Stereotypes are bad.
Most of us have had that lesson pounded into our head time and time again, especially as they relate to race, gender, religion or nationality.
To paint a large group of people with such a broad brush is unfair, we are told. Racist. Elitist. Jingoistic. Homophobic. Mysoginist. Whatever. Generally speaking, I don’t like to stereotype individuals. Better to get to know them and judge them on their own merits.
Speaking of paint, when the News Journal delivery van was spray painted with curse words and silly gang symbols last week, well, I knew exactly what sort of people were responsible for the crime.
I knew they were teenagers. Probably into skateboarding, Goth or some other fleeting counterculture lifestyle.
I haven’t seen them, but I bet anything I can tell you what they look like or get real close.
If pressed, I can probably come up with a pretty decent approximation of their socio-economic background … their upbringing and their home life, what kind of music they listen to and other interests.
I knew for certain they weren’t likely very smart, which is painfully obvious considering what they were doing and the fact that they got caught. Who in their right mind, in Kentucky, would want to be associated with some Los Angeles gang anyway?
Seems kind of pathetic.
I think my guesses just about hit the mark every on every count.
It didn’t really take much thought. I was using what I generally knew about those, locally, who engage in this sort of pointless, destructive and idiotic activity and applied it to come up with a profile for our culprits.
Turns out it didn’t really matter. The police got them before I had to burn even a single brain cell mulling it over.
Some people may call what I did stereotyping. Perhaps it was a bad thing.
I just call it common sense.
This may not be politically correct, but I think stereotypes come about for a reason. There’s some usefulness to them. They provide us some guidance. They would not exist if there weren’t at least a kernel of truth to them.
Periodically, someone steals our newspaper racks. We eventually find them beat to pieces laying in some creek bed or out in a field, maybe along some railroad tracks, devoid of any money. Always, my mind starts drawing a mental picture of the kind of person/people who would do this. Desperate. Drug addicted. Young. Owns a beat up truck. Tattoos here there and everywhere.
Of course, not all young drug addicts with tattoos steal newspaper racks. But let’s get real. It isn’t very likely a preacher stole those racks or a banker.
When the news broke a decade ago that commercial airplanes were being flown into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, it didn’t take long for us to form an idea of the kind of people that would be responsible for such an atrocity.
Maybe that was an unfair rush to judgment. After all, it was only six years earlier that we made a similar assumption after the Oklahoma City Bombing. Missed the mark a bit on that one.
Still, I’m an unapologetic stereotyper. It’s served me well over the years. My mother-in-law thinks it is an awful trait I have.
“Men!,” she’ll say. “They’re all the same.”