All Nigerians are fraudsters,all Jamaicans smoke marijuana,the criminal black man stereotype,all chinese fight kung-fu, all mentally ill people are violent, all blondes are stupid, all irish are drunks, all muslims with long beards are potential terrorists, all homeless people are lazy etc are some examples of stereotypes. Before we go further into this controversial topic, let us start by defining the word stereotype.
A stereotype is a generalization about a person or groups of people based on isolated actions or behaviours of individual members of that group. This is usually borne out of a person or groups of people, not willing to get more information about some other person or groups of people, hence sticking to the general bias against this other person or groups of people. This generalization can be termed as bad judgement and does lead to discrimination,unfair persecution, scapegoating, errors in judgement, social withdrawal and so on.
Society unfortunately,unconsiously paves way for stereotypes to be the norm in some cases. As a random example, if a lady is walking down a quiet alley late at night and sees a young black man wearing a hooded top walking towards her,she will be scared not because he looks dangerous, but because there is a stereotype attached to young black men in hoods which portrays them as being potential muggers. On the flipside, if this lady walking down the same alley late at night sees an 80 year old woman walking her dog, there is every likelihood she will feel more relaxed. Most of these generalizations are based on other peoples experiences, what we see in the films ,read in books the media and so on.
We should also point out the fact that not all stereotypes are bad since in some cases, stereotypes allow people to make a better informed(but not completely accurate) evaluation of an individual/s or things they know nothing( or just a little) about. Imagine you are in a jungle and see a lion a few meters away; The first thing that comes to mind will be “I have to run for my dear life”. This is not because you have encountered a lion before then, and not neccessarily because you know someone that has, but because everyone knows that lions are dangerous animals. But then what if the lion just had a lovely springbok lunch and not in the mood to run after some human? Oh well, good for the lion then because it is better to be safe than sorry.Other Examples of positive stereotypes are – all african-americans can dance, all french men are romatic, asians have high IQs.
The bottom line is that there are usually two camps in a stereotypical scenario; the dishing out camp, and the receiving camp. Stereotyping is part of our nature as human beings and part of our survival instincts. Let us always remember that when that stereotype instinct kicks in, just before you make up your mind about that person who you know little or nothing about just because of the way they dress,what you have heard about “their kind”, the way they talk, the music they listen to etc, try turning the tables round for a second…How would you feel if it was you?
Please comment as you wish. I would like other viewpoints regarding this issue, and enjoy the video attached courtesy of youtube for your viewing pleaure