We have ‘stereotypes’ coming out both ears. The result isn’t worth listening to. But we do, we all do, and we all subscribe thoughtlessly to stereotypes because it is easier and it feeds our suspicions and fears.
I fear we have all but forgotten the art of being comfortable with who we are, where we came from, the colour of our skin, the tribe where we are connected. We have both forgotten and been told we are skating perilously close to bigotry, racism and discrimination when we speak preferentially about our world, our communion, our smell, look and style. But it is a weak inclusion that causes real exclusion.
We can be proud, without succumbing to pride, of our heritage, differences, and the colour we all bring to the table. The world is richer, more marvellous because of our rejoicing in what genuinely and properly causes a ‘discriminating,’ an actual difference. But this word is so politically loaded it has made simpering fools out of us – we cower under its fierce public gaze.
If I can’t, or am discouraged from saying I like being who I am I will never fully appreciate those who are not me, which is most of the world. All I am left with are stereotypical views of others. I am forced to paint a community with one brush, or maybe two, if I’m not colour-blind. And it is never painting, it is always tarring.
It is simply impossible to make one size fit all, and every time we do we are victims of poor discernment – a lack of true discrimination.
This was forcibly brought to attention with the recent riots in London. It amazed us who got involved in the fiery fracas. It wasn’t all racially motivated as originally suspected. It wasn’t merely the poor venting on those ‘with.’ On the contrary, it involved young women, who certainly didn’t need another television. It wasn’t all misguided youth, and to further alarm us it involved young girls, really young. Perhaps they had got bored with binge drinking and thought binge recklessness would be better. Who knows, and yes you are right – I succumbed to a stereotype. They are hard to avoid.
But stereotypes do a disservice to the real reasons these things happen, which we are sometimes at a loss to discover. But we want reasons so we descend to stereotypical judgments. It satisfies the need to have a reason. Do we feel safer behind generalisations, behind broad-brush application of opinion? I suspect we do. That way we can stand at a critical distance, justified in not connecting or bothering to look a little further than our preferences and prejudices. Safer indeed – a dangerous safety.
What then can we resort to if we aren’t to languish in stereotypes? What is sufficient to not be blinded by the ease of the stereotype? How do we look at others without them being suspect ‘others,’ not our people, less deserving of everything we take for granted. And heaven help the person who tries to take from us what we happily would take from others, even if only in our conversation. How do we avoid, can we avoid the stereotypical view? Can we see others apart from the tarring?
Yes. Empathically so! The only way possible, there is no other, is to love people, to see them through the strength of our sense of being thoroughly at peace with difference, therefore celebrating their differences. Then we can see others as ‘ones’ more than ‘manys.’ Love for others doesn’t minimise difference nor act as though it doesn’t exist. It does exist, but it doesn’t matter.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through all circumstances.”