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How to deal with stereotyping people?
I just read that three mayors and several rabbis were arrested for corruption.
Some pictures from newspapers:





Now seeing these pictures, as an Israeli, my first response is to believe them. The view of rabbis as corrupt is an easy one to adopt in Israel as so many of the high profile rabbis in politics are corrupt (though who isn't in politics). Israelis are not immune to antisemitic stereotypes, perhaps even the opposite. We are taught their images, which then popup when you see these pictures. Pictures which clearly resound of antisemitism. There were many people arrested, and still they chose these images. I can't blame them, it works on me too. I feel the racism against them in me just the same, though at least with me it comes from many many years of knowing them. I say them - obviously stereotyping.

There was just now a case (a mini-storm) in the US where a prominent Black professor at Harvard, Henry Louis Gates Jr., was arrested in his own home for breaking into it by a white cop who was called to the scene by a neighbor seeing 2 black people force open the door to the house (his key didn't work). There was some angry exchange of words and the professor was arrested.
Now there was obviously no reason for him to be arrested. He was upset and tired after a long flight, and yelled at the police officer who didn't like it and arrested him. The fact that the prof. was black and policeman white was most probably the instigator of the case, as otherwise they would have probably calmed down immediately. Both were caught in their own stereotypes. (Let me make it clear that I think the officer was completely in the wrong. He should have understood the situation better and not lost his own temper. But I don't at all think he was necessarily a racist.)

We all stereotype constantly. There is here a great discussion on How do we inoculate young girls against gender stereotypes? Gender stereotypes is one form of stereotype, but there are many. We all have them in us. Is it ok? How do we deal with them?

If living in Israel made me somewhat racist against religious fanatics, could we expect black people not to feel racist towards white people, or women towards men? No one likes people who try to control them. (well, that's obviously false, but I'll let that go at the moment). But we need to control that, don't we? How do we handle them well?
Hi Roy,
I think the first thing we all need to do is to stop the stereotyping. You mention how it is easy for you to fall on these stereotypes as you were exposed to many antisemitic images in your studies in Israel. We are all constantly exposed to images of stereotypes and it is hard to stop the cycle.

For example you mention gender stereotypes. A picture from today's Tour de France award ceremony:



What are the women doing there?
Isn't it high time this habit of using women as ornaments, as part of the decor will stop??? How is that still accepted today? And then we wonder why people are raised with gender stereotypes.
We all like looking at pretty women, but there has to be a view of them as people and not ornaments. Their sole role there is as an image, like some flowers added to the place. (Or maybe like the flowers given to musicians after concerts here the winners are given women).

But as you can immediately see, even here, it is not easy to remove images of stereotypes. There will be many people arguing against it.
I think the first thing that we as a society should do is remove more and more images of stereotypes. It won't solve the problem, but is a good, and important, first step.
About stereotypical images: A lot of people I know think images are pretty harmless. Basically, I guess because a photo just captures something which is already there. Why blame the messenger? Does taking a picture of the booth babes hurt women?

People think of photos as "reporting facts" the same way that a lot of newspaper stories are, or used to be, "just reporting facts." What does it matter if you just take a picture of what you saw, or repeat what somebody says. Well, it is interesting just how things are repeated these days. Part of it is technology -- Ishay used the word high voltage. Part of it is the way people remember things. It has happened to me that I can't remember if I saw an image or the real thing, and that never happens to me with quotations. So by taking a picture of something you end up making it a lot more real in a weird way than it might have been otherwise.

Don't forget the hilarious Discovery Channel example.
Roy, you brought up a very interesting discussion. Stereotyping has become quite a common word and quite a common action. Some people have also unfortunately become immune to it. This topic hits an especially sensitive chord because I have experienced stereotyping too as an Arab, a Muslim, and a girl. Do you have tents and camels? One guy once asked me in New Jersey once. Are there honor killings where you are? Do you grow oil in your backyard? Even at home there is stereotyping: I'm an Americanized, short-skirt-wearing, liberal hippie.

But here's what.... People stereotype (and discriminate) because it's easy to do that; it makes life simpler, arguments easier. And so we have to make it harder (whether through law, the power of the word, or general public reaction). In a way, bringing it up in a forum like this constitutes some resistance.

And sometimes, people stereotype without malicious intent. Corrupt rabbis is juicy news. Corrupt men of religion is always juicy news. Many people wouldn't hold it against all rabbis. It may get stored in the back of their brains, but it shouldn't have an immediate antisemitism effect. In fact, countering this negative image with a couple of positive ones should balance things out. 

I think that forbidding stereotyping altogether is not an answer. We just have to do everything in moderation. Moving from our current stereotyping status to completely demonizing these actions is bound to fail. One extreme to the other is never successful (at least not in the long term). We should generalize when it doesn't hurt people. We can generalize and stereotype but leave room for customization, for individuality.
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Latest Post: October 14, 2009 at 7:32 PM
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