Thursday, February 23, 2012

Prejudice and Stereotypes

I don't have time to write much today, but here's something based on a post in a course, after we read a short story called, "Revelation," by Flannery O'Connor.
One concept in sociology that has been helpful to me in processing social prejudice is in group/out group. When we are talking about someone in our group, we tend to accentuate their positive characteristics. When we are talking about someone in an out group, we tend to accentuate their negative characteristics.

It's a fine line to walk for me personally. There are cultural differences between different groups. Such differences can be prized by one group and devalued by another, just like I might value characteristics that are my strengths while devaluing characteristics that are my weaknesses.

But that doesn't mean that the characteristics are never real. My strengths often have corresponding weaknesses and vise versa for the person whose strengths are in areas of my weakness.  Surely it can work that way for cultures in general, that some cultures have strengths that may have associated weaknesses.

So it seems to me that cultural stereotypes are not always wrong; they can even give a jump start to communication and understanding. BUT, in the hands of most of us they are inaccurate, imbalanced, and a subconscious way of making me feel better about myself at someone else's expense. Most of the time, stereotypes are vehicles for prejudice rather than for understanding.

Bottom line: I need to give every specific individual the right to show and tell me who they really are, not to impose on them my own assumptions.  Further, I need to give every individual the space to change as well, regardless of what they might have been or done in the past.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

I think prejuidice is a good thing, as it allows individuals to choose and discriminate. Without boundaries, and discrimination there are no distinctions and this is where the "liberal bias" destroys "personhood" as to distinctions, boundaries, commitments, interests and values.

"Personhood" in the liberal's understanding becomes defined by group identity, and not the individual's choice of commitment and value. The individual is of supreme value, not the group.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Non intereference as to another's life and liberty is what Americans have understood to be the "rule of law".

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Funny that when a family discriminates or ostericizes their own, it causes for conflict within the child. Families are where children learn to value themselves as well as their interests, and where their lives will impact society. So, prejudice in families is not healthy.