Letter: Our stereotypes need examination
Two weeks ago I wrote a letter concerning the two lies we tell ourselves: “I’m not racist” and “I treat everyone the same.” I also wrote about the importance of treating each person as an individual rather than as a stereotype. In this letter I want to say a few words about stereotypes.
The human mind must think in terms of categories in order to make sense of the world. The categories we create become our stereotypes. If I’m standing next to a nurse in a medical office, I will be stereotyped as “patient” and she as “nurse.” The stereotype “nurse” allows us to know what we, as patients, can expect to happen. Stereotyping as a social category can have a useful purpose.
However, negative stereotyping can become an unfortunate byproduct of an otherwise useful human trait. Negative stereotypes can damage judgment, result in harmful actions, and come with a cost to us and to those we stereotype.
In my last letter, I indicated that we needed to be aware of what we imagine about others. We may need to make corrections to some of our stereotypes.
— Roger Hull