“Generalizations are necessary to understand the world we live in.”
The above statement was from a tweet I received the other day in response to my article about ¡Q’Viva! The Chosen. My article focused on how the show is highlighting Latinos in a positive way and I wrote that they’re sharing Latino culture on TV without the stereotypes. In response to my tweet about the article, someone wrote back that I should have specified “negative stereotypes” and then continued the tweet with the sentence above.
It took me a couple of times of reading the tweet to understand what she was saying. But, it took a bit longer for me to fully think about it, process it, and figure out how I truly felt about the statement. My initial reaction was “What? Stereotypes are inherently negative!” After thinking more about it and discussing with a friend, I realized that not all stereotypes are necessarily negative, though I still believe that the act of stereotyping is a negative thing. Did you get all that?
What I mean to say is that stereotypical statements such as, “Latinas are good dancers,” (to use an example my friend gave me) may not be negative in and of themselves since they are not saying anything bad about the group. This is not the same type of stereotype as saying “Puerto Ricans are drug dealers,” which is saying something negative about a group. However, the fact that a group is being generalized about in the first place is a negative thing. So, even saying that Latinas are good dancers is still a negative thing, in my opinion. Also, think of those poor Latinas who may not, in fact, be good dancers!
To address the second part of the tweet I received, which is the quote at the beginning of this post – why exactly are generalizations necessary? Are we not able to live without them? Must we have generalizations in order to get along with each other and coexist? I really don’t believe that.
We’ve become so accustomed to labels that perhaps it feels as if they’re necessary. But, are they really? I’m guilty of it myself and know that I feed into some stereotypes too. I’m not saying I’m without fault. But, I truly don’t believe that generalizations, or stereotypes, are necessary for our society.
I invite you to join this discussion and share your thoughts with me in the comments below. Are generalizations/stereotypes necessary to understand our world? Please keep it civilized and do not take this as an opportunity to bash others. I will be closely monitoring the discussion and will not allow any statements that are not necessary for the discussion.
Photo: David Childers/Flickr