This post was written as part of Peeve Week 2: Stereotypes.
We are one race, one people. Even with the colors of our skin, the boundaries of our countries, the languages that we speak, we are one. Yet every day, we debilitate our own diversity, furiously establishing our small — and so insignificant — niches in the world that we call home. Each community learns to trust or fear another; each community closes their doors and so the wheel turns, creating in each of us a dangerous inclination towards prejudice. But for all of the differences that we claim to welcome and rejoice in, there are those that, by merely existing, can embody an entire race in an instant — stereotyping, the sameness in diversity.
The best examples of stereotyping occur in times of war — during World War II, all Germans were Nazis by virtue of their residence; during the Cold War, all Russians were Communists. Now that we have plunged fully into this unending second Gulf War — for it will never be a War on Terror, as Bush longs to call it; it has never had that characteristic of glory that a War on Terror would require — there are those who believe that all Muslims are terrorists and that all Iraqi people are insurgents. This must not continue.
For all of our sanity, stereotyping, this one descent into madness — this childish slander upon people of our world — forever condemns us to regard others (and be regarded by others) as second-class citizens of the same planet. There is a difference between teaching ourselves to better understand other cultures and playfully depicting every person of an ethnicity, religion, or social background as the same. Such a system ruins the purpose of diversity: to enlighten and expand.
I am Indian, as were my relatives for as far back as I can reasonably recall, but I’ve lived in Houston, Texas my entire life. While walking my dog a few months ago, I passed these two boys — my age, teenagers — on bicycles. They took one look at me and they did not see how Americanized I was — walking a dog or wearing a Beatles shirt. They saw the color of my skin, and as they rode by me, they shouted, “Suicide bomber!” I stopped, not knowing why I was so angry. They had already ridden down the street at that point — angry words and gestures would do anything. But it finally came upon me, as I walked, that I finally knew what it felt like to be victimized like I’m now sure my Muslim friends at school are every day. It’s not right to look at a minority and apply them instantaneously to the majority. It’s not right to judge on the color of one’s skin. It’s not right at all to stereotype, and yet we do. It’s as if we’re removing weeds from a garden and plucking useful plants as well as the useless. Stereotyping serves no purpose but to hurt. Do our world a favor. The human race is waiting.
Ranjani (aka, Biscuitrat) is a writer, singer, pianist, and a trombonist. She writes to us from Texas where she spends time with her brothers, her dog, and her runaway cat. If Photoshop were a man, she’d marry him.