Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘stereotypes

Thoughts on Stereotypes

with 5 comments

Years ago, here at my blog, I wrote a piece about discrimination. At the time, my mother had urged me to write it because I was frustrated at the amount of ridiculousness in this world when it comes to discriminating against people different from yourself.

Right now, we have additional problems with discrimination and stereotyping, which kind of go hand-in-hand. There’s way too much stereotyping going on, and way too many people over-reliant on stereotypical behavior.

We are all human beings, regardless of creed, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, or any other thing that could possibly be used to divide us. We were all created equal. We were all created by love (at least, at the highest level possible, the Deity Him/Her/Itself).

But we forget this when we rely upon stereotypes.

I was talking to a good friend the other day about how he gets stereotyped often. He is not white. And while I guess he could pass, on some days, if he truly wanted to (and you didn’t know what his last name was), why should he have to worry about this?

I mean, isn’t he the same no matter what?

It’s about the content of your character. Not anything else. (I’m still with Martin Luther King., Jr., on that one, and always will be.) Your actions flow from your character. Your mind and spirit and heart are informed by that same character. And you, as a person, should never be judged by externals — never.

That said, it happens far too often.

With the recent murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis, I was reminded again that stereotypes can kill someone. He was stopped for apparently passing a counterfeit $20 bill (this is the best information I heard/read anywhere). And I know, from past experience as a cashier, that police do not have to kill you to get you to go to court to defend yourself. It’s a misdemeanor ticket if you’ve passed one, and if you can prove that you didn’t know, you will not be charged or blamed.

But Mr. Floyd was black. He was tall. It was a hot day, and he wasn’t wearing very much. And perhaps he looked offensive in some way — I don’t know how, mind — either that, or the white police officer just didn’t like the man on sight. Mr. Floyd was stereotyped as a dangerous individual solely because of his race.

It’s hard for me to type that. Because I want to believe we’re all better than that.

I referenced a good friend of mine from high school in my first blog about discrimination. I would like to talk more about her now, because I think it’s relevant to the discussion.

My friend was a viola player, and one of the best viola players in the city of Racine. She was easy to talk to, and we talked music, some sports, current events…you name it, we probably talked about it. She was cultured. She was opinionated, in the best of ways. She was intelligent. And yes, she was black.

I gravitated toward her because of her abilities, her interests, her intelligence and quick wit, and because I found her an interesting and admirable person. I didn’t care one whit about her color then, and I don’t now either.

But I do wonder what her life has been like since. Did she have the money to go to college? (I never asked.) Did she keep playing? (I wasn’t here in Racine for many years, and by the time I got back, I couldn’t find her in the music scene.) What happened to her?

I feel terrible that I lost track of her, as we all seem to do with many of our high school friendships. But I wish I knew all these things, because I’d like to ask her what she wants people to know right now regarding the murder of George Floyd. What she thinks about stereotyping, and how to get past it…what she believes will work to get people to see the content of people’s character, rather than only seeing the externals as we seem to be doing now.

Mind, I have other friends, as I’ve said, who also aren’t white or straight. They’re Latino, or Asian-American, or black, or mixed-race; they’re gay, lesbian, transgender, and gender-fluid/queer. I have friends of all shapes and sizes, and I’m glad of this. Because it means I can see past the stereotypes to the human beings underneath.

While there’s no way to turn the clock back so Mr. Floyd doesn’t die (or, on a happier note, that I didn’t somehow lose track of my old friend), we can have a better and brighter future. One based on the content of our character, rather than the outmoded and outdated stereotyping and discrimination that we’ve seen thus far.

May that day come soon for us all.