Monday, June 27, 2011

A rant on stereotypes

image courtesy of the great blog

I watch a lot of sport - most of it from outside the US.  Over the past weekend, I saw a French team playing, and then another game in which there were French players.

During the first game, the English announcers expressed their concern that "the French weren't emotionally invested in the match - that happens with French teams", and also that "if the French team goes behind, they'll lose all confidence, the way French teams do".  These two supremely psychic individuals were able to KNOW the emotional and psychological make-up of the entire team.  Amazing.

The second sporting event saw a French participant moving slowly at one point during the game.  The United States announcers pronounced that "well, sometimes French players just get bored and mentally check out of a game".  Just like that, just because this person was French, we know why they are moving slowly.  Not fatigue, not an injury, not strategy - just boredom.

In both cases, the announcers ended up looking stupid, because in both cases the individuals accused of disinterest turned out to do amazing, committed and skillful things.  

Any time you assume you know what someone will do because you know that they belong to a particular identifiable group, you (a) rob yourself of the opportunity to actually get to know and understand that person as an individual, and (b) put yourself in the position of making embarrassing and potentially damaging errors based on your failure to observe the reality that's right in front of you.

Aren't we better than this?

End of rant.


  1. We should be better than that, but unfortunately people either aren't always conscious of their biases/stereotyping, or else just don't care.

  2. Agreed! I hate stereotyping/racial profiling/biases--all of it. Am I guilty of it? I HOPE not but it's hard not to be affected by the proliferation of ignorant, biased statements that are out there on some level--even if it's just a knee jerk response to a socially unacceptable behaviour. But you are right, when these "ideas" are expressed out loud, they often sound incredibly stupid to someone of at least average intelligence and thinking ability. xxBliss