At the risk of seeming reductionistic, I think there’s this common pattern of thinking that drives prejudice, bigotry, and racism. I find that it requires one to arbitrarily associate a handful of mostly unrelated characteristics, and then to use this hodgepodge to assign value, to impose judgement, or to make assumptions about the character/capacity of others.
This pattern is largely fuelled by ignorance. Ignorance about the real associations between the initial characteristics that were arbitrarily mashed together; ignorance about the real sources and meanings of those characteristics; and ignorance about the strength of inferences that can be made about a person based on those characteristics.
It’s also problematic because it typically results in the relegation of individuals to monolithic and static domains of classification, e.g., coloured people, cops, murderers, foreigners, women. Though these categories can be useful in some contexts, by “freezing” people like this we sometimes fail to see or deliberately ignore the fact that individuals are dynamic, complex, changing, relational, etc. etc.
This is why, all too often, the best antidote to such mindsets is prosocial familiarity tinctured with a few drops of “education.” I put that in brackets because I know that many will want to debate “what kind of education?” Outside the scope of this post.
To the point. I saw this post yesterday on Facebook (see picture below).
To be honest, the language was rather incomprehensible to me – I think it’s a generational gap; something derived from contemporary discourses that I’m not really part of. But what struck me as problematic is how it commits the very same error that, I assume, it seeks to oppose.
Why are we arbitrarily associating a handful of mostly unrelated Why are we arbitrarily associating a handful of mostly unrelated characteristics, and then using this hodgepodge to assign value, to impose judgement, or to make assumptions about the character/capacity of others? Isn’t the creation of quadrants like this relegating individuals to static and monolithic domains of classification?
People are trying to grow, learn, and contribute. Why the hell are we strapping them into these political straight jackets, policing their every move until they conform to some convoluted idea about what constitutes an “authentic ally”?
It seems to me that these sorts of things only breed further prejudice and bigotry. Instead, perhaps there should be greater focus on reaching across divisions, building empathetic relationships, and countering divisive narratives.
Am I wrong? Please weigh in.