Stereotypes are bad… But they have a function

Lego arms of different colors

When we think of stereotypes we think of general stereotypes like “asians are smart”, “blacks are thieves” or “irish are alcoholics” (I’m sorry if this insults somebody, but it’s a fact that those are stereotypes built years ago and well-known around the world). In the end, it’s impossible for that to be truth as we’re all different people. Are you the same as “your kind”? There’s no kind, We are just born as we are.

This racism thing has been around since… always! And I hate it. But I have to say that there is a reason behind all that. Several, actually. The historic reason is that thousand of years ago groups were formed, and with time those group differentiated themselves from others and some rivalry started. With centuries we begin to talk about civilizations. Wars are mostly caused by this, or something derived from it. People don’t like “others”, and sometimes that turns into hate.

Primal feelings of survival must have something to do with it. They fear “their kind” will lose to others. Whatever the reason, it’s a fact there is hate, perhaps not everywhere anymore, or as visible as years ago, but there is. But this is not a bout hate, but the hated: stereotypes. Not the concept of stereotypes, but the finished form. People around the world have stereotypes of all kinds. And there’s a reason for that.

At least from my point of view, stereotypes exists due to the fact that we need to think. That need for thinking in “important” things like the job, family, relationships or anything else makes us want to forget about some things. One of which is to know about people, individuals.

We care more about doing our work (or procrastinate) than we care about meeting strangers, don’t we? But we, as humans, need to know. We think as animals, too: we need to know possibilities. We tend to figure from out of nowhere how is some stranger going to behave. What is he or she going to do next. We don’t think too much about it, to give importance to other things, but we do think generally.

My theory (or hypothesis) is that we first observe, then we create some conclusions (erratically, of course), and we attach those conclusions to anybody “like” the first person. We create a stereotype from the information gathered from one or more individuals and then attach it to any other with something in common with the originals. This gives us the chance to not think in how are they going to behave or act, but rather to feel we know it.

That’s when racism originates. Imagine a random stereotype or some dangerous “kind”. Everybody that matches a vague description can be included there. People then start to fear them. With time the whole society agrees in that “that kind” is doing something bad to them, or someone else… And hate begins.

Stereotypes are not bad, per se. But they can originate racism, which is a terrible human “invention”. We have to be careful with it causing us to think badly of good people… Or even good of evil ones. Don’t judge people without knowing what you think you know.

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