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Stereotyping – I’m a Work in Progress

I was stopped at a red light on my way home the other day when I was passed by a luxury vehicle going the opposite way. The vehicle was being driven by a thin, middle-aged white man with perfectly coiffed brown hair and he was wearing shades that looked to cost more than my entire outfit (which isn’t saying much since I’m not going to wear any classy clothes to work). He was wearing a very stylish business suit, and there were plenty more visibly hanging in the back seat of his car.

One thought entered my mind as this man drove right by me: douchebag.  I immediately reprimanded myself for automatically assuming that this man was a pompous asshole simply because he’s wealthy. Or at the very least, for appearing wealthy.

The first time Sandler has said something funny since 1998.

I had just stereotyped that man. I did it without even thinking about it. While it’s true he could be an insufferable snob, he might not be. I’ve met plenty of well-off people who were arrogant pricks. Most of them I’ve encountered while working. Working in IT you meet quite a lot of people who are paid way too much for doing far too little, and they’re often drunk on their own power. They’re arrogant and they talk down to people. And when they’re computer isn’t working just the way they want it…look out.  However, I’ve met plenty of other wealthy folks who were as nice as they could be. There are some who are gracious and patient. I had to remind myself (again) not to judge by appearance. It’s natural to do, I guess, but I’ve been trying to be more mindful about it because I HATE STEREOTYPES.

It really sandpapers my balls (shout out to Rants) when people assume things about me because I’m white. Or because I’m a man. Or because I’m American. Or because I’m in IT (though I am a Star Wars geek−weird). Or any other reason one would assume something about me. So when I do it I get really upset with myself. It was a knee-jerk reaction, but I should still know better.

Despite the stereotype, not all white people are like this.

They say there’s some truth for every stereotype, but I think I’m going to call bullshit on that. Every person is unique and the way each person behaves is crafted by a mixture of genetics and how that person is raised. A person’s behavioral traits are not determined by their skin color, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. We’re all a product of our environment, not our labels.

I was torn from my reverie when the light eventually turned green. As I continued on my way home, I licked the wounds from the self-inflicted tongue-lashing I had just administered. It takes time to change the way you innately react to things. I’ve taken some small steps, but I still have a long way to go. At least I’m to the point now where I realize what I’ve done is wrong. Not long ago I wouldn’t have had a second thought about assuming that man was a prick.

Audience Participation Time!
How do you feel about stereotypes, dear Maphia? Have you ever been stereotyped?

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113 thoughts on “Stereotyping – I’m a Work in Progress

  1. Assuming makes as ass out of you and me; that’s what they always say. Sometimes I think we can’t help it but to be stereotypes, because our prejudice has some point of accuracy.


    Posted by Melody | February 27, 2014, 9:11 am
  2. Yay for self reflection! It’s the theme of the week :)

    And, just to set the record straight – jackasses come in all socio-economic strata.


    Posted by Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher | February 27, 2014, 9:12 am
  3. I am a white, middle aged Texan.

    I have been stereotyped as a bigot, racist, anti-gay, drug using (when I had real long hair), backwards, uneducated hick on more than one occasion – usually by the type of people you described at your job.

    Fuck ‘em.

    Do unto others…..that’s how I live.


    Posted by Fearless Leader | February 27, 2014, 9:16 am
  4. Tisk, tisk. How dare you be human?

    I don’t think stereotypes are a bad thing. The problems arise when people refuse to see beyond their first…or seventh impression.

    I have been stereotyped. Most of the time people think I’m confused and/or lost. It’s difficult to play the character someone thinks you are when you don’t have the script. I’m neither lost or unable to make sense of things, just deep in thought…but I’ll play along just to make people go away.


    Posted by theworldaccordingtoscarp | February 27, 2014, 9:17 am
  5. Go easy on you. Humans evolved to categorize quickly. You’re right, though, stereotyping usually leads to asshattery. I think most people secretly like Star Wars/Star Trek/[insert 'nerd' movie/show] but want to be “cool” and so don’t admit it. Like the statistic: 99 of 100 men masturbate, and 1 of 100 is a liar…

    Thanks for the pingback!


    Posted by BrainRants | February 27, 2014, 9:18 am
  6. Because I’m Canadian, many people think I’m polite and tolerate. I hate those stupid fuckheads.


    Posted by rossmurray1 | February 27, 2014, 9:28 am
  7. Exactly how people who have a chronic pain condition are lumped in a category sometimes.


