To Humankind, Be True: Breaking Down Stereotypes
Lisa Noël Babbage
Author, Teacher, Philanthropist
Jan. 17, 2018
“You can tolerate a great many things. However, the path to understanding is the path to meaning beyond stereotypes, category, or rigidity.”
The New York Times writer Susan Saulny poignantly describes the younger generation as having a “more fluid sense of identity.” But is often the younger generation as seen as the ones pushing the recognition of the lines we have drawn to separate identities into the categories we so often regret. So how is a generation of people, both young and old, able to take the categories we have created and make them both fluid and meaningful? The answer must stem beyond tolerance to understanding. You can tolerate a great many things. However, the path to understanding is the path to meaning beyond stereotypes, category, or rigidity.
So what is the best way to start on that path? Take a look in the mirror. Starting with self is the beginning of understanding. The age-old soliloquy ‘to thine own self be true’ was first coined in a Shakespearean tale of moral failure, incest, and retribution. Yet we as a society have elevated that line to level of wisdom and truth. Perception is the fact we can extract from the picture Shakespeare painted about self. If we aim to break down stereotypes, we must first acknowledge our perceptions and the inner prejudices of our hearts. Some of us lie to ourselves. We can’t operate in a fluid sense of identity if we lie to ourselves about who we are and what we really feel about ourselves and others.
Step Two: Fix the lies. Once we’ve recognized the sometimes ugly truth about ourselves, we can them begin to fix the lies we’ve told ourselves or been told by someone else. Everyone has heard that racism begins at home. But what about sexism, or ageism, or any other -ism that discriminates against another group of people. We live in those ‘lies’ and over-generalizations that cause us to point out differences in others. We’ve to fix the lies as a society in order to move forward. Division brings self-destruction. Let’s face it, a house divided falls like a stack of cards.
If, then: We are confronted by a wrong definition of defining characteristics of people, we must take steps to educate ourselves of the truth and act upon it. Fixing the lies means one thing, but the next step is vitally important in ensuring that the false understanding does not come back into our subconsciousness. We’ve got to act on our new found truths about people. Judging a person for their character is what Martin Luther King dreamed of, but we have the duty to act and interact upon correct judgments. Prove and disprove the things we take for granted as truth by interacting with people of all types - challenge the stereotype and it will break. Continue to challenge it by fixing the lies you were taught and the stereotypes will become trampled upon. To humankind, be true, and to thine own judgments be ever vigilant.