Tag Archives: Responsibility

Stereotypical Stereotypes

Main Entry: 2stereotype

Function: noun

1: a plate cast from a printing surface

2: 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

Ok, so clearly we are talking about the second definition here. Almost any aspect of a person can form a stereotype. This includes race, gender, nationality, sexual preference, age, income, occupation, style, musical taste, etc. When discussing stereotypes, the biggest problem I have is that we have come to a point where we as a society have said, more or less, that we should not stereotype people, without taking the time to discuss where the stereotypes come from or why they exist in the first place.

Lets start with something almost anyone can relate to. Age. Can you remember back to when you were a teenager? Anywhere typically from the time you were allowed to start going places on your own (even though your parents would have to drop you off and pick you up) until sometime in college… You would go to the mall with your friends, or to the movies, and if there was no adult with you, people would just treat you differently. Hesitantly. In stores, it seemed eyes were always on you, and you were always asked if you needed help, but not in a nice way… More in a “I just want to let you know I’ve seen you” type of way. At the time, this infuriated me to no end. Clearly they thought I was going to steal something  just because I was a teenager. I had never stolen anything in my life, and had no intention of ever stealing anything.  I was being stereotyped.

What I failed to realize at the time, is that they were stereotyping me for a reason. Take a look at the first sentence of the definition above… “conforming to a fixed or general pattern”. While I may not have been the type of person who would steal something from the store, I looked and acted like the type of person who had stolen in the past. My point is, while many people don’t fit into stereotypes, they exist because society has noted and sorted people who fit into general patterns of behavior.

Now, I believe strongly in “not judging a book by its cover.” Each human being on this planet has the ability to be completely unique and to make their own decisions. Each of us face hundreds, if not thousands of decisions (however big or small) that help to shape us each and every day. The problem is that often times, we choose to fit neatly into the stereotypes the world has set aside for us. As long as we keep doing this, and allow other people to keep doing this, it will never change.

c800e6c8f37941748e816bb5c092d74e_200000247.jpg_600x600Let me take this a step further, without straying too far from the original example. I used to work for a “big box” consumer electronic retailer for a few years back in college. This is the type of store where the “Security Guard” stands at a part of the store watching a monitor of multiple cameras throughout the store, in order to prevent theft. I was standing and talking with one of the security guards one day when a young, black man walked in. He had baggy jeans and nice sneakers and a loose-fitting, plain white t-shirt. To my dismay, the security guard immediately panned to him and stayed on him, watching from different angles for 10 minutes straight. I continued my conversation with the security guard but couldn’t help but be slightly put-off by the fact that he was watching this guy so intently while there were over 100 people in the store. Just as I was about to say something, I saw the security guard begin to zoom in. The young man had a CD case in his hand, and was cutting the sticker-edge with a small knife. He then popped the CD off of the back-plate, slid it through the slit, and put it in his pocket! Unbelievable! I was about to rip my buddy a new one for stereotyping, when this kid had come in and fallen perfectly into the stereotype. Not only did he fall into it, but he perpetuated it. My anger turned immediately toward the thief for almost making me look like a fool. If you are a young, educated African American, this should infuriate you even more. These are the types of people who are holding our society back from making progress and accepting everyone despite our differences.

This is just an example, and that this goes for all types of people and all stereotypes. The point is, judging people without knowing them is wrong. However, as long as we continue to act in ways that fit into the stereotypes that society has created for us (and really, that we have created for OURSELVES), they will never disappear, and we can’t expect people not to believe them. We have to wake up and realize that most stereotypes exist because at least to a degree, at some time, they are true. It hurts to hear, and it may not be true for YOU, but it is something we all need to be aware of and nothing will change until we admit it to ourselves and take the necessary steps toward progress.

If you are often falsely stereotyped, it is your job to change the world’s point of reference one person at a time, starting with yourself. Don’t fall into negative stereotypes and don’t allow friends to perpetuate negative stereotypes. Stop blaming society and the people doing the stereotyping. It is not their fault that they are ignorant. It is only natural for a person to use a frame of reference they are familiar with when they are viewing the world. It is our job, in our generation, to change the frame of reference and to stop expecting it to happen on it’s own.

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Americans STILL Don’t Get it…

As election time approached last year, I began to feel that the general American population was finally wising-up to the fact that we are in a tough time and that we, the people, need to take the reins. We realized that we were approaching a major economic crisis, that were in a war we may not be able to win, and that our “leader” had led us astray over the past 8 years. Americans, it seemed, were aware that international relations were weak and that many people across the world who used to adore and envy us, were now disgusted with the American people.

