color or eye shape, hear more than accent or tone. We need to hear his fears and his dreams, see her past and her future. We need to love.

When we learn to love the ONE, we will be able to talk about or present the many without stereotyping.

What do you think?



Posted by Allan on
Pity the poor blond football player. Pity the poor blonde football cheerleader. Pity the poor blond/blonde copyeditor.
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