I was pleasantly surprised to see this post by Steve Turner over at the Progressive Pulse. This "test" to see whether you should be indignant about Imus’s stereotypes made me chuckle:
Do you make assumptions about the decency of others when you see the following: an NRA sticker on a pick-up truck; a thin, smoking woman in a fur; a panhandler; luxury cars parked at an all-white WASP country club; an atheist with an ACLU card; an obese man using food stamps in a supermarket check-out line talking on a cell phone; a bearded man holding a Koran at the check-in line at the airport; a male hairdresser; a Hummer with a magnetic yellow “support the troops” ribbon; an Irish bartender; a televangelist asking for donations; or a comment by Dallas Woodhouse.
He has a point. But the first thing we should realize about stereotypes is that people often try very hard to evoke the stereotype in us. So the obligation of breaking down stereotypes falls not just on people making them, but those signaling them. Second, it’s become something of a fashionable cliche to say that stereotypes exist for a reason. But they do. People are evolved to make categories and to put people and things in them. The fine discriminations required truly to know every individual we see (i.e. to get beyond the stereotype) would blow our neural circuitry. That’s why the best we can do is take some time to get to know people in our communities better. Not everyone. Just what we can manage. Otherwise, putting people into boxes is hardwired in us. We humans are groupish creatures.