We utilize stereotypes to separate ourselves from others and dehumanize them. Stereotypes create groups in which nations, cultures, and people are categorized as the “good guys” or the “bad guys.” The power of stereotypes can further dissolve those statuses into groups such as “us” and “them.” There are no names involved, humanity is stripped of such dignities and degraded to categories.
A stereotype limits those who impose it on other people. It’s as if the stereotype-r wore a pair of glasses that only allowed them to see others as a label. Instead of being human, the marginalized are perceived as a word or category. From then on, Patricia isn’t Patricia; she’s Fat Amy. You no longer view an individual you’ve stereotyped as who they are, your view is warped.
It’s crazy, but stereotypes simultaneously unite and divide. The “us’s” label themselves and proudly wear it. “Us” brings individuals belonging to that group together while pushing “them” away. On a basic mental level, the “us’s” are united by their commonalities and separated from their morals. Yet to those belonging to the “us” side, morality and mankind are a small price to pay for the propagation of their commonalities. These similarities consume the human thought process until “us” and “them” are all that remains.
The human thought process has three steps: thought, feeling, and action. Each action begins as a thought and every thought results in an action. Indoctrinated thoughts cannot be easily changed; therefore, feelings and actions are not easily altered. Overnight, a mental change is impossible; but rapid changes do not lead to improvement. Our thoughts (and the world) require dynamic changes. A purposeful and meaningful change occurs with great force and patience. A drastic change leads to a landslide that destroys everything in its path. A progressive change gradually chisels out the unnecessary in order to reveal the final product. The Grand Canyon was not formed overnight; it was formed by the relentless force of water to carve it out. The same must be done to the barren plains of “us” and “them.”
Stereotypes are mental barriers that can transform into physical walls. The Trump Wall can’t be built purely on action; devices of separation are a concept of the mind that are released into the world. These boundaries are the consummation of a thought process that is infected with stereotypes.
But stereotypes aren’t just a belief or attitude that remains in the intangible world: they find a way to infiltrate our material lives. The seepage of unjust and cruel thoughts can translate into actions, speech, and legislation. The labels that others place on us are unnecessary burdens that no human should bear. (Unfortunately, we often form self-inflicted stereotypes.)
We are a diverse people with different pasts, stories, and circumstances. We are too different to deserve an overarching theme to our lives. There is a root reason as to why everyone does what they do. Our outward actions do not justify being placed in a demeaning category of existence that disregards our true selves.
Every person will receive a name based on factors outside of their control, but what if we focused on making uplifting categorizations? Describing someone by their accomplishments and contributions to the world is a much better use of language. Instead of dividing our world, nation, or community, what if we started caring about “them?”
If we cared, “they” would become people. No longer would we define someone by their race or nationality. Then our feelings of animosity towards their culture would end. Finally, the walls could be taken down and the stereotypes would vanish with each brick that was torn from the walls.
Words are too powerful to be abused or serve as a source of abuse to those hastily defined by them.