Something I have always noticed is that each society has stereotypes of its own. Most of them are just popular rumors that have been going around for decades, perhaps centuries. However, as we advance and grow, we understand the platitude of treating people as individuals. Instead of stereotyping groups of people. Whilst some stereotypes may be built on some level of truth, it serves as a way to falsely generalize people and individuals you don’t know. They create a misconception of how people are and how they live in other cultures, religions, or countries. Misconceptions can lead into discrimination.
The danger of a single story
In the TED talk, Chimamanda Adichie argues that knowing a single story of a person or a country can cause misunderstanding and create stereotypes. When she first went to study to the US, a woman felt sorry about her because she came from Africa, and asked her if she could listen her tribal music. Let’s us know how she felt struck by this because she is member of a middle class family in Nigeria and she doesn’t listen to tribal music.
This demonstrates how people are influenced by a single story of a country or a person, and are no aware of many other stories that could change the perception of them.
Like Chimamanda, I’ve lived through a similar experience. A group of friends I made in a cruise ship, asked me where I came from. When I said Guatemala, their immediate response was: Do you live in houses? I said that we did. Then, they kept asking questions like: Do you have toilets? What do you eat? It was my first time travelling alone, and I felt completely shocked to see what people thought of us as a whole.
Stereotypes are harmful, even when they might not seem like it. I personally hate stereotypes. The fact that people think I should act one way because of my sex, personality, or nationality. Not okay. I hate all of this because people are creating a concept of me based in what they think they know, but not in who I really am.
As the new generation, we should do something to avoid this problem. We can start changing our perception of stereotypes. It is important to be aware that all stereotypes are bad because it causes prejudgment. We should learn to respect and understand other cultures, religions, and countries. This could avoid many problems such as discrimination. And more importantly we should teach newer generations to respect each other regardless of their differences. With all of this we can change our perception of the stereotypes that are deeply rooted in our society and make of this a better society.
Irvin Himmel once said, “No one has ever made himself great by showing how small someone else is.”
So how do we attack stereotypes while trying to solve the problems of our day? We do it by treating everyone as individuals, and when you respect each person as an individual, it reinforces a humbleness within ourselves. An urge to be compassionate enough to reach across the aisle to solve problems. Someone elses’ problem becomes my problem because we all are on the road of life and we all deserve the pursuit of happiness. And once we have this unity, we can achieve much more than we ever could individually.3