It is in the nature of stereotypes, as part of prejudice, that they should be applied not to ourselves but to others. While the saying goes “First impressions go a long way,” it is not the first impression of the person who is presenting themselves that sticks, it is our judgment about them that remains.
It is in the nature of stereotypes that we overlook the qualities of our own people but are quick to condemn the others. We accept ourselves and the members of our in-group as individuals, yet we are apt to generalize the members of the out-group, labeling them in sweeping terms.
Social psychologists believe that we tend to participate in voicing stereotypes to relieve the need to feel like we belong to our group. It is our nature to judge anyone who isn’t a member of our group, and if we do the opposite, we are confronted with our lack of discernment.
A stereotype, in simple words, is an overgeneralized conclusion about a particular person, based on judgments of their deduced group or class. Whether your simple joke is a type of racial, gender or ethnic stereotype, we contribute to the development of social categorization, leading to a prejudice attitude with the “them” and “us” mentality. This is negative stereotyping.
The quick overgeneralizations are what take away the originality of people, due to the fear of judgments and discrimination. Regardless of whether they are exactly how we expect them to be or the opposite, it is wrong to fit someone in a box based on what we think we already know.
Each and every time we participate in stereotyping, we encourage others to ask themselves, “Why am I different?”, “What is wrong with me?” or “Why can’t I just be myself?” It may be in the nature of stereotypes to be biased towards our own and prejudiced against others, but I must ask, what is so difficult in letting someone be? What is so difficult in supporting someone for who they are or who they want to be? What is so difficult in accepting someone, regardless of the group they belong to? What is so difficult in not stereotyping?
I advocate for individuality and the refusal to fit in the box for anyone. I refuse to let others label who I am, and I refuse to live up to their expectations. Exploring self-expression, to me, is imperative for us to truly understand each other. When we all learn to let go of the need to define others, we transform, discovering the people who are indescribably unique. I advocate conquering the nature of stereotypes.
These negative stereotypes perpetuate due to our hold on false beliefs. It’s important to surface the stories of the people that we quickly judge. Once we begin to interact with those of the “out-group”, we will realize that there is no “them”, there’s just “us”. Stereotypes are the enemy of equality and we are its mediators, but now, it’s time to be the judge of our actions. It may be difficult to change our ways of thinking, but it’s not impossible.