On the night of the election, as they announced that Barack Obama had won, I felt an overwhelming feeling of emotion and relief. As millions of Americans celebrated in Grant Park that night, the American people made a bold statement to the citizens of the world that the last 8 years were not our choice, and that we were going to make things right.  Obama won the election less because of his political party and more for his ambition to “fix the world” and for everything that he stood for. It became clear that  “Change had come to America”.

Almost 6 months later, I am sad to announce that at least partially, we were all sorely mistaken. In the past few days,  the economy still teeters in the balance, issues of Universal Health Care are on the tips of everyone’s tongues in Washington, and the Iranian people flood the streets of Tehran in an effort to continue their fight for democracy. All the while, as I look to Google News’ “Most Popular “, what is it that tops the list??? What is the most read article on Google? What is it that Americans are the most concerned about? Apparently it is the divorce of Jon and Kate Gosselin from “Jon & Kate Plus 8.”googlenews

Are you kidding me!? As the President is being heavily criticized for his leniency toward Ahmadinejad‘s handling of the situation in Iran, we, the people, are not only watching “Jon & Kate Plus 8” but are actively sitting at our computer and reading articles detailing their divorce, more often then we are doing so for the international crisis in Tehran.

“This must be a mistake”, I think to myself, as I decide to double check it by looking at the most popular video’s on Youtube for the day… Surely it is some riot footage or CNN coverage on the situation in Iran. Perhaps it is the video of Neda Solton, the 26-year old Iranian woman who was shot down on the streets of Tehran and who’s death was captured on a cell-phone camera. Just as CNN has put out warnings that “The Footage You Are About to See Is Extremely Graphic and May Not Be Suitable For Some Viewers”, I feel that I need to preface my reveal of the top videos on Youtube with a similar warning… “The Sentence You Are About To Read May Disgust You and Make You Want to Move to a Country More In Tune with Reality”… The top 2 video’s on Youtube are the Adam Lambert and KISS Duet from the American Idol Finale and some new video of Youtube character “FRED”.

Now, I understand that these sites are not solely American sites and thus it does not speak only of Americans and our cultures… However, if you think that it is not almost entirely Americans who are watching the “Jon & Kate Plus 8”, “Adam Lambert & Kiss Duet” and “FRED” videos, give me a break.

What does this say about our culture? We live in a tough time right now, and I get that. It is perfectly normal to watch television for entertainment purposes (as you will learn, I am a huge music, TV, and movie buff). We all need a break and to kick back and forget about our problems from time to time. The problem is that these are the MOST WATCHED shows and clips of the day. During the election, if you went to Youtube, it was almost impossible to find a clip that was NOT related to the election in the first 5 pages of the most popular clips. People were so engulfed with the problems that we faced and the need to find a new leader to fix everything that we simply couldn’t get enough.

What this tells me is that we have forgotten, to an extent, what it means to be an American, and the principles on which this country was founded. We came together after 9/11, in crisis, and helped to build back up America. We came together at election time to find a leader that most of us thought could lead us out of this… and then we bailed. We changed the channel. This country does not work that way. We don’t’ get to wake up to our problems every 4 years at election time, pick somebody to “fix our problems” and then leave it in their hands until the next election.

If you don’t want to write a blog to do your part, then don’t. If you don’t want to take to the streets to help protest the resistance in Iran, don’t. If you don’t want to sit down and watch entire news programs all day every day to keep up with what is happening in the world and not just in your own little box, then don’t… But for Heaven’s sake, can you not read a 1 page news article or watch some news summary clips to stay somewhat informed about the world? I don’t expect “CNN World News” to be the top show on television right now. I’m talking about Google News and Youtube. Anybody, even with the worst case of ADD in the world can sit down and read a 1-page news article or watch a 2-minute youtube clip.

This is the type of closed-off, out of touch mentality that everyone else in the world sees in Americans. It is time that we wake up and take some responsibility ourselves, and not just leave it in the hands of law-makers and government officials.

For those of you who stay informed, and do your part, however small, good for you. To everyone else… shame on you. We all have to live in this world and all of us have to wake up every day and look at ourselves in the mirror and realize that we are responsible for the world we are passing on to future generations. Most of you who are reading this blog probably live in a decent home, with running water and electricity. We never go hungry and we never have to worry about whether we could die from riots in the streets or car-bombs going off on our morning commute. The least we can do is be thankful for what we have and who we are. If we’re going to complain about our problems, we need to tune in and take action… more then for a few months every four years. Step up. Speak your mind, and please, take a break from “Jon & Kate Plus 8”. Even if it’s just during the commercials… It is the least we can do.

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