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Stereotypes

Righty: You have to be either blind or a political correctness fanatic (essentially the same thing) not to notice that blacks are superior athletes or that Jews are smart. Let’s face it: Asians love technology, Latin Americans love hot music, the Irish love drinking and politics. I’m not going out of my way to be offensive here; I’m just stating that we shouldn’t ignore the obvious. That’s what Lefty and his fellow PC freaks are doing when they deny the validity of stereotypes. I find it exasperating that godless liberals insist on explaining evolution strictly in genetic terms, yet they throw a hissy fit if you mention the role of genetics in determining the behavior of ethnic groups. We know that individual dog breeds, for example, exhibit distinct behavioral traits that have been perpetuated through selective breeding. Why shouldn’t it be the same with members of ethnic groups that have married within their own tribe for centuries?

Lefty: I won’t dignify Righty’s ghastly prejudices with a lengthy retort; I’ll let his ignorance speak for itself. (With his comparison of ethnic groups to dog breeds, Righty has just possibly reached a new low even by his standards.) Let me just assert that stereotypes are responsible for some of the most hateful crimes in human history, including most genocides. We reduce living, breathing individuals to identical units in a group. Then we dispose of the group. So neat and convenient, isn’t it? (Shudder.)

The New Moderate:

Stereotypes aren’t simply the wild fabrications of flaming bigots. Nearly all stereotypes, crude as they are, contain a kernel of truth that no open-minded person can deny. Jews, on average, do have higher IQs (and incomes) than the rest of us. Blacks do comprise a vastly disproportionate percentage of basketball, football, boxing and track superstars. And nobody who listens to hip-hop can honestly dispute the much-ridiculed notion that black people seem to possess a racially inherited sense of rhythm. Nearly all black music and dance — African and African-American alike — inform our ears and eyes that they do. Whether the inheritance is genetic or cultural is beside the point; all that matters is the finished product.

Is the black rhythm hypothesis a blatant stereotype? Of course it is, and a relatively silly one at that. But is it an inaccurate stereotype? I don’t think so. We know it doesn’t apply to all black people (we’re not sure we’d want to see Oprah attempt to break-dance), but it applies to enough blacks within our experience to make the generalization stick.

Why do Lefty and Company profess to detest all stereotypes — even positive ones? Because stereotypes deny due credit to individual talents and efforts. (If blacks are naturally superior athletes, then it follows that Willie Mays and Muhammad Ali were nothing special.) More insidiously, the mind that observes positive stereotypes is likely to use the same mental tools to concoct negative stereotypes. To the stereotyping mind, Jews are smart but also pushy; blacks are not only physically talented but intellectually indifferent. You can see why we’d want to avoid this line of thinking.

The New Moderate should point out that stereotyping isn’t an exclusive pastime of the right. (Those who accuse right-wingers of indulging in stereotypes are themselves indulging in stereotypes.) Lefty’s opinions of fundamentalist Christians, Republicans, the military, white male authority figures, Texans and other mortal enemies bear a distinct resemblance to stereotypes — even vicious stereotypes — though of course Lefty would simply shrug and insist that the truth can be unflattering.

Why do so many of us — right, left and center alike — engage in stereotyping? Because stereotypes help create order in a disorderly world. If you know what to expect from Group A or Group B (or think you know what to expect), then you know (or think you know) what to expect from all the individuals in those groups. Stereotypes help an uncertain soul feel more at ease in the cosmos.

Regardless of the common traits passed down from one generation to the next, all ethnic groups are made up of individuals. The more individual those individuals are, the less they resemble the group norm. Talented Jewish athletes and black scholars should never have to find themselves imprisoned by group stereotypes. Neither should heterosexual male interior decorators or gay airline pilots. Stereotypes are valid only as crude caricatures of group characteristics (and I’m probably giving them too much credit). They should never, ever be used to prejudge individuals within the group.

The folks who do resemble the negative stereotypes for their group are usually the ones who haven’t bothered to develop as individuals. Gun-toting black thugs, Jewish wheeler-dealers, puritanical WASPs, boorish Russians and rednecks, bland Asian technogeeks, compulsively clannish Greeks and Armenians, slap-happy Irish drunks… all of them exist in real life, at least to a degree — and they tend to make their more enlightened kinsmen blush on behalf of their tribe.

