Are Stereotypes dividing America?

What are stereotypes, and where do they come from?  Are they useful, or damaging?  I am not an expert in this area, so you may decide that there is nothing you can learn from reading this post. If you make that assumption, are you applying a valid or invalid stereotype?

So, you’ve decided to keep reading. Good for you!  Alright, let’s start with a little experiment….Just for a moment I invite you to picture in your mind:

A girl in a library wearing a uniform and glasses

Take a second to really get it.

Okay.     Got it.    Right?

Now think about what you see, what is she doing? why is she there? Who is she with?

Okay.     Got it.    Right?

You’ve got a pretty good idea of the girl, who she is and what is going on. We have all been trained and educated to use our imagination to fill in details and make assumptions based on very little information.  Books, movies, TV shows all count on our ability to round out characters and fill in the blanks based on widely held images or ideas.  Or in other words, stereotyping.

In today’s culture we are challenged to make hasty assumptions based on little information.  Tweets are only 140 characters for example, but they seem to be taken as implied Foreign Policy. Big complicated decisions are being made based on simple off-had remarks.  Too little time is being spent to sort out the meanings and the truth behind the initial assumptions.

So before we typecast, pigeonhole, categorize, label, tag and make up our minds about someone or something, lets take a second, or two, or three and breath. Ask questions and be open and ready to learn. Encourage thoughtful fact based discourse.  Express opinion as opinion, not factual information. It takes more effort to be positive than negative, but let’s try, we owe ourselves that much.

By the way, would it surprise you to know the girl in the library is wearing safety glasses, a Company Uniform, and she is in the library fixing the Air Conditioning with her co-worker. That’s the image you had in your mind, right?