I guess, at some point, a point far closer to their origin than where we stand today, stereotypes manifested from thin air to simplify things.
An attempt to narrow things down to help people retain a little information on subjects about which they knew nothing.
Now, in an expanding world, where we have rapidly growing access to lives far more complex and intricate than in the past, it is hard to compartmentalize things, let alone people, into one or a couple categories. But, we do it anyway.
At this point in time, as a 20-something college student starting to think about real life, I find stereotypes to be particularly constraining. Life is not black and white, and now is as crucial an age as any to realize that.
But, at a big university like the one I attend, it’s normal to define people in a cut-and-dry manner.
She’s an athlete. He’s a nerd. She’s super religious. He’s president of that fraternity. She’s the leader of that club on campus. He goes out every night. She’s brilliant.
The list goes on and on, but are these descriptions all about separate people or the same ones? Can’t she be a college athlete and brilliant? Can he be a nerd and in a fraternity? Yes, they can and they are.
But, people hastily assume the root of a person is ultimately one primary description. How accurate can a label be?
I grew up in the part of Atlanta most known for being pretentious; there, I attended a college prep school. I don’t drive a BMW, have a second home or get someone to clean my house every week. However, I have friends who do and they don’t act entitled or expect more out of life without working for it.
We are not where we grew up. We are neither our schools nor our families' incomes. We are our actions, all of them combined.
Race is another absurd and common foundation on which many base assumptions. I won't say that, in terms of my genetic makeup alone, I don’t have it easy as a white girl. I don’t have to think too much about the color of my skin at all, which is an unfair privilege in itself.
I don’t worry about my race because it doesn’t often spark judgment when I seek employment or even when I go through airport security. This isn’t true for many people who look different than I do.
Not having to deal with these common issues is nothing I earned, and just because that is the current state of our society doesn’t make it right.
How many stereotypes do you hear that are true all the time? Not all gay guys are flamboyant lovers of Broadway.
Some Asians are terrible at math. Not all Christians beat their bibles; not all Jews are stingy, and being an atheist doesn’t mean you lack ethics or specific morals.
Being from the Boonies doesn’t make you a redneck, and growing up in the city doesn’t make you cultured. There’s no formula that proves A = B; our world and the people in it are much too complex for that.
If we keep pretending that one component of our identities can determine who we are as people, the confinement of these societal determinations will only get tighter.
Think about it: The more you hear a rumor, the more likely you will be to believe it. The more you’re told you’re supposed to be a certain way, the more likely you’ll think you should be.
It’s not fair how we have come to instinctively define each other based off origin, income, belief and lifestyle, but it’s even weirder that we feel the need to instinctively define each other at all.