Yesterday I read a post on social media that angered me. I tried to close the app and walk away, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the words written by a man I don’t even know. This man, in his effort to support a particular group of people, completely tore down another group of people, of which I am a part. It is possible, almost certain, that there are people who belong to both groups. I wish I knew why we feel the need to insult, make negative implications, and belittle one group in support of another. There is good and bad in every designation. Christians, blacks, whites, Muslims, Jews, police officers, lawyers, stepmoms, Italians, Irishmen, and just about every classification imaginable, have been assigned their stereotypes throughout time. I happen to fall into several of those categories. However, I would be devastated to be identified by the horrible, degrading, hurtful names that some people would use to describe me based on these designations.
When I was a young child, I went to my mother crying because another child had made fun of me. My mother told me that often people will make fun of others to make themselves feel better. He or she will find something to pick on about another person to deflect attention from his or her own shortcomings. This person, the bully, usually has very low self-esteem. My mother told me not to listen to the insults of someone who is so miserable that he needs to make other people feel bad, too. I wish it was that simple with grown-ups.
Stereotyping is not only dangerous, it’s often inaccurate. People, who accuse an entire group of people of acting or thinking a certain way, obviously have not taken the time to get to know people outside their own circle. Yes, there is bad in every group. There are angry, hurtful people of all colors, creeds, vocations, and life situations. There are also people who are hard-working, nice, caring, generous, educated formally or by experience (or both), and who want to contribute to their community in positive ways.
I know there are people who will read this and immediately think of groups which have no redeeming qualities. They do exist, but that is not the point of my writing. My goal is to shine a light on the practice that so many of us, including me at times, do without even thinking. We judge people based on a characteristic. Some of us picked it up from family, friends, or media. Some people may have had a bad experience and now attribute the negative qualities of one to the entire demographic. However it has happened, we need to retrain ourselves to remain open-minded. This does not mean we should ignore red flags. This means we should look for the best in people regardless of their religion, race, political party, or other background information, because that’s what it is, background information. These things contribute to who we are, but it is not all that we are.
It is not necessary to attack one group in support of another. It is not necessary to label an entire group based on the actions of one individual. It is entirely possible that one individual, or a faction, does not hold the same values as those in the core of the group. My suggestion is to learn about other groups and do not rely on the information of others, no matter how educated they proclaim to be. Do the research, get the facts, and then make an informed decision, still understanding that most groups have a varying level of dedication from their members, who have their own degree of understanding and faithfulness to the cause. Just because someone says they are a member of a group does not mean they follow the philosophy completely. Think about your own experiences in religion, politics, and hobby groups.
Most importantly, be introspective. Take a look to your own experiences and faults before condemning someone else. No one is perfect.