Stereotypes, prejudice, bias… those three words often evoke memories or conversations that are linked to a form of injustice or the other. I have often thought about stereotypes because well, as a Nigerian, I have been stereotyped plenty of times. I still remember meeting someone on a dating app a while ago and as soon as he found out that I am Nigerian, the ridiculous jokes came out “oooh Nigerian, do you want my credit card number? Hardy, ha, ha”. You can probably feel me rolling my eyes right now as I responded “yes, silly man all Nigerians are internet scammers, just like all the people from your country (won’t say which) are racist (he didn’t like that :), then I blocked him. Could I have handled that more maturely? Probably, but I did feel some instant satisfaction from that childish behavior :). Ok, moving on…
What I haven’t spent much time thinking about are my own biases because well, I’m the stereotyped one so I don’t really do that to others, right? Wrong! A few months ago, I was confronted with that while attending a conference. The realization that I have certain expectations of people from certain countries because well, that’s what they are “known” for. That hit me with a bang because I realized that I am just as guilty of putting others in the stereotype box, and while I may be very good at hiding them, they are there, lurking in the enclaves of my mind.
So, as we enter 2020 do some house-cleaning… I mean internal house-cleaning, an examination and cleansing of the mind. First think about the times that you have felt discriminated against and/or judged because of your gender, race, nationality, etc. Remember how that felt? Good! Now think about your own beliefs regarding others who are different from you (especially the people you don’t like)… see any biases in there? Look deeper, you’ll find them. Why are they there? Do some pondering, and resolve to let them go. Process with friends and others who you know will challenge it and grow in that area like we all should.
Let’s enter 2020 with a resolve to build each other up and not tear each other down, there are more that unite us than divide us, we just have to look closer and identify those unifying factors.
“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” -Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I encourage you to watch this Ted Talk here by Chimamanda Adichie then ask yourself “what single story do I have of others?” Now, address them!