Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How do we solve a problem like....stereotypes

How are stereotypes formed? Who has created these beasts of prejudice and assumption and perpetuated their existence?

The answer isn't simple at all. The media, the minorities, the majorities, the interpersonal relationships, the mediated relationships, and society in general are just a few ways in which stereotypes are formed, perpetuated, and hopefully eventually controlled and eliminated. If we were to make a model of how stereotypes worked, there would be a huge circular series of loops leading to and from all of those interactions.

We can say that stereotypes are based in some kernel of truth. Some stereotypes are self-perpetuating, but is it up to the minority itself to regulate and stop those who perpetuate certain stereotypes? Can you tell one group of a minority to stop acting a certain way, to stop dressing a certain way, to stop talking a certain way? Would it really be better for society if we took out the kernels causing all the self-perpetuating problems?

I believe the first step is in recognizing the stereotypes and prejudices we believe. From there, the process of eliminating them involves confronting your beliefs by meeting people that are different from you or challenge your thinking.

Communication and being able to meet people who are not exactly like us are key factors in breaking down the walls of prejudice that we have made comfortable for ourselves. This class, I believe, is one step in the process, in getting us to step outside of our comfortable little worlds and discuss, see, and hopefully understand points of view and experiences that are shaped by the prejudices we have and the stereotypes we have made.

I grew up about fifteen minutes north of NW Oklahoma City, and about fifteen minutes west of Edmond in the community of Deer Creek. Through the oil boom in the 70s and early 80s, Deer Creek started to become more and more of a white flight community of executives, business owners, and oil men than even Edmond. The majority of my school was white with a few racial minorities. No one in the late 90s had come out as gay in my high school, though the people that were assumed gay weren't ever treated negatively to my knowledge. I literally had a white, middle to upper-middle class, heteronormative existence the first 18 years of my life.

Then I came to college. Oh, here is where we might speak of the evils of the college world where students are subjected to such horrid liberal ideas that, dare we say it, challenge our thinking and beliefs. That is if I was prone to speaking ill of such an idea.

It was through meeting other people not like my high school self that I began to be able to question why I had such beliefs about people.
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