‘Ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise’ – “Ode on a distant prospect of Eton College” Thomas Gray.
It’s 7:45pm on a Wednesday evening. My best friend and I are getting a quick bite to eat before heading off to our art class. Suddenly, my best friend nudges me and says: “That security guard has been following us around the whole time we’ve been here.” I turn around to see a sheepish looking security guard pretending to gaze into a pot of flowers.
This kind of behaviour isn’t unusual for most people to witness or personally experience. It happens on a daily basis and in most cases, people don’t even bother to flag it up. At some point in their lives, everyone’s done it, including me, as much as I write about the importance of tolerance and being open minded. Not only is this type of behaviour unfair, but it annoys a lot of people.
Stereotyping. “All young people are lazy, trouble-makers.” “He’s black and wearing a hoodie. He must have a knife on him.” “That man with a turban is a terrorist.” “Her dress is so short, she must be easy.” Whilst we may not say and/or agree with the above statements, it is a sobering reality that many people do on a daily basis. But what does it mean to stereotype and why do we do it? Firstly, to stereotype someone is different from prejudice and discrimination. Although they are related to each other, it’s important to distinguish between the three as separate concepts.
Who? What? When? Where? Why?
Stereotyping often occurs without us even being aware of it. So much so, it’s subconsciously done. But why do we do it? I guess we stereotype and judge others because it keeps us in our comfort zones. It also stops us feeling threatened or uncomfortable with the idea of ‘the unknown.’ But what happens when you meet a person who you can’t put into your wonderful pigeon hole system? When I first came across this image of Snoop Dogg (or Lion), I wasn’t sure who the convicted felon was. When I did find out, I was quite surprised.
Sadly there isn’t a pill or medicine that can cure us from stereotyping and judging people. Being ignorant isn’t a good enough excuse to stereotype someone. It’s not a good enough answer to justify what can be done to some but not others. The best we can do to try and tackle this is this: treat others the way you want to be treated. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is dangerous.