The unenlightened ones simply inherit their behavior from their family and neighbors, follow the path of least resistance and never carve out their own identities. They’re still creatures of the herd, and their numbers are probably larger than we’d comfortably like to admit. But do they deserve recognition as fitting representatives of their breed? Absolutely not. We should cheer all the quirky mavericks who emerge from those groups: nerdy blacks, lovably goofy Germans, ethereal Latinos, math-averse Asian rock stars and fashion-challenged gay men. They give us reassuring evidence that individualism is stronger than inheritance.

Summary: Most stereotypes contain nuggets of truth about various groups, but they’re only crude caricatures and should never be used to prejudge individuals within a group.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Taliesin Knol permalink
    January 6, 2010 12:22 pm

    It’s “tribal” or cultural, cultures that emphasize certain things see results in that department. It’s not genes, it’s social conformity.

  2. January 8, 2010 7:40 pm

    TK: It’s probably mostly a cultural phenomenon, but (and this isn’t going to win me any friends) I think there’s also a genetic element. People go with their strengths. Jews have higher than average IQs, so naturally they value intellectual and professional pursuits. And they tend to favor mates who share their values. The result: kids with even higher IQs. The genes feed the cultural values, which feed the genes… But which came first, the “chicken” or the “egg”?

    • Taliesin Knol permalink
      January 8, 2010 9:46 pm

      Survival of the fitest… And Jews are up there in the “trials of nature” list. When everbody hates you, stupidity is not a survival trait. That last problem always annoys me, it’s the egg. “What laid it?” You say, “who cares?” apparently not a chicken…

      • Anonymous permalink
        August 4, 2014 12:06 am

        Genetics? That can only be proven if you are able to test babies uninhibited by the cultural mores of those who raise them.

        Until then, stereotypes are first and foremost, based on cultural phenomenon.

        Secondly, and I believe more importantly, they are observations made by people outside of the group being observed solely intended, whether “positive” or “negative”, for the purpose of classifying the observed group as the other.

        Thus, all stereotypes are inherently negative as they are meant to justify, dismiss or nullify the differences being observed.

        Example 1: ” he/she’s not special, he’s this or that, and those people are prone to be this or that. So, see, he/she’s not special.”

        Example 2: ” all blank people are such and such so it’s no surprise that so and so embodies such and such.

  3. Bansee permalink
    August 12, 2010 11:49 am

    Surely this entire website is generalising, and therefore stereotyping, the viewpoint of a left-thinker and right-thinker on contraversial issues?

    • August 13, 2010 1:10 pm

      Bansee: Sure, there’s a certain amount of stereotyping here to characterize the extremist viewpoints and have some fun with them. But I also put some good arguments into their mouths on issues where I think the left and right do have valid arguments. See my introduction to The Issues at the top of the list.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    November 15, 2011 10:31 pm

    YOU ARE AN IGNORANT AND HYPOCRITICAL PRICK. I can not believe what I am reading.

  5. November 15, 2011 10:59 pm

    Gesundheit! Are you sure you’re not mistaking “Righty’s” opinions for my own? Hint: This is a three-way debate, featuring typical right- and left-wing talking points. Then I chime in with my moderate viewpoint.

    Did the thing about black people having rhythm upset you? Yes, it’s a stereotype (that’s what we’re discussing here). And it’s a silly stereotype, but not an unfounded one. Stereotypes wouldn’t become popular if they didn’t have a certain amount of truth behind them. If you read closely, you’ll see that I’m not fond of stereotypes, and I caution against using them to prejudge individuals.

  6. lolo permalink
    March 14, 2012 10:19 pm

    a typical lefty is the most consistent stereotype in existence, and most true to reality..

    a righty is everyone that on any issue disagrees with a lefty, whowhich there upon goes into a Pavlovian spasm, feeling in hisherits conditioned soul which hesheit doesnt believe hesheit possesses all the evils of an unequal world pressing on himherit.

    as far as stereotypes go, they are mostly true and actually should be true according to their own marxist theory. they of course, reserve this term for the stereotypes they deem undesirable.

    someone seeing the world in stereotypes (everyone not lefty) is a stereotype itself. They alone, since all the same, are free of all stereotypes.. lol

  7. Rowan permalink
    July 1, 2013 11:14 am

    Pattern recognition & generalization are survival mechanisms. Consequently, an experience-based default position is useful, but be aware that you have one and be willing to modify / discard it as specific data about a particular individual becomes available.

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