One of the things that make human life intriguing and, to some extent, captivating is the diversity and variation exhibited by people as a result of their differing cultures, jobs, personalities, and physical appearance. However, there exists great misinformation, and at times, we tend to overgeneralize and judge people based on our own narrow-minded and often misguided preconceptions. This generalization leads to stereotyping and prejudicing, which may result in discriminatory behavior or even violence. I have, at various times in my life, been guilty of stereotyping others mostly as a result of my ignorance. I shall examine one such instance and articulate the feelings that I experienced during the incident. I shall then speculate on what may have caused my stereotyping and subsequent discriminatory behavior.
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Being an American, I view myself as an open-minded and accommodative person. I was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Ohio, after which I returned to Los Angeles. This experience has opened me up to a wide number of different cultures, and I have grown to appreciate diversity and difference. However, last winter, I had an incident where I was guilty of stereotyping someone.
My friend had requested me to accompany him on a visit to his uncle’s farm in the South. His uncle owns a huge farm that employs a number of laborers. As we were walking around looking at the herds of cattle, I happened to notice one of the workers staring at his phone with a wide grin on his face. Without a second thought, I concluded that he must be an unsophisticated and ignorant person owing to his manual laborer job and rural background.
I immediately assumed that his sheepish grin was a result of his fascination with owning a mobile phone. I expressed my sentiments to my friend, who immediately agreed with me and told me that he did not envy his cousins for having to put up with such ignorant people. We went on discussing this while observing the other laborers’ characteristics and comparing them to our stereotypical views.
Emotionally, I felt frustrated that there still existed people in America who were as ignorant as I perceived the laborer to be. I also felt smug, clever, and very enlightened in comparison to the other person. This superiority complex made me feel powerful and view the laborers as inferior beings.
When I think about it, my experience was based on ignorance and limited information. Through the years, I have grown to generalize people, and my main source of information is mostly mainstream media, which is notorious for advancing stereotypes. While some of these stereotypes hold true to sections of the population, over-generalization leads to misconceptions. I later learned that the laborer was actually educated in the city and his “fascination” with the phone resulted from chatting activities between himself and his friends.
From my experience, I learned that it is only by taking a closer look and actually interacting with the other person that my stereotypical perceptions can disappear. I also learned to appreciate the fact that stereotyping can lead to hatred, which can degenerate to violence. This is because stereotyping leads to disassociation from other people, and one can, therefore, perpetuate inhumane actions against others without feeling a burden in one’s conscience since the other people are not regarded as equals.