Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stereotypes and et cetera

First, some important definitions:
Prejudice:
a: (1). preconceived judgment or opinion (2): an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.
b: an instance of such judgment or opinion.
c: an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics.
Racism:
1: A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
2: racial prejudice or discrimination.
Race:
2. a: a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock.
b: a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits or characteristics
3. a: an actually or potentially interbreeding group within a species; also: a taxonomic category (as a subspecies) representing such a group
b: breed
c: a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits
Stereotype (noun):
something conforming to a fixed or general pattern; especially : a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment

The other day I was out at a fast food restaurant. Just as I was coming to a table, a family was leaving. It was a big multigenerational group--a toddler, a teen, two 25-40 adults and a 65+ gentleman. As usual, I forgot my napkins, and I went to get them. I passed by the table that this group had been sitting at. They had left everything on the table, all their leftover food, wrappers and cups they didn't take with them. It was a mess. I wish now I had taken a picture before I cleaned it up.
It was the sort of incident that could cause a person to become prejudiced, to decide that rude and self entitled behavior is part of belonging to people who look like this group. There really is no excuse for not busing your table at a fast food joint--there is no question that you are supposed to toss your papers and leftovers after you are done. People form judgments based partly on what they experience from people--yes, prejudice is taught by outside forces as well--but reinforced by seeing bad behavior.
The reason I started out with the definitions is that prejudice and racism are often confused, partly because they overlap and partly because the one can lead to the other. You see enough bad behavior by a certain group, and a person can decide that a certain group is not as smart or capable as another.---
This is not where I wanted this post to go: Here is where I really wanted this post to go, and I am going to be blunt and not dance around the point. If you want people to lessen prejudice and "pre-judging" your group, you are going to have to behave in such a way as to prove them wrong. I am sorry but that is unfortunately the way it is. Human nature and the way the human brain works makes us tend towards generalizations and assumptions so when we see a group behaving a certain way, especially if it seems to happen over and over, we start assuming that that behavior is standard issue. It is not necessarily about race. I grew up in a state with a tiny percentage of population of persons of color and there were still groups and classes of people who were subjects of prejudice. Members of those classes of people had to prove that they were not like the stereotype of the group that existed in the larger population.
So, what does all this have to do with the behavior of the family in the restaurant? Well, it is this: every time a person with an identifiable ethnic heritage, or "race" (race is a specious concept but that is for another day...) does something that can be called bad or wrong, it is another brick in the wall of prejudice and stereotyping. I was shaking my head thinking to myself, "Yet another brick for use in building walls of prejudice. Some may decide automatically that a group like yours is a bunch of inconsiderate boobs, who are too lazy, entitled and self centered to clean up after yourselves. People, if you want opinions to change about your ethnic group, you have to step up your game. You have to behave better, even when it isn't easy, or you want to rebel."
Every wrong act is ammunition for those who want to keep you down. Every wrong act is something someone can point to and say that your group is inferior, intellectually, ethically, or any other way. Performing as well, or better, while the tougher road, is the right road to take. Indulging in a victim mentality, rebelling or giving up will just reinforce the bad stereotype about the group.

Author's note: I started this well before (March 15) the current Martin/Zimmerman mess. There is not a word I would change. I could add some, but that will be later. Pay attention to the definitions. They are important.

Definitions from Webster's on line dictionary....

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, no doubt, Asians are pigs.

Bob G. said...

T.O.:
Fantastic post!

I would definitely agree that most ALL prejudice is promoted based upon those we VIEW (or hear) and by THEIR OWN Actrons (or inactions).

Then again, that doesn't REALLY fit the meaning of the word, does it? It's NOT "pre-conceived" in ANY way, right?
It's pretty much DEMONSTRATED by those we are viewing...ergo, it becomes FACT.

MY parents ALWAYS drive home the point that "People WILL judge you by the way YOU conduct YOURSELF", (as well as how you speak and/or dress) and they added that "When you leave this house, you are a representative of OUR FAMILY, and should behave in a manner that does NOT bring shame or disgust to us."

Now that seems to work.
It's never about "race", but it IS about HUMAN NATURE...or "nuture" in many instances.
Sometimes, it's the culmination of BOTH.

VERY well presented and thought out.
You truly "get it"...Kudos to you.

Stay safe out there.