Apparently, stereotypes are bad. I have come to that conclusion after months of exhaustive research, testing mice in a secret, underground laboratory. The mice said that stereotypes are bad, that they have an acute moral compass and that their priest told them that stereotypes are odious examples of the devil’s… badness.
Continuing on the motif of unnecessary experimentation, I contemplated a thought experiment in which all stereotypes are true. I realize my thought experiments are twisted and shaped by years of on and off mescaline use, but bear with me. In this crazy utopia, people don’t have to worry about being typecast because they already are typecast. Minorities don’t have to worry about their rights being marginalized by the perpetuation of stereotypes because they already are marginalized. All in all, Mr. Insecurity can feel safe knowing that everything is in perfect order, meaning everyone acts according to the laws of the land. No one has to feel uncertain about his own role or hostile toward that of others, because it has been decided that in the interest of social security, everyone must restrain himself to the guidelines defined by his own affiliation. Rambunctious Jimmy the Teenager can freely skateboard all day and not resent Grandma for driving 35 mph on the highway, similarly allowing Grandma to do her crossword at home without having to get angry at her yardworkers, whom she can’t understand because, necessarily, they don’t speak very good English.
This all goes very well until, of course, some rabble-rousers, probably teenagers knowing their ilk, start breaking the law. Dan the Jewish salesman decides “nobody can’t hold me down” and that he would actually rather rap. He may be rapping about the Torah, but that’s still a grave offense, akin to our own gay marriage laws. According to the law, he is thrown in jail, but this just creates more problems, because wait, only the poor are supposed to be in jail. Everything is going awry. The experiment is shaking in its foundations. All different types of people are wandering around doing whatever they want. Suddenly I realize that what I thought was a utopia was evidently a dystopia because of well, the lack of stereotypes.
Without stereotypes we are a country without context. We would be like a people without a history, because if history is there to show us what not to do, so are stereotypes. They are like a beacon of bad judgment in the distance, shining right through my excessive exaggeration.
Stereotypes have a real purpose: as Heidi Burgess says on www.beyondintractibility.org, “Such generalizations are necessary: in order to be able to interact effectively, we must have some idea of what people are likely to be like, which behaviors will be considered acceptable and which not.” Such legitimacy pales opponents’ arguments that stereotypes perpetuate hate crimes and other sorts of less vindictive violence. Many things kill people, but stereotypes don’t. I’ll admit that they can be somewhat influential in some individuals’ decisions to practice genocide, but these people also actively practice stupidity or Satanic worship.
In my opinion, in an environment disregarding people with IQs smaller than their shoe size, stereotypes are great cases of extreme absurdity that you can use to laugh uproariously at. Step 1: Realize you’re not a hateful bigot. Step 2: Think about how dumb it is to believe every stereotype about every ethnic or racial group. Step 3: Laugh uproariously. If you can’t follow that, you’ve probably been offended already.
Don’t be. Here’s another thought experiment. If I made a statement to you starting with the phrase “You people…”, what would you think I was referring to by saying “You people”? If you say it depends on the rest of the sentence, you’re immediately perpetuating whatever you typecast yourself as because you are thinking in terms of whatever kind of affiliations you have. Seriously, discriminating is uncool, unless it’s against dumb people. Nah, I’m just kidding. We are all part of God/Buddha/Evolution’s plan…
Ashwin Bhirud is a Trinity sophomore. His column appears every other Wednesday.