    Posted by merbear74 | February 27, 2014, 9:33 am
  8. We’re all a work in a progress…some of us are just taking less breaks therefore making more progress. ;-) Good for you! Realizing you needed to change something, then actually lecturing yourself about it, finally actually sharing it with all of us…progress! Now go take a break! :-)


    Posted by littlemisswordy | February 27, 2014, 9:37 am
  9. “They say there’s some truth for every stereotype, but I think I’m going to call bullshit on that. Every person is unique and the way each person behaves is crafted by a mixture of genetics and how that person is raised.” Nailed it. I went to a wealthy, upscale school. . .I was the only one there with purple hair and tattoos. I was one of 15 nontraditional students. I was one of 2 who didn’t live on campus. I was older than some of my professors and the only person I met out there that had children. I left after the first semester when I realized that regardless of my abilities as a student, my pretty awesome personality (if I do say so myself), and my ability to be friends with people of all different backgrounds, I was being judged and dismissed quite quickly and effectively. I left after a semester and knew no one. No one ever gave me a chance.

    However, we all do this. Why they were all ignoring me, I was thinking, “Stuck up snobs” at each of them. They probably weren’t all that way, but I was quick to jump on that thought while drowning in a sea of khaki pants and polos with the collars popped.


    Posted by LauraALord | February 27, 2014, 9:43 am
  10. We are all guilty of thoughts jumping into our heads. That’s something we can’t help. But, by doing what you did, chastising yourself and thinking it through, we are making sure we don’t act on those thoughts – hopefully preventing those thoughts in the future. Happens to all of us sometimes.


    Posted by Rhonda | February 27, 2014, 10:14 am
  11. Good for you for being honest. I think we’re all guilty of it to some degree. You’re exactly right that it’s unfair, though.

    & To answer your question, yes, I’ve been stereotyped many times before.


    Posted by DaydreamsInWonderland | February 27, 2014, 10:34 am
  12. It’s hard. I was just over at Long Awkward Pause and I totally stereotyped all those selfie people as complete morons.


    Posted by Steph | February 27, 2014, 11:27 am
  13. Where did you find that video of me? I didn’t know that was online… Hmm, wait a minute, never mind, that isn’t me. My gun is much bigger.


    Posted by djmatticus | February 27, 2014, 11:37 am
  14. There is a very specific type of person who tends to stereotype… HA!


    Posted by pouringmyartout | February 27, 2014, 11:48 am
  15. When people read my name, they think I am brown and I have a weird accent. When they meet me in person, they ask ‘and you said you’re Indian? But…’ Your story inspired me to write something from my experience:), I’ll write on weekend :)


    Posted by Archita | February 27, 2014, 11:50 am
  16. I agree that stereotypes are wrong. Sometimes we carry around stereotypes or prejudices subconsciously (unconsciously), even when we think we have risen above them – that we will judge people as individuals and not lump them into a group.

    In the January issue of Scientific American magazine, an article about the unconscious mind states: “The unconscious way we perceive people during the course of the day is a reflexive action. We must exert willful, conscious effort to put aside the unexplained and sometimes unwarranted negative feelings that we may harbor toward others.”

    You can blame your unconscious mind for betraying the person you are consciously. Of course, you’d be blaming yourself.You get a g old star for catching yourself :)


    Posted by Robin | February 27, 2014, 12:00 pm
  17. I hate when I stereotype people too. Sometimes the thought is just there before I can stop it. I do try really hard now though to not stereotype. This really started when I had kids. When I realized what I thought about folks would easily be picked up by my kids, I started making the serious effort to not judge people before they did something incredibly stupid :)


    Posted by Nikkistory | February 27, 2014, 12:02 pm
  18. You do what everyone does. Please don’t beat yourself up. I hate when I find myself prejudging bc it is one of my pet peeves about others. Sometimes they will act like the db I thought they were and I don’t feel as bad.


    Posted by 1jaded1 | February 27, 2014, 12:04 pm
  19. So true! I’ve caught myself many times making a snap judgement and have to remind myself that i don’t know these people. we’ve been conditioned by the world to make assumptions based on appearance, and it couldn’t be the furthest indicator of the truth of any person. there’s good, bad and ugly everywhere in every class and race and gender. sometimes people find what they’re looking for to fit their preconceived profile.


    Posted by icescreammama | February 27, 2014, 12:05 pm
  20. Stereotyping has always made me uncomfortable because it tends to be so incredibly negative. When people stereotype, they usually assume the worst of others, and I’d rather live my life in such a way that I assume the best of people until they prove me wrong.


    Posted by The Waiting | February 27, 2014, 12:30 pm
  21. I have both sterotyped and been stereotyped.
    One of the nice things is seeing the generalization of a stereotype fall apart in the specific.


    Posted by El Guapo | February 27, 2014, 12:37 pm
  22. I try to reserve judgement at first, because as you said, sometimes you can’t judge a book by its cover.

    And part of it is only natural. If you have had bad experiences with middle aged white guys who drive luxury cars, it’s hard for you to not have some built in bias.


    Posted by The Cutter | February 27, 2014, 1:33 pm
  23. I think that we’re all guilty of it. Way to go for catching it. It will make me more aware of thoughts next time! You know our best friends are filthy rich and if you were to meet them, you would never guess. They also worked very hard from the ground up to get there.


    Posted by behindthemask | February 27, 2014, 1:41 pm
  24. I think it may be some form of knee-jerk reaction. You don’t dress classy (loser) so you assume that the well-dressed automatically look down on you because of your obviously trashy geeky clothes. So before you get called a loser by a stranger, you just assume “douchebag” in a in-your-face self-defense mechanism. ;)

    I’ve had absolute (bigger) strangers call me skinny bitch as if I was that bitchy chick in high school who laughed at heavier girls… basically they probably threw that out at me before hearing me snicker at them. As if i would. I’m more prone to yell at them for not picking up their dog’s droppings. But you know where I’m getting at with this.

    That and my 3 months of handling social media for Deepak Chopra I’m tempted to tell you to be kind and patient with yourself.



    Posted by Marie | February 27, 2014, 7:04 pm
  25. I agree with the consensus, we can’t always stop our selves, but good for you to work at overcoming instincts.

    Years ago when I was moving from DC to Connecticut I was stereotyped. I grew up in Westport a rich town known for breeding rich bitches. When my boss, Gary, called someone he knew in CT to help me get a job.

    “She’s from Connecticut,” Gary told him. “She’s from Westport. … No, she’s not like that at all!”

    I was in stitches …


    Posted by Elyse | February 27, 2014, 8:48 pm
  26. I agree with what rants said about it being natural for human beings to categorize. I’m sure you trace that back to some evolutionary thing, but it happens. It’s good to be aware of it and try to work against it. I agree with what you said about calling bullshit on stereotypes and it really made me think about it. But, at the same time, how would the stereotype come to be if there weren’t so many accurate representations of it? I’m not saying I agree with that rationale, and I definitely loathe stereotypes. And yes, I have been stereotyped too many times to count for so many reasons…great thought provoking post!


    Posted by Deanna Herrmann | February 28, 2014, 1:07 am
  27. To paraphrase Einstein, common sense is a collection of all of our past prejudices we learned when we are young. Judging people, things, and situations by their outward appearances is essentially a remnant of the survival instincts our caveman ancestors used to make it through another day. Stereotypes are never appropriate in an individual situation, but I know a lot of stereotypes we don’t like that can be pretty dead on when talking of a collective group of people with a certain shared outward trait. It’s funny… one of the points that inspired my most recent comic was how we tend to think very negatively of stereotypes, but very positively about culture. Culture is nothing more than a collection of stereotypes about a certain group of people. It’s quite a paradox to embrace the collective while still maintaining the uniqueness of the individual…

    Then again, they say us squirrels are always full of shit…


    Posted by evilsquirrel13 | February 28, 2014, 11:35 am
  28. You’re a good man, TD. I wish more people just cut others a break and stopped judging based on much of nothing. Hell, I’ve cut off people in traffic before (mostly unintentional), and I’m sure someone thinks I’m a sick prick for it… even though I don’t think I am. I mean, I could be. But I might leave that up to the people who surround me and are in better shape to make the assessment.


    Posted by Trent Lewin | March 1, 2014, 9:51 pm
  29. I have to admit that I do stereotype. As George Clooney said in “Up in the air”, “I stereotype – it’s faster”. Sometimes we just don’t have information to tell anything about a person, other than what the person chooses to do with their appearance or behavior. If I see a bunch of rowdy drunk guys, and a old lady with a walker, I know that if there ever will be any problems, it probably won’t be from the old lady. If I see a car with a bumper stickers “I’m NRA and I vote”, “Don’t fuck with Texas”, or anything like that – I will stereotype this person as a likely trigger-happy redneck, and get as far as I can from them. And those drunk guys or the driver can be very nice people, and I might be pleasantly surprised by them if I really spent time with them – but they put themselves in one category I know I don’t want to associate with.

    Now, there are good stereotypes and bad stereotypes, and hard part is figuring out which stereotypes you should choose not to act on.


    Posted by List of X | March 2, 2014, 1:50 am
  30. I suspect that the reason we try to stereotype harks back to when we lived in much smaller communities and life was harder – different back then equalled competition for food. Or maybe I’ve just watched too many episodes of Bones and am going all anthropologist on you.


    Posted by faithhopechocolate | March 4, 2014, 10:58 am
  31. You can’t fix a problem until you acknowledge you have one! Congrats on becoming aware – it’s a step in the right direction. I have to fight against the stereotypes my parents passed on to me every day.


    Posted by benzeknees | March 4, 2014, 3:58 pm

We don't tolerate scum.

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