Stereotyping is the grouping of individuals into ill defined categories or associating them with a specific group or type. As individuals, regardless of how similar we all might be we are all different. Individuals with like traits, history or similar ancestry tend to group together. These groups develop qualities that define their group or category. However, stereotypes do not define groups; rather stereotyping is a means of explaining and justifying differences between groups.
Stereotyping can be very detrimental to groups; for example individuals suffering social and or economic disadvantages who cannot find employment could be stereotyped to explain away their disadvantages and their inability to find employment. When in fact, their inability to find employment is due to other groups unjustly labeling, classifying, playing favoritism or other related social forces that identify the disadvantaged group or individual as unmotivated, unintelligent or lazy - stereotyping. Every night on nightly news there are reports of crimes that occurred that day. The individuals committing the crimes appear to be all the same race. As a result, that race is stereotyped as all being criminals who should be in jail. This is an unfair assessment of any group. In the days of the wild west Indians were depicted / stereotyped as being unintelligent savages; watching Saturday morning Westerns every Indian was either after a white man’s scalp or was a drunk. Again, an example of a group unfairly labeled resulting in the group being stereotyped as savages and drunks.
I have first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to be stereotyped – I have been many times in my life. When I was a teenager I had long hair there were many times I was called freak or other names. If you have long hair “how can I give you a job – you’re a hippie.” How can you be an athlete if you have long hair, “you’re a freak” but I placed second in a junior Olympic High Jump event. Today I ride a Harley. It is amazing how people who ride motorcycles are stereotyped. The funny thing is most Harley riders are very successful people that just like to ride motorcycles and have tattoos – doctors, lawyers, judges, engineers etc.. When I recall those days or think about stereotyping a song that was popular back then always comes to mind. The song is “Signs” by Five Man Electrical Band which starts with this verse
And the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
He said you look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you'll do
So I took off my hat I said imagine that, huh, me working for you
Stereotyping is unfair to any individual or group. When we use generalizations, or assumptions, about the characteristics of all members of a group, based on a preconceived image (most times wrong) about what people in that group are like we are guilty of stereotyping.
We live in an age of extreme stereotyping – all one needs to do is look at and listen to the world around them – men are strong and do all the work, women can’t do as good as a job as a man, all Mexicans are lazy and came into America illegally, all Arabs and Muslims are terrorists, all Jews are greedy, all African Americans are criminals, people in same sex relationships are freaks of nature, and on and on… It’s easy to see how these examples are incorrect and unfair to the individuals in the various groups. Each of us know individuals in at least one of the examples used – do you believe the stereotyping of that person is fair and correct?
I leave you with this “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” Matthew 7:1